History of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra

The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra has been a part of Ann Arbor's cultural life for 85 years. It was founded as a community orchestra in 1928 by five musically-inclined members of the local Methodist Church, and has since grown to become a main player in Ann Arbor's world of art and culture. Since 1986 the A²SO has been a fully professional orchestra, first under the baton of Carl St.Clair, followed by Sam Wong and now headed by Conductor Arie Lipsky.

Timeline

1928
4 musicians at the local Methodist Church form a group to perform at services. Philip Potts was their manager.

1929
Warren Ketcham, a student at the U of M School of Music, becomes the group's first director.

1930
The group grows to 12 members and adopts the name "Ann Arbor Community Orchestra."

1931
Frederick Ernst, another School of Music student, becomes the group's second director. Also, the orchestra, now at 18 members, gives its first major program, including "Poet and Peasant Overture" by von Suppe.

1932
The 30-member orchestra performs on 18 occasions, including 4 major concerts in Petersberg, Saline, Ann Arbor and Hartland.

1933
William Champion becomes the third musical director.

1934
Still at 30 players, the orchestra performed 6 concerts during the 1934-35 season.

1935
Newly organized under the general administration of Ann Arbor's Dept. of Recreation, the group renames itself "Ann Arbor Civic Orchestra."

1936
40 musicians give concerts at A2 neighborhood schools, in Ypsilanti and Dexter, and participate in the 2nd annual "Civic Music Night."

1937
"An Evening of Ballet," the orchestra's first ballet dance concert, was given with the Sylvia Studio of Dance.

1938
Preparations are made for the first concerts at the West Park Music Shell (designed by Symphony founder Philip Potts) to take place in the Summer of 1939.

1939
E.A. Schaeberle is elected the first president of the orchestra's Board of Directors as the group strives for a more formal organization.

1940
The orchestra has its first concert at the Michigan Theater in the 1940-'41 season.

1941
Professor Joseph Maddy takes over as Music Director when Wm. Champion is called into U. S. Navy Service.

1942
A song pageant, "Battle Songs of Freedom," is given to the U. S. Navy Service School, Dearborn.

1943
The Ann Arbor Civic Orchestra hosts its third annual Michigan Massed Orchestra Festival.

1944
The orchestra has grown to 50 players.

1945
The orchestra plays for the 8th Annual "Evening of Ballet," the last one until 1955.

1946
A performance at Michigan Union for the International Center marks the orchestra's 100th Concert.

1947
The Symphony performs Bach's "Come Sweet Death" on the occasion of the anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

1948
Orchestra establishes Langford youth scholarships to attend the National Music Camp at Interlochen with money donated by a Symphony supporter.

1949
75 musicians are listed in the orchestra's attendance book.

1950
Orchestra participates in the 10th Annual Michigan Massed Orchestra Festival.

1951
Orien Dalley becomes orchestra's fifth conductor.

1952
The Women's Auxiliary is formed and raises $390 for the Ann Arbor Community Orchestra.

1953
The orchestra celebrates its 25th anniversary; Philip Potts resigns as Business Manager.

1954
U-M composer Michael Daugherty is born. In November, 2003 the orchestra played a new work for the A²SO and theater organ, written by Mr. Daugherty.

1955
Emil Raab becomes orchestra's sixth conductor.

1956
The 200th anniversary of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birth was on January 27 of this year.

1957
George C. Wilson, Vice President of the National Music Camp at Interlochen, becomes seventh conductor.

1958
Musicians had to do nothing more than show up for three rehearsals to become members of the orchestra no auditions!

1959
Ann Arbor Civic Symphony presents a youth concert to 1,500 youngsters.

1960
Jack Elzay, Ann Arbor Public School Superintendent, writes a letter to conductor George Wilson recognizing the importance of music in children's lives.

1961
WUOM broadcasts the January 22nd concert. William Fitch becomes orchestra's eighth conductor.

1962
The orchestra concludes its "main stage" season by accompanying the Ann Arbor Civic Ballet. In June they play a Pops Concert in West Park.

1963
Emil Holz becomes orchestra's ninth conductor.

1964
Orchestra has grown to 66 members with an 18-member executive board.

1965
By this year, the Symphony gave more than 100 students more than $10,000 in funds to attend the National Music Camp at Interlochen.

1966
Interlochen founder and Ann Arbor Civic Orchestra conductor of 10 years, Joseph Maddy, dies in his sleep at the age of 74.

1967
The Orchestra selects three, rather than the usual one, youth soloist to perform on the annual Youth Concert.

1968
After 40 years of free concerts, the orchestra hosts "Symphony Week" to raise awareness and funds.

1969
In other musical news: huge music festival held in Woodstock, New York.

1970
Philip Potts, founder and orchestra manager for decades, dies at the age of 76 on December 16.

1971
Women's Association of the Ann Arbor Symphony holds its first Catherine Crippen Scholarship competition for junior high students to attend music camp.

1972
Ed Szabo becomes orchestra's tenth director.

1973
Composer William Bolcom joins the U-M faculty. IN November, 2003, the A²SO and Stephen Shipps performed Bolcom's Violin Concerto in recognition of his contributions to music in Ann Arbor.

1974
150 couples attend the Symphony Ball, raising $2800 for the Ann Arbor Symphony.

1975
The Symphony holds a benefit concert to support rising costs while keeping most concerts free. Tickets cost $2.50-$10.

1976
Mayor Albert H. Wheeler declares May 16-22, 1976 "Geranium Week" in honor of the Annual Geranium Sale run by the Women's Association to benefit the Symphony.

1977
The Women's Association of the Ann Arbor Symphony celebrates its 25 years of service with a musical performance by youth scholarship winners.

1978
The Orchestra celebrates its 50th Anniversary; Ann Arbor Mayor Louis D. Belcher names Oct. 5 1978 "Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra Day."

1979
The orchestra presents "The Story of Babar" by Poulenc for its annual free Children's Concert on November 25th.

1980
Robert Taylor, "Fat Bob the Singing Plumber," joins the orchestra as a baritone soloist for its November 30th concert.

1981
Orchestra roster lists 100 musicians.

1982
Ed Szabo conducts a Feb. 21st concert as a "Centennial Observance of the Births of Zoltan Kodaly and Igor Stravinsky."

1983
The symphony recognizes the contributions of Estelle Titiev, orchestra supporter and board member, by naming the concert master's chair in her honor. This is one of many ways the Symphony shows appreciation to its donors.

1984
Cathy Cho, a featured soloist of the A²SO's 75th season, performed Pagannini's Violin Concerto as a youth soloist with the orchestra.

1985
Carl St.Clair becomes orchestra's eleventh conductor. For the first time in its 57-year history, the orchestra charges admission to meet expenses.

1986
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra commissions a work by University Professor and dancer David D. Gregory. He insists that his piece "is to be shared, not inflicted."

1987
The Symphony collaborates with four other local arts agencies for a production of Leonard Bernstein's Mass , a theatre piece for singers, players and dancers.

1988
The orchestra participates in Jazz for Life, a benefit concert supporting two local child-care agencies that help low-income children.

1989
Orchestra fundraising efforts include the Fifth Annual Gala Benefit and a Radiothon on WAAM AM 1600, both hosted by Briarwood Mall.

1990
Violinist Stephen Shipps joins the orchestra as Concertmaster, a position he will hold for 14 years - until the end of the 75th Anniversary Season.

1991
The Ultimate Tailgate Party, Fantasy Tailgate Silent Auction, and Benefit Pops Concert are among the fundraising festivities for the 63rd season.

1992
Samuel Wong becomes orchestra's twelfth conductor.

1993
The symphony begins its annual benefit golf outing, Symphony Swing.

1994
The Symphony performs "Oh, Lois" and "Lex" from Metropolis Symphony by U-M composer Michael Daugherty, based on the popular Superman lore.

1995
In keeping with the Symphony's exciting programming, the orchestra presents Tap Dance Concerto by Morton Gould with soloist Job. E. Christenson.

1996
The orchestra hosts its first annual "Mozart Birthday Bash" an concert honoring young talent and the great symphonic composer.

1997
Catherine Cho returns to the Ann Arbor Symphony to join in the 1997 Youth Concert: "This Concert is for the Birds."

1998
October '98 was the last time the A²SO performed Beethoven's 7th Symphonyuntil the beginning of the orchestra's 75th Season.

1999
A²SO begins a conductor search. In 2000, Jane Wilkinson was awarded the Governor's Service Award for volunteering over 5,000 hours as Search Chair.

2000
Arie Lipsky becomes orchestra's thirteenth conductor.

2001
For the second year in a row, the A²SO premieres a work by a University of Michigan student composer.

2002
For the first time in its history, the orchestra presents a full-length opera in concert with its performance of Bizet's Carmen .

2003
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 75th anniversary season.

2005
Season Finale, Carmina Burana , sells out.

2006
Season Finale in Hill Auditorium draws record crowds to Mahler's Ressurection Symphony.

2006
World premiere of the family program Mozart Comes to Ann Arbor by EMU professor Jeff Duncan.

2007
World premiere of Raccoon Tune based on the children's book by Ann Arbor Author Nancy Shaw.

2008
A²SO records music of Paul Fetler for Naxos, in its first commercially available CD.

2010
Conductor Arie Lipsky celebrates 10 years with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra.

2011

Collaboration with Ann Arbor Public Schools "March is Art & Music Month" with partners Ann Arbor District Library and Main Street Area Association with support from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and the Ann Arbor Educational Foundation.

2012

Beethoven 9th Symphony Concert at Hill Auditorium breaks A2SO’'s all-time records for highest concert attendance.

2013

The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra celebrates 85 years of Excellence

 

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