The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1946, more than a decade before Alaska became a state, by a consortium of like-minded musicians looking for a musical outlet. Their first program collaborated with the Anchorage Little Theatre for a production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. From their original size of 17, the ASO grew through the 50's, hiring Peter Birch as conductor, and increasing to 32 members. Anchorage, however, continued to grow with the development of the City of Anchorage as the North Slope oil fields grew and with the continued military presence of Elmendorf Air Force Base, the ASO by the 1980s crossed the threshold as a semi-professional ensemble. Today the organization boasts of an endowment, a board of directors, and 80 audition-entranced musicians in its ranks. In 2001, the symphony garnered the Mayor's Arts Award for an Outstanding Arts Organization and the Governor's Arts Award for an Outstanding Arts Organization.