Bagwell succeeds Kent Tritle, who stepped down in 2004 after eight years as music director.
Made up of amateur singers, the Dessoff Choirs has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, and Philharmonia Orchestra of London, among other orchestras. The group has given many New York, American, and world premieres, including, most recently, the debut of Paul Moravec's Songs of Love and War.
Bagwell teaches at Bard College and is director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival. He is also music director of the Cincinnati May Festival Youth Chorus and artistic director of the New York Repertory Singers. He previously directed the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and Indianapolis Chamber Singers.
The other finalists for the music director position were Frank Nemhauser, director of the Baltimore Symphony chorus, and Donald Paul Richardson, music director of Winchester Music Viva.