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What We Love About Performing in Downtown DSM

Tonic Sol-fa in Downtown DSM

December 3, 2021

I grew up in Iowa and often visited Downtown Des Moines (DSM) as a child, when we headed to the "big city" to enjoy shopping or the Iowa State Fair. But until Tonic Sol-fa — the a cappella group I front — started visiting the Hoyt Sherman Place theater as a stop on our holiday tour, I was not witness to the incredible changes that greeted me in Downtown DSM.

Mix of Art, Small Business + People Greet Visitors in DSM

In my early years, Downtown DSM seemed very quiet — nearly shut down — when my family would retire to our hotel. And I'm not sure who has been in charge over the decades, but I've often commented aloud that the planning committee's ongoing vision has been incredible. Now, visitors are greeted with holiday decorations ... new lofts, restaurants, cocktail lounges, cupcake stores, et al, that have given Downtown DSM an incredible vibe not evident all those years ago. And truly, what separates cities (and we've been to thousands of cities in all 50 states) is the mixture of art, business, entrepreneurs, technology and people that give an area a tangible "LIFE." It is so clear that Greater Des Moines (DSM) is actively engaged in becoming a Midwestern destination.

I've often picked up a last-minute gift at Raygun. My five-year-old foodie fondly talks of Zombie Burger. My wife and I have eaten at Centro, grabbed a coffee on our way out of town at Smokey Row and walked through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park with our daughters taking selfies. I don't think we've left town without grabbing lunch for ourselves and the crew at Gateway Market.

And too, I'd be remiss without mentioning the Hoyt Sherman itself. It's always been a breathtaking venue that has now been upgraded further. For artists like me, details like easier load-ins and improved dressing rooms are key. It's truly a gem.

Mostly, Des Moines has been our "go to" final stop on the Tonic Sol-fa holiday tour because of the people. We are a regional group competing with the national acts. But the people of Des Moines have supported what we do for nearly two decades!?! That's a testament.

Thank you, Des Moines! We are on our way back home and will see you on Friday, Dec. 17 and Saturday, Dec. 18!

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a growing, vibrant community that offers the energy, sophistication, housing and attractions of a burgeoning city with a brilliant future. It’s also easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.

Shaun Johnson

Shaun Johnson is lead vocalist of the musical group Tonic Sol-fa, a Minnesota a capella quartet.