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 actually two ensembles in the program: the 85-member Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra for high school age musicians, and the 40-member Junior Youth String Orchestra for middle school age musicians. Both ensembles perform three concerts each year in the Forum and at Strawberry Square in downtown Harrisburg during the holiday season. Gregory Woodbridge is the music director of the Youth Symphony, and also the Associate Conductor of the Harrisburg Symphony. Krista Kriel is the conductor of the Junior Youth Strings.
The Harrisburg Symphony is governed by a 31-member Board of Directors. The current Board Chairman is Stephen MacDonald. The Symphony is enthusiastically supported in its fund raising efforts by the Harrisburg Symphony Society under the able direction of their president, Karen Best.
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 appointed its first conductor. The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra performs its inaugural concert at William Penn High School in Harrisburg on March 19, 1931.
1950: Edwin MacAurthur is named the new conductor of the HSO and serves for 24 years. Despite its lean budget, the Orchestra engages many renowned soloists in its early years.
1953: The HSO establishes a Youth Symphony to serve as a training orchestra for its parent organization.
1978: Larry Newland, an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, becomes the HSO’s fourth conductor/music director. During his 16-year tenure, the Orchestra increases its concert schedule and adds Pops and Youth concerts.
1995: Following an international search for a new Music Director, the Harrisburg Symphony engages the musical talents of Richard Westerfield.
2000: In its 71st season, the Harrisburg Symphony is under the new artistic leadership of Maestro Stuart Malina.
2004-2005: The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 75th Anniversary Season.
March 2006: The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 75th Birthday performing Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” – 75 years to the day of its inaugural concert!
February 2007 and October 2007: Maestro Malina conducts and performs with the New York Pops to sold-out audiences in Carnegie Hall!
2009-2010 Season: The HSO celebrates its 80th Anniversary Season and Maestro Malina’s 10th season on the podium.