Charleston Symphony Orchestra
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is the largest resident orchestra in South Carolina and plays most of its concerts in downtown Charleston at the Gaillard Center. The orchestra’s performance season consists of Masterworks, Pops, and Chamber Music series, along with several special concerts that showcase a broad range of repertoire ranging from some of the most beloved classical works to vibrant new music, choral works, opera, and collaborations with world-renowned composers and artists. Additionally, the CSO is visible in the community in smaller venues, performing smaller chamber ensemble concerts during the year at clubhouses, churches, and private venues.
The orchestra was founded in 1936 by Miss Maude Winthrop Gibbon and Mrs. Martha Laurens Patterson. It currently employs 24 full-time musicians. The CSO's mission is to inspire and engage the community through exceptional musical performances and educational programs.
David Stahl, former Music Director, who studied under Leonard Bernstein and was known for his interpretation of Mahler's work, served as music director and conductor for 27 years, from 1984 until he died on October 24, 2010, of lymphoma. Stahl was credited with elevating the Orchestra to a world-class program. On November 21, 2015, the CSO dedicated its conductor's podium to Maestro Stahl.
In April 2012, the CSO launched an international search for a new Music Director to replace the late David Stahl. Maestro Ken Lam was appointed Music Director of the CSO in 2014 and began his first full season with the orchestra in September 2015.
Maestro Lam is the recipient of Johns Hopkins University’s 2015 Global Achievement Award, and also serves as Music Director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Lam enjoys an active national and international career with recent conducting appearances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and at the Spoleto Festival USA, Lincoln Center Festival and Luminato Festival in Toronto. To find out more about Maestro Lam, please visit the CSO’s Music Director page. In the summer Ken is Resident Conductor of the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina and maintains his connections in his native Hong Kong as Artistic Director of Hong Kong Voices. Previously Ken held positions as Associate Professor and Director of Orchestra at Montclair State University in New Jersey, Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Principal Conductor of the Hong Kong Chamber Orchestra.
At its February 11, 2012, Masterworks Concert, which featured Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, the CSO performed the South Carolina premiere of a violin concerto by local composer Edward Hart, and CSO Concertmaster Yuriy Bekker played a priceless 1686 Stradivarius violin. At this concert, the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium was at 99% capacity. This concert became the highest-grossing concert in the history of the organization until a Masterworks concert on February 26 and 27, 2016, featuring pianist Sandra Wright Shen.  From 2010 to 2014, Bekker served as Acting Artistic Director.
In 2016, the CSO named Yuriy Bekker Principal Pops Conductor beginning with the 2016/2017 season.
In response to declining access to arts education, the CSO offers a broad array of educational programming to the Charleston tri-county area. The CSO serves K-12 students from Berkeley, Dorchester, and Charleston counties and is particularly dedicated to partnerships with Title I schools that have large concentrations of low-income students. The CSO plays two Young People's Concerts each season, conducts master classes and in-school performances, and hosted the National Young Artist Competition in 2014, 2015, and 2016. The CSO has repeat interactions with approximately 30,000 students per season.
CSO Music Directors
- Ken Lam (2014-present)
- David Stahl (conductor) (1984-2010)
- Lucien DeGroote (1964-1981)
- Don Mills (1959-1963)
- J. Albert Frecht (1941-1958)
- Tony Hadgi (1936-1940)
- Charleston, Symphony. "Musicians". Retrieved 2016-03-04.
- "David Stahl, The Conductor of CSO Dies". Abcnews4.com published October 24, 2010. Archived from the original on March 7, 2012. Retrieved 2010-11-03.
- "CSO hosts highest grossing concert in its history". ABCNews4.