History

 The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra has been a part of Ann Arbor’s cultural life for over 90 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 the 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.

Skip To:
1930s | 1940s 1950s1960s1970s1980s1990s2000s2010s

TIMELINE

1928

Four 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 University of Michigan 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 at the University of Michigan, becomes the group’s second director. Also, the orchestra, now at 18 members, gives its first major program, including Poet and Peasant Overture by Franz 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 music director.

1934

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

1935

Newly organized under the general administration of Ann Arbor’s Department of Recreation, the group renames itself Ann Arbor Civic Orchestra.

1936

Forty musicians give concerts at neighborhood schools in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Dexter, and participate in the 2nd annual Civic Music Night.

1937

An Evening of Ballet the orchestra’s first ballet dance concert, is 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 grows 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

The orchestra establishes Langford Youth Scholarships to attend the National Music Camp at Interlochen with money donated by a symphony supporter.

1949

Seventy-five musicians are listed in the orchestra’s attendance book.

1950

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

1951

Orien Dalley becomes the 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

University of Michigan composer Michael Daugherty is born. In November 2003, the orchestra premiered 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 grows to 66 members with an 18-member executive board.

 

1965

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

1966

Interlochen founder and Ann Arbor Civic Orchestra conductor of 10 years, Joseph Maddy, dies 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.

1970

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

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.

1974

One hundred fifty 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 February 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 concertmaster’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 Paganini’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 theater piece for singers, musicians and dancers.

1988

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

1989

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

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 composition faculty member Michael Daugherty, based on popular Superman lore.

1995

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

1996

The orchestra hosts its first annual Mozart Birthday Bash concert honoring the great Classical composer.

1997

Catherine Cho returns to the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra 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 Symphony until the beginning of the orchestra’s 75th Season.

1999

The 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

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.

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 85 years of Excellence. The A²SO performs William Bolcom’s Violin Concerto in recognition of his contributions to music in Ann Arbor.

2005

Season Finale, Carmina Burana, sells out.

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, 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’s 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.

2014

A²SO starts live broadcast of the concert on WKAR (90.5 FM) and via delayed broadcast the following week on WKAR and WRCJ (90.9 FM).

2015

Publication of Presenting: the Orchestra!  Activities for Young Music-Makers, a kids activity book distributed at concerts, Taste of Music.

2016

The A²SO is chosen to participate in Carnegie Hall’s  “Link Up” program, an elementary school classroom-to-concert hall experience.  Over 4,000 youngsters attend.

2017

The A2SO receives the Distinguished Service Award from Rotary of Ann Arbor for excellent service in the schools.

2018

The A2SO commissions and premieres Ann Arbor Saturday from composer, William Bolcom to celebrate the orchestra’s 90th anniversary.

2019/2020 SEASON SCHEDULE

September 13, 2019 | Ax Plays Brahms

October 12, 2019 | Made In America

November 2, 2019 | Liszt & Tchaikovsky

November 9, 2019 The Music Of Star Wars

December 13, 2019 | Holiday Pops

January 18, 2020 | Mozart Birthday Bash

March 14 & 15, 2020 | Best Of Broadway

March 21, 2020 | West Side Story

April 25, 2020 Measha & Mahler 

Questions?

X