Toronto Symphony Orchestra

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This article is about the currently active orchestra of this name. For the orchestra active from 1906-1918, see Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Welsman).
Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO)
Full orchestra small.jpg
Music Director Peter Oundjian posing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Roy Thomson Hall before a concert on January 18, 2012.
Former name New Symphony Orchestra
Founded 1922
Principal conductor Peter Oundjian
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra logo

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) is a Canadian orchestra based in Toronto, Ontario. Since 1982, the TSO has performed at Roy Thomson Hall. From the time of its founding in 1922, it had given regular concerts at Massey Hall. The TSO also manages the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO).

The Music Director of the TSO is Peter Oundjian, who was appointed to the post in January 2003 and assumed the position in the 2004-2005 season. Sir Andrew Davis, who served as the Orchestra’s Music Director from 1975 to 1988, is the TSO’s Conductor Laureate. Other members of the TSO’s artistic team are: Steven Reineke, Principal Pops Conductor (appointed 2012); Shalom Bard, RBC Resident Conductor; Gary Kulesha, Composer Advisor; and Kevin Lau, RBC Affiliate Composer.


The TSO was founded in 1922 as the New Symphony Orchestra, and gave its first concert at Massey Hall in April 1923. The orchestra changed its name to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1927. The TSO continued to give regular concerts at Massey Hall from 1923 to 1982. TSO performances are now held in Roy Thomson Hall.

Peter Oundjian conducts Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, June 2014

Andrew Davis was the TSO's music director from 1975 to 1988, and is the orchestra's conductor laureate. The TSO music director is Peter Oundjian, who was appointed to the post in January 2003 and became music director with the 2004-2005 season. In February 2007, Oundjian extended his contract with the TSO to 2012.[1]

The orchestra had financial and audience size problems before the appointment of Oundjian as its music director. In 1992, TSO musicians had accepted a 16% pay cut because of a threat of bankruptcy to the orchestra, with a promise from management to make up the loss in subsequent contract negotiations. By 1999, this pay restoration had not happened, which led to an 11-week musicians' strike that autumn.[2] Relations between the musicians and management had deteriorated to the point where music director Jukka-Pekka Saraste had offered to serve as mediator in the situation. In addition, there was a lack of public sympathy to the orchestra musicians' situation.[3]

Former logo of Toronto Symphony Orchestra

By 2001, the orchestra had debt of $7 million (Canadian), and both of its executive directors, Ed Smith, and Saraste had left the ensemble.[4] Subscribers numbered around 20,000 as of the 2000-2001 season, and audience average capacity was 56% in 2001. By the 2006-2007 season, the subscriber base had increased to about 25,000, and the audience average capacity also increased to 84%.[5] In November 2008, the orchestra reported its third consecutive year of budget surpluses, with average audience attendance of 88% (excluding concerts for schoolchildren), although the orchestra still retains overall debt of $8.9 million (Canadian).[6]

In April 2015 the TSO cancelled performance of pianist Valentina Lisitsa. It accused her of coming close to breaching section 319(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada.[7] The reasoning given by the TSO for cancelling the performance was that Lisitsa had made disparaging, offensive, intolerant comments about a group of people on Twitter.[8] The orchestra had also made headlines for its hiring practices in 1951, when it declined to renew the contracts of musicians, thereafter known as the Symphony Six, who had been denied entry to the United States on suspicion of communist activities (this was during the McCarthy Era).

Concerts of the orchestra are broadcast over CBC Radio 2. The 2005 documentary film Five Days in September: The Rebirth of an Orchestra (Canada, 2005) recorded the first days of the TSO's inaugural season with Oundjian as its new music director.

The TSO is governed by a board of 25 directors, chaired by M. George Lewis.[9]



TSOUNDCHECK is designed to connect young people to classical music. Based on reduced fares on selected concerts and seating ($14 flat rate), it targets 15 to 35 year olds. It does not require the buyer to be a student with only the age range as the governing factor. Tickets become available about a week before a performance and the amount of availability is dependent on ticket sales and the orchestra's discretion.



The Adopt-a-player program is aimed at elementary schools in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding area. Selected musicians from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra are "adopted" by schools. Each musician collaborates with a Grade 4 or 5 class for one day a week for six weeks to teach the elements of music and aid in the creation of a new piece of music. At the end of the programme, each class presents their composition to other programme participants, as well as family and friends at a Showcase Event. Students also have the opportunity to attend a TSO rehearsal and an evening, weekend or student concert.


Members of the symphony are available to lead masterclasses for high school bands and orchestras. The members collaborate with existing music programs, focusing on specific needs such as solo and orchestral performance, technique or work on specific repertoire.

Young People's Concert[edit]

In an effort to bring classical music to children between the ages of 5 and 12, the TSO organize a series of five one-hour concerts on Saturday afternoons. Concerts are held at the Roy Thomson Hall and may feature guest artists.

Music directors[edit]


The post of concertmaster vacated by Jacques Israelievitch in 2008 was filled in 2011 by Canadian violinist Jonathan Crow.


  1. ^ John Terauds (8 February 2007). "Conductor puts mark on TSO through '12". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  2. ^ "Toronto Symphony negotiations hit sour note". CBC News. 25 September 1999. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  3. ^ Warren, Richard, It Begins With The Oboe. University of Toronto Press (Toronto, 2002; ISBN 978-0-8020-3588-2), pp. 209-211.
  4. ^ Tamara Bernstein (25 October 2001). "Toronto Symphony Teeters on the Edge of Ruin". (overall site now defunct). Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  5. ^ John Terauds (3 February 2007). "TSO's new season". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  6. ^ John Terauds (20 November 2008). "TSO salutes its third surplus in row". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  7. ^ "For Valentina Lisitsa, not a note of regret after TSO snub". Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  8. ^ "Musical Toronto: Toronto Symphony CEO Jeff Melanson Breaks His Silence". Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  9. ^ "Toronto Symphony Orchestra: About the TSO". Retrieved 2013-05-01. 

External links[edit]