For 90 years, the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra has been a dominant force in the cultural life of Sioux City and the surrounding tri-state area. It has evolved from a 30-piece college ensemble to a 90-member professional orchestra with an artistic ability unrivaled by metropolitan orchestras of comparable size.
The origins of the Sioux City Symphony can be traced to 1915 with the start of the Morningside College Orchestra, conducted by George Hubbard. February 27, 1916, was the first public performance by the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra. In 1923 the orchestra featured a performance by a young, Polish-born violin soloist named Leo Kucinski, who was studying at Juilliard. Two years later this man returned as conductor of the newly organized Sioux City Community Symphony and soon became a major influence in the musical life of northwest Iowa. For more than fifty years, Kucinski's name was synonymous with symphonic music in Siouxland. His vision, drive and dedication to musical excellence guided the development of the orchestra through its formative years.
In 1946 a core of symphony supporters formed the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra Association, with a board of directors responsible for development and financing. The 1950's became a decade of rapid growth and increased visibility for the orchestra, and in 1965 the Sioux City Symphony celebrated its golden anniversary with a sold-out concert in the Municipal Auditorium featuring Van Cliburn.
In 1977 the baton was passed from Kucinski to Thomas Lewis, a professional conductor, who came to Sioux City with a national reputation as an orchestra builder. Under Lewis' direction, the Sioux City Symphony was seen throughout the state and heard throughout the nation. In 1979 the orchestra was first chosen to participate in a National Public Radio series featuring American metropolitan orchestras. Several performances, including the 1980-81 Family Concert Series, were televised by the Iowa Public Broadcasting Network. The 1990-91 Season was the orchestra's Diamond Jubilee and many special events, concerts and artists, including Itzhak Perlman, were featured in celebration of the 75th anniversary.
In 1995, the SCSO welcomed Stephen Rogers Radcliffe as only the fourth full-time Music Director and Conductor in the Orchestra's history. His energy has proven to be contagious throughout the organization, with dramatic growth in the organizations artistic and educational capacities.
On September 15, 2001, the Symphony celebrated the opening of it's glorious new home, the beautifully restored historic Orpheum Theatre. Two weeks later, on September 29, the Orchestra's first full concert in its new home was presented with another sold-out performance featuring Van Cliburn.
In March of 2005, Xian Zhang was named as only the fifth Music Director and Conductor in the Orchestra's history. Xian assumed the podium beginning with the 2005-2006 Season on September 17, 2005.
The Sioux City Symphony is truly a regional orchestra, drawing its personnel and audience from within a 90-mile radius of Sioux City. Many of the orchestra's musicians are from nearby educational institutions, including Morningside College in Sioux City, Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, and the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. The musicians travel from as far away as Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Omaha, Nebraska; Storm Lake, Iowa; and Norfolk, Nebraska.
Guest artists have included Marian Anderson, Isaac Stern, Benny Goodman, Victor Borge, Roberta Peters, Andre Watts, Doc Severinsen, Robert Merrill, Joshua Bell, José Feghali, Frederica von Stade, Quartetto Gelato, and Peter Serkin, among others.
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