Long Island Philharmonic
The Long Island Philharmonic, based in Melville, New York was founded in 1979 by folk singer Harry Chapin, Maestro Christopher Keene, and a group of Long Island's major community and business leaders. It strives to provide quality music to the Long Island community, with a particular focus on programs for young people.
Harry Chapin moved to Long Island in 1972, and almost at once began using his celebrity status to improve his new hometown. "He thought Long Island represented a remarkable opportunity," said Chapin's widow, Sandy. At his encouragement, a group of Long Island business leaders agreed to fund the formation of the Orchestra, under the musical directorship of Maestro Keene, with Chapin serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors. The LIP’s premiere concert occurred on the weekend of November 16, 17, and 18th, 1979. From its foundings, the orchestra recruited some of the finest musicians in the New York metropolitan area, and also supported a full chorus of dedicated amateur singers.
The Keene Years
Maestro Keene was a proponent of new works, and brought in soloists of international reputation. Under his direction, the Philharmonic commissioned and premiered several works, including Jay Reise’s Symphony No. 3 “Awakening to Memory”.
The Alsop Years
After Maestro Keene's departure, a nation-wide search was conducted to find his replacement. Marin Alsop was selected based on having recently won both the Stokowski Conducting Competition and the Koussevitzky Conducting Prize. The Philharmonic hoped that her youth and exuberance would rejuvenate the orchestra. Under her baton, the orchestra thrived financially and musically.
In 2004, celebrating its 25th anniversary, the orchestra nearly disappeared altogether. The final two concerts of the 2003/2004 concert series had to be canceled due to funding shortages. Governmental support has been provided by Sen. Hillary Clinton and State Senator Carl Marcellino, having delivered grants at both the federal and state level. UBS made a generous 5-year challenge grant of $250,000, which was matched by individual donors such as Charles Dolan, David Lerner, Marvin Sussman, and Billy Joel.
The Long Island Philharmonic maintains an extensive Arts in Education program, entitled "Music LIvz". Among the programs the Philharmonic offers are Youth Concerts, In-school performances, Master Classes, the Young Artist Competition, and Orchestra at Work.
The Long Island Philharmonic suffers from its proximity to the cultural attractions of New York City. The geography of Long Island itself also poses a problem for the orchestra. Because of the distances between East End suburbs and western exurb neighborhoods, the Long Island Philharmonic generally performs each concert at two or three venues, most notably the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at CW Post Campus of Long Island University and the Staller Center for the Arts at the Stony Brook University, a campus of the State University of New York.
Long Island Philharmonic Chorus
From its beginning, the Long Island Philharmonic has incorporated a choral element. At the time of its founding in 1979, Maestro Keene asked Frances Roberts, a local music teacher and accomplished vocal accompanist, to form a chorus. From that beginning, the Chorus has been a regular part of the Long Island Philharmonic ever since.
The chorus consists of 100 – 150 amateur singers drawn from all walks of life. Many are musical professionals: music teachers, voice teachers and others, while many others are strictly amateurs. Despite this mix, the chorus regularly receives critical acclaim.
The orchestra generally schedules at least one choral piece each year in its repertory.
The Long Island Philharmonic orchestra is seen by many as a beginning step toward great careers. Maestro Keene was the Music Director of the New York City Operaduring this time and during his tenure became the General Director of the NY City Opera. Maestra Alsop has gone on to become one of the premiere female conductors in the world, leading both the Bournemouth Symphony and, most recently, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, thus becoming the first female full-time conductor of a major US orchestra.
List of Conductors / Music Directors
- Christopher Keene, Founding Director, 1979 – 1989
- Marin Alsop, 1990 – 1995
- David Lockington, 1996 – 2000
- David Wiley, 2001–Present
Awards and honors
- Recognized by New York State as a Primary Arts Organization
- The Long Island Philharmonic was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006.