Orchestra Spotlight:
Toledo Symphony Orchestra

About the Ensemble

Formed in 1943 as The Friends of Music and incorporated in 1951 as the Toledo Orchestra Association, Inc., the Toledo Symphony has grown from a core group of twenty-two part-time musicians to a regional orchestra that employs nearly eighty professional musicians who consider the Toledo Symphony their primary employer.

In the 1960s the orchestra formed ensembles in each instrument family and continued their community outreach programs. Their endowment began to grow upon receipt of a Ford Foundation gift. By the 1970s the TSO's budget had grown to $1.8 million, and Music Director Serge Fournier stepped down after leading the orchestra for 15 years; Yuval Zaliouk was named the seventh Music Director in 1980.

Toledo Symphony The Toledo Symphony at The Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle (click to enlarge)

A core of 22 musicians was formed in the early 1980s, and several Principal players moved to Toledo, and the orchestra was able to attract the first professional harpist to live in Toledo. The orchestra started to expand its neighborhood community concerts, and established the concert series that continue today: nine pairs of Classics concerts at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle, six Pops concerts at the Stranahan Theater, five concerts in the Mozart and More series at Lourdes College, four Family at the Museum, and many, many chamber, neighborhood, and regional concerts.

In 1990 Andrew Massey was named the eighth Music Director; he conducted the Toledo premieres of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony and Britten's War Requiem. The TSO commissioned new works by Charles Wuorinen and Stanley Cowell. By the mid 90s the budget had grown to $3.8 million and the endowment exceeded $6 million.

During the past decade the TSO enjoyed many guest conductors, finally resulting in the appointment of Stefan Sanderling as Principal Conductor and Chelsea Tipton as Resident Conductor in 2004. Mstislav Rostropovich was perhaps the most significant musical guest of the decade; he first appeared with the TSO in 1998 and returned at his request in 2002 as part of his 75th birthday tour. Stefan Sanderling conducted a special tribute concert on September 11, 2019, the first anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. It was a deeply moving musical experience for all involved.

Stefan Sanderling Stefan Sanderling conducting Rachmaninoff (click to enlarge)

Nine area composers were invited to participate in Orchestra’s 60th Anniversary Fanfare Project in 2003-2004. This resulted in the commissioning of nine new fanfare works for orchestra, composed by TSO musicians, university faculty members, and music students. The TSO's community and educational outreach expanded, including a program funding music teachers for students at the Toledo School for the Arts and the Music In Our Schools program.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation invited the TSO to submit proposals to participate in its Orchestra Forum project in 2000. Toledo was only one of two ROPA orchestras (the other being Richmond VA) to participate in the Forum. The Mellon Foundation has provided the TSO with over $2 million over nine years in support of innovative programming, musical activities and the endowment fund. Funding from the Mellon Foundation has assisted many TSO musicians with career enhancing grants and unique professional development opportunities.

This coming season marks the 65th anniversary for the Toledo Symphony. Polyphonic congratulates the TSO during this historic year!

[Ed. Note: In April 2000, Harmony published a roundtable discussion with some of the Toledo musicians who worked on staff at that time (several of whom are still on staff). To read the Harmony roundtable discussion, click here.]



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