Augusta Symphony Orchestra (Augusta, Georgia)
The Symphony Orchestra Augusta (formerly the Augusta Symphony Orchestra) was founded in 1954, the orchestra has grown from a small group of 15 musicians to a full symphony orchestra offering four concert series each season as well as a strong education and outreach program bringing music into the schools and local community. The symphony was first under the baton of Harry Jacobs and then, from 1990 to 2009, under the baton of Dr. Donald Portnoy. The current Music Director and Conductor is Shizuo Z Kuwahara.
The orchestra debuted on May 23, 1954, under the baton of its founding conductor, Harry M. Jacobs (former French horn musician of the Chicago and Minnesota orchestras). Community involvement and the formation of three volunteer support groups followed. In the summer of 1957, The Augusta Symphony Orchestra Guild was formed, its purpose "to aid and assist the Augusta Symphony Orchestra in its continued growth and to broaden its activities". The formation of The Augusta Symphonic League followed in 1961, its purpose "to nurture an awareness and education of its members regarding the activities and mission of the Augusta Symphony, and to financially support the symphony". Another volunteer support arm for the orchestra, The Friends of the Symphony Association, was organized in 1981, its purpose "to promote interest in the Augusta Symphony and in orchestral music, to sponsor activities to support the Symphony, and to foster community participation in Symphony programs."
The 1956–86 season expanded the audience across the state line, into South Carolina, with the establishment of the Aiken Concert Series funded by the Aiken Symphony Guild. During the 1986–87 season, four full-time core musicians were hired creating the Augusta Symphony String Quartet. The following season, three additional musicians were hired to fulfill the principal positions of bassoon, clarinet, and oboe creating the Augusta Symphony Woodwind Trio. Also during this season, the Discovery Series of fall and spring young people's concerts was implemented. The Discovery Program included annual Strong Quartet and Woodwind Trip lecture-demonstrations in Aiken and Columbia County schools. This program has expanded so that today's Music in the Schools presents the String Quartet, Woodwind Trio, Principal Percussion and Principal Bass players for schools in the area.
The 1991-92 season was the first season for music director and conductor Donald Portnoy, who has enhanced the quality of the orchestra and its four concert series. Maestro Portnoy increased the number of Masterworks concerts and initiated the Pops! at the Bell Series and the Encore Chamber Series. The following season introduced a Sunday afternoon Family Series of three concerts and a Symphony Youth Competition. Another community outreach program, Music to the People, was added during the 2002-03 season. A series of pops and light classics concerts presented by a 40 member promenade orchestra, Music to the People concerts offer a way to provide outlying CSRA communities with orchestral music. The 2004-05 season marked the Symphony's 50th anniversary season, an occasion celebrated with a Stephen Paulus commission in a world premier concert featuring Metropolitan Opera Soprano Deborah Voigt. The 50th anniversary season closed with the debut of Pops! Under the Stars, a free outdoor community concert.
During the 2005-06 season the Masterworks Series was moved to a new venue, First Baptist of Augusta, where the outstanding acoustics and increased seating improved the overall concert experience. In the 2007–2008 season a fourth concert was added to Pops! at the Bell Series.
The Symphony Series is presented in the main auditorium at First Baptist of Augusta and consists of six concerts covering major symphonic works throughout music history.
Pops! at the Bell consists of four concerts which offer lighter fare, featuring popular music artists with SOA at the Bell Auditorium in downtown Augusta, Ga.
Discovery Series concerts are aimed at attracting children to the symphony and to classical music.
The Columbia County Music Series offers people in Columbia County the opportunity to attend classical music concerts in their own community.
Pops! Under the Stars is a yearly free, outdoor concert presented by SOA.