Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

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Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO)
Founded 1959
Principal conductor Edo de Waart

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) was founded in 1959 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Historically the MSO have performed in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, and held seasons that last from early September that continue through the end of June. The MSO annually performs more than 150 Classics, Classical Connections, Pops, and family concerts for over 200,000 people per season.


The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra serves as the orchestra for Florentine Opera productions, and also serves as the state orchestra through an extensive Wisconsin tour program. Outside Wisconsin, the Orchestra has made 12 appearances at Carnegie Hall, most recently at the 2012 Spring For Music Festival, and toured Cuba, Japan, Europe, and the Dominican Republic.

The MSO has presented more than 100 world and American premieres of works by composers such as Philip Glass, Daron Hagen, Daniel Schnyder, Roberto Sierra, Gunther Schuller, William Schuman, Lukas Foss, Roy Harris, Gian Carlo Menotti, Richard Rodgers, Ottorino Respighi, Jean Sibelius, Erich Korngold and others. Over 22 compositions have been by MSO musicians.

Concert series[edit]

From September through June, Classics Series concerts are performed Friday through Sunday in Uihlein Hall at the Marcus Center. Maestro de Waart conducts a number of the programs. The series includes performances of works by Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, Brahms, Dvořák, and Beethoven. MSO commissions include Glass’ Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra and Wuorinen’s Symphony Seven. Frequent appearances by the acclaimed Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, under director Lee Erickson, include Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and Britten's War Requiem.

Pops concerts are also performed between September and June, taking place Friday through Sunday in Uihlein Hall. Prior guest stars have included Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Yo-Yo Ma, Lang Lang, Sarah Chang, Renee Fleming, The Chieftains, and many others.

Kinderkonzert Series

The Kinderkonzert Series, formerly Sunday for Families, introduces children ages 3–10 to classical music. These performances combine themes to which young listeners can easily relate with music, multimedia, guest artists, scenery, and animation. A month before each concert, "Learn and Play" materials are mailed to subscribers. These packets offer playful and educational activities for families to do together in preparation for the concert. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra League sponsors activities before the concert, where children can visit the Musical Instrument Petting Zoo, learn to conduct the beat using brightly colored scarves, and create their own dances.


The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra depends on donations from corporations, foundations, and individual Patrons, and their support enables the orchestra to continue to perform and educate. The Symphony receives donations from a variety of entities, Corporations such as Target, Hertz, US bank, but also depends on from foundations such as, William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and The Greater Milwaukee Foundation. The MSO also receives funding from the United Performing Arts Fund, and The Milwaukee County Arts fund.


The MSO made a minor media splash when it toured Cuba in 1999, the first American symphony orchestra to do so since the U.S. embargo against Cuba was implemented in 1962.

In an era when many major orchestras have curtailed their state touring programs, the MSO remains committed to its role as Wisconsin's state orchestra. For more than 37 years, the MSO's State Tour travels to communities throughout Wisconsin, offering many adult and youth audiences unique opportunities to hear live classical music. Among other destinations, the Orchestra has traveled to Fish Creek, Fond du Lac, Marinette, Ripon, Rhinelander, Three Lakes, West Bend, Whitewater, Wisconsin, and Naperville, Illinois.

Through the annual Patrice "Patti" Bringe and Richard Bloomist Hometown Holiday Tour, the MSO brings free concerts to Milwaukee area residents. Designed to bring music to those who might not be able to attend a concert in the Marcus Center, the tour has played at hospitals and community centers.

Educational programs[edit]

The MSO offers a number of educational opportunities including the Arts in Community Education (ACE) program. ACE is designed to develop and build critical and creative thinking skills in children through an integration of the arts within their daily curriculum. Supporting Wisconsin's Academic Content and Performance Standards, ACE uses the arts to emphasize lessons learned in other academic subjects, including math, science, social studies, and language arts. ACE embraces diverse artistic heritages in the community by collaborating with partner groups composed of local artists from cultural organizations including the Skylight Opera Theatre, American Indian Center and Milwaukee Ballet.

The MSO also offers concerts for youth and high school students. The MSO's education programs served over 40,000 children from Milwaukee, southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Schools attending youth concerts received free in-school presentations by MSO League docents and MSO musicians to prepare and help them understand the performances. Students attending high school concerts were invited to participate in talk-backs with the conductor, guest artists and MSO musicians. The MSO and Milwaukee Public Schools continued a partnership that provided MPS students the opportunity to attend MSO youth or high school concerts for substantially reduced ticket prices.

The MSO offers several opportunities for Milwaukee area students to develop their performance abilities. The Private Lesson Scholarship Program provides area music students with financial need the unique opportunity to study one-on-one with professional orchestra players from the MSO for free. Furthermore, young violin students are invited to audition for the annual Bach Double Violin Concerto Competition, the winners of which perform at a spring ACE concert. Gifted Wisconsin high school instrumental musicians who win the MSO's annual Young Artist Competition receive the honor of performing as soloists or as stand partners in an evening concert with the MSO.

Recordings and broadcasts[edit]

In 2004, the MSO released the first modern recording in English of Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel. It was recorded on the Avie label and was released internationally to rave reviews. In 2002, the MSO released a CD featuring Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. The Cuba Concerts CD features a live recording made during the MSO's 1999 Cuba Millennium Tour. 1999 also saw the release of an a cappella CD featuring the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus.

The MSO has also released 14 recordings on the Koss Classics and Telarc labels. These include such projects as the complete symphonies of Antonín Dvořák; an all-Kodaly disc; an acclaimed recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9; Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique; Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky; and Smetana's Ma Vlast. On September 16, 2005, the MSO became the first American orchestra to sell recordings of recent concerts for download on iTunes and through the orchestra's web site.[1]

Through the WFMT Radio Network, recordings of MSO concerts reach 2.6 million people across the U.S. and are taped for international radio syndication and statewide television broadcast. In 2004, radio programs were syndicated by WFMT to 241 cities across the United States including Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Dallas. MSO performances have been carried to the UK and Europe over the BBC. Also each season, MSO concerts are carried statewide on commercial and public television.

Music directors[edit]

Harry John Brown became the MSO's first music director in 1959 and, during his nine-year tenure, led the orchestra's transition from a semi-professional pops group to a fully professional symphony. Since then it has been led by Kenneth Schermerhorn, Lukas Foss, Zdenek Macal, and Andreas Delfs was the director in 2009, until he stepped down from this position in to became the MSO's conductor laureate. Delfs' successor is former San Francisco Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra music director and Hong Kong Philharmonic chief conductor and artistic director Edo de Waart. Maestro de Waart was named to the position on January 3, 2008.[2] Marvin Hamlisch was the MSO's principal Pops conductor. He was named to the post on November 16, 2007,[3] replacing Doc Severinsen, who holds the title of principal Pops conductor emeritus. Hamlisch died on August 6, 2012, and the principal Pops conductor post is currently vacant. Francesco Lecce-Chong became the MSO's resident conductor in 2011.

List of past Directors

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jacob Hale Russell (15 October 2005). "A Big-City Orchestra Starts Selling its Music Online". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2007-11-06. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  2. ^ Tom Strini (2 January 2008). "Well-traveled leader to take baton at MSO". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-01-03. [dead link]
  3. ^ Press Release (16 November 2007). "Milwaukee Symphony Appoints Entertainment Legend Marvin Hamlisch as Principal Pops Conductor". Retrieved 2008-01-03. [dead link]

External links[edit]