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BGM grad pursues love of all things music

Joe Sorensen

If you happened to stop by the Iowa State Fair this past Saturday, you might have heard one of Brooklyn’s own belt out a song of his own during the Bill Riley Talent Show.

Recent BGM graduate and Holiday Lake resident Joe Sorensen was one of three senior competitors from the Poweshiek County Fair to qualify for the Iowa State Fair talent show.

But this wasn’t the first time Sorensen let his vocals loose for the public to hear. From an early age, Sorensen has shown interest and growing talent in the musical world.

“I keep trying to remember when I got interested in music,” he said. “It’s always been around me and a part of my life.”

Sorensen began piano lessons when he was five, but his father, Kent Sorensen, played the guitar at home and at church. “Before church would start we would sing songs and things, I think that’s where it really all began,” said Sorensen.

Eventually Sorensen would pick up the guitar, like his father. When he was in junior high, his grandfather died, leaving his own guitar to Joe. Joe picked up many other instruments during his school years. From fifth grade to his junior year of high school he played drums. His junior year of high school, he switched to trombone and for his senior year, he decided to play the tuba. Now, as he goes to Coe College this fall, he will play the bass trombone.

Not only does Sorensen play several instruments and sing, he is also a composer. Sorensen began composing his own music at an early age. As a seventh grader, his piano teacher Angie Ratcliffe offered a music theory class.

“At first it was learning theories and chords, but towards the end, we started to work on composition,” said Sorensen.

“At the beginning, it was very structured, but even from the get-go, I didn’t like to follow the rules and started to do my own thing.” Sorensen credits Angie’s support for helping to foster his love of composing.

“I’m sure some of the things I first came up with were horrible, but she kept supporting me and letting me experiment,” he said.

Sorensen’s parents, Kent and Kristi, supported his love of music, buying him a tape recorder so he could listen to what he wrote and make changes.

Sorensen admits he does not have much formal training when it comes to composition, but that is his passion. Over the years he has written and performed several songs and scores, honing his talent with each new endeavor.

Most recently, Sorensen wrote the BGM senior song for 2009 and composed the score to the student-made film “Our Side of Heaven,” produced by Grinnell graduate Darren Peak. Also to his name is the score to another Peak production

“Down the Street”; the score to “Emulation,” produced by Grinnell graduate Anthony Mitchell; and a number of his own albums including “A November Life,” “So Called Beautiful,” “The Secret Should be Shouted,” “Death and All Her Pretty Little Monsters,” and “Southern Comfort.”

Sorensen said real life and his friends inspire his songs, but he also tries to convey a message through his work. The album “The Secret Should be Shouted” was created for a class about world problems.

Sorensen said he choose the conflict in Darfur as his project and centered his album on it.

“The message depends on the song,” he said. “My latest album (Southern Comfort) is about sticking to your guns and even if you make a mistake, you can make up for it.”

Love of music “I love music, I love everything about it,” said Sorensen.

Sorensen said he loves how confined and how broad music can be. “You can just only play classical music or you can make music out of anything,” he said while sipping coffee at Saint’s Rest Coffee Shop in Grinnell. “Like the sound of the dishes being washed, you can set a beat to that and it becomes music. Music is everywhere and you can make it what you want it to be.”

Sorensen’s enthusiasm for music doesn’t just stop at making and creating an auditory experience, but also a visual experience for the audience.

“I love to perform in front of people, it’s like this adrenaline rush,” he said. “I want to give people a visual show and great music to listen to.”

And his love of performance shows. Watch Sorensen at the piano or guitar and his body rocks with the music as he throws his head back to wail out a note.

“Music is so big, you can express yourself through music when words can’t do it,” he said. “I don’t think I can ever be bored with it.”

Future goals

Sorensen said he wants to pursue his love of music when he leaves for college. He will attend Coe College in Cedar Rapids and major in music composition.

“My ultimate goal is to write scores for movies and make those emotions come out in the right way,” he said. “But I also want to keep my options open. If I don’t do that, I would like to write music for high school bands and choirs because I really enjoyed doing those things in high school and I would love to start a band and tour.”

Sorensen admits, he doesn’t necessarily need college to try for his dream of a band, but he said he feels it would help him as a musician.

“I think having that background in composition will make me a well-rounded and better musician,” he said.

When Sorensen reaches his future goals, he said wants to be remembered first and foremost as a pianist, like Ben Folds, one of his favorite musicians.

“I also want people to see me as someone who goes beyond the music, someone who makes a difference,” he said. “I don’t want to be known as someone who does it to just make money, but because it’s what I love.”


Sorensen is the son of Kent and Kristi Sorensen, Holiday Lake. He is the youngest of six children. Besides all things music, Sorensen said he enjoys reading, drawing, spending time with friends, drinking coffee and tea and being aware of world matters. Sorensen while he doesn’t participate in many sports, he does enjoy them.

“I like to run and secretly, I like P.E.,” he said.

To listen to Sorensen's music, visit

UPDATED August 18, 2009 1:48 PM

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