The Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, formerly known as the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, was founded in 1900. The symphony is the oldest orchestra in the USA west of the Rocky Mountains. Originally housed in a clubhouse on the slopes of Punchbowl, the Honolulu Symphony now plays from the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall in downtown Honolulu.
The Symphony has undergone a series of transformations over the course of its first century, responding to the challenges and opportunities of the times. It has endured two World Wars, the Great Depression, financial crises, and changing musical and cultural fashions.
In 2010, facing a multimillion dollar deficit, the symphony disbanded under chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy law, but was quickly revived the next year under the new name "Hawaii Symphony Orchestra" by a group of Honolulu businessmen. JoAnn Falletta was appointed artistic director, and Steven Monder, former director of the Cincinnati Symphony, was appointed president.
From 1996 to 2004, the Honolulu Symphony was under the direction of conductor Samuel Wong. Previous music directors include Fritz Hart (1937–49), George Barati, Robert La Marchina, Donald Johanos (1979–94) and JoAnn Falletta. Ignace Jang is concertmaster. The symphony also performs popular music under the direction of pops conductor Matt Catingub as the Honolulu Pops.
In August 2007, Andreas Delfs, current music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, officially became principal conductor of the Honolulu Symphony. He led seven concerts per season in the orchestra's Halekulani Masterworks series.
On October 30, 2009, the Honolulu Symphony Society's board of directors voted to file for Chapter 11 protection. On November 6, the symphony announced the cancellation of concerts for the remainder of the 2009-2010 season and that it would be filing for bankruptcy, citing a big drop in donations. The organization said it was $1 million in debt and did not have enough money to support operations into November and beyond.
In May 2010, the symphony’s leaders said their goal was to decrease annual expenses to $4 million, from $8 million previously. The symphony’s 40-performance calendar would also be cut in half, with performances at smaller venues and different ticket prices, aiming to fill all seats with paying customers. The symphony was given an October 15 deadline to file its Chapter 11 plan of reorganization. In December 2010 it was announced that the symphony would be liquidated under Chapter 7 and end operations after 110 years.
In April 2011, a group of Hawaii businesspeople called the Symphony Exploratory Committee announced efforts to revive the symphony. The committee bought out the symphony's assets, and negotiated a new three year contract with the musicians, planning to open a new season in fall of 2011.
- Westphal, Matthew. "Andreas Delfs Named Principal Conductor of Honolulu Symphony".
- Jacqueline Palank (May 19, 2010). "Honolulu Symphony Revamps Business Plan". Wall Street Journal.
- Symphony revived, new season planned for fall, KHON-2, May 24, 2011