The Harrisburg Symphony Association presents inspiring symphonic performances by its orchestra and also provides educational programs for audiences of all ages, both of which foster an appreciation for and knowledge of music, thereby enriching the cultural life of Central Pennsylvania.
The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra will strive for organizational excellence, provide necessary resources to ensure financial stability, expand community recognition and involvement, support innovative, diverse, and dynamic programming, foster a variety of educational opportunities and experiences, and increase our current audience and cultivate a new generation of symphony lovers and subscribers.
The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra can be traced back to the early 1930s when a group of dedicated and resourceful music lovers decided, against all odds, to form a symphony in the city of Harrisburg. The country was in the throes of the Great Depression, but the group forged ahead, giving their first concert at William Penn High School in Harrisburg on March 19, 1931. The conductor on that occasion was George King Raudenbush, who was to become the orchestra’s first music director. By the end of 1931 the orchestra had moved its concerts to the newly-opened Forum Auditorium in the Education Building, part of the Capitol Complex, where it still performs to this day. The 1931-32 season included four concerts. The cost of a subscription: $2.00!
Slowly but surely, the institution took root, eventually taking its rightful place among the Capitol Region’s cornerstone cultural institutions. Beginning with Maestro Raudenbush, who stayed until 1950, the Harrisburg Symphony has had six music directors. Succeeding Raudenbush in the 1950-51 season was Edwin McArthur, whose tenure lasted until 1974. He was followed by David Epstein (1974-1978), Larry Newland (1978-1994), Richard Westerfield (1995-1999), and Stuart Malina (2000-present). If the founders were alive today, they would see their humble creation transformed into a fully professional orchestra and a powerful and dynamic force that touches the lives of tens of thousands of people each year.
A typical season includes seven pairs of Masterworks concerts, four pairs of concerts on the Capital BlueCross Pops Series, two Young Person’s Concerts for school age children, and free outdoor concerts in several communities over the July 4th weekend. In addition, the Symphony season includes a number of educational activities, including in-school performances and master classes featuring Harrisburg Symphony musicians.
Operating under the umbrella of the Harrisburg Symphony is the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra, founded in 1953 and one of the oldest youth symphonies in the country. There are three ensembles in the program: the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra for high school age musicians, the Junior Youth String Orchestra for middle school age musicians, and the Elementary String Orchestra for elementary musicians. All ensembles perform twice each year at the Forum and at Strawberry Square in downtown Harrisburg. Gregory Woodbridge, Associate Conductor of the Harrisburg Symphony, is Music Director of the Youth Symphony. Krista Kriel is conductor of the Junior Youth Strings, and Nelson Rodriguez-Parada is conductor of the Elementary String Orchestra.
The Harrisburg Symphony is governed by a 31-member Board of Directors. The current Board Chair is Patricia Ferris. The Symphony is enthusiastically supported in its fundraising efforts by the Harrisburg Symphony Society under the direction of its president, Amy Black.
1930: The Juilliard Foundation of New York City hires Jacques Jolas, a local piano instructor, to organize the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. George King Raudenbush is the founding Music Director.
March 19, 1931: The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra performs its inaugural concert at William Penn High School.
Fall 1931: The HSO moves to the Forum Auditorium.
1934: Young Persons’ Concerts begin.
1950: Edwin MacAurthur is named Music Director of the HSO and serves for 24 years.
1953-54: Harrisburg Youth Symphony is established and presents its first public concert, conducted by Noah Klauss.
1974: Music Director David Epstein is hired.
1978: Larry Newland becomes the HSO’s fourth Music Director. During his 16-year tenure, the Orchestra increases its concert schedule and adds Pops concerts.
1980: The first summer Barge Concert is performed.
1982: Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra goes on tour to Dickinson College, Lebanon Valley College, and Williamsport, PA
1990: The Harrisburg Symphony Society is established.
1995: Music Director Richard Westerfield is hired.
1997: The Symphony Society’s first Designer Showhouse fundraiser is held at Ashcombe Mansion.
March 19, 2006: The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 75th Birthday with a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”, 75 years to the day of its inaugural concert.
2020-21: The HSO celebrates its 90th anniversary, the Symphony Society’s 30th anniversary, and Maestro Malina’s 20th season on the podium.