About Springfield Symphony Orchestra
The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SS0) came to life in the spring of 1934 after a group of Springfield High School students approached their music teacher, James Robertson, about forming a civic orchestra. With Robertson as the conductor, the orchestra performed its first concert on February 26, 1935, in Clara Thompson Hall, on the campus of Drury University. In 1936 a Board of Directors was formed, and beginning in 1943, orchestra members began receiving payment for their services – 50 cents an hour!
In 1942, the symphony joined 39 other orchestras from across the country in founding the American Symphony Orchestra League, which is still the largest and most prestigious international body representing the orchestral industry today. In 1956, the Women’s Division of the SSO was established. This dynamic group of volunteers is alive and well today in the form of the SSO Guild, and has been instrumental in many major fundraising projects for the Symphony throughout its existence.
Beginning with James Robertson, the SSO has had a total of eight conductors at the helm, each of whom have brought their incredible individual talents, as well as the shared desire to build a great orchestra for a great city.
1934 – 1950 James Robertson 1950 – 1955 David Blumenthal
1955 – 1966 Chester Moffatt 1966 – 1978 Charles Hall
1978 – 1994 Charles Bontrager 1995 – 2003 Apo Hsu
2004 – 2012 Ron Spigelman 2013 – Current Kyle Wiley Pickett
Under the leadership of conductor Charles Hall, the first annual Young People’s Concerts were presented, the first Young Artists’ Competition was held, the Lester F. and Hanna R. Strauss Music Camp Scholarship Fund was established, and the Ensembles-in-Schools program was also launched; all of these programs are still an important part of the Symphony’s mission today.
Under Ron Spigelman’s leadership the Symphony became more involved in serving the underprivileged and underserved individuals of the Springfield community through outreach programs including two annual, free matinees and a casual, informative event each Thursday before a subscription concert that showcases the guest artist(s) and the music that will be performed, previously known as Coffee & Classics and now known as Behind the Baton.
During the 2012-2013 season, the search for a new conductor/music director began. Six finalists were chosen and each one appeared with the orchestra throughout the season. After an evaluation process, Kyle Wiley Pickett was named as the eighth conductor/music director of the SSO.
Always striving for new ways to enhance and contribute to the city of Springfield, the Symphony is thrilled to be ushering in a new era in its long and illustrious history; one it hopes will bring an unprecedented level of arts accessibility and relevance to the community.