The Victoria Symphony is a Canadian orchestra based in Victoria, British Columbia. It is considered Vancouver Island's premier active performing arts organization. Currently conducted by Tania Miller—one of North America's first female musical directors—the orchestra consists of 34 full-contract, and 15 part-contract musicians. Each season, the orchestra delivers more than fifty main series programs, as well as a two-week-long summer series. A highlight of the year for many Victorians is the annual Symphony Splash fund-raising concert, held on the Sunday of the August long weekend. The orchestra performs on a barge in Victoria's Inner Harbour for an estimated audience of forty thousand—many attending in kayaks, canoes or dragonboats immediately in front of the barge. The orchestra administration consists of a paid staff, a board of directors, and many volunteers.
The Victoria Symphony was founded in 1941 by members of the Royal Canadian Navy as an amateur ensemble. Melvin Knudsen served as the group's first conductor, leaving after seven years in 1948 when he was succeeded by Hans Gruber. Otto-Werner Mueller was appointed principal conductor in 1963, followed by Laszlo Gati in 1967. The orchestra became a professional ensemble during Gati's years in the mid 1970s.
In 1979, Paul Freeman left his junior position at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to assume the position of principal conductor of the Victoria Symphony. Glen Fast served as his associate conductor beginning in 1983 and eventually replaced him for a short time as principal conductor in 1988 when Freeman retired. Peter McCoppin was appointed as conductor in 1989, a position he held until 1999 when Kees Bakels succeeded him. Bakels left in 2002 at which time Timothy Vernon was appointed interim music director. Tania Miller has been music director since the 2003-2004 season.
The dynamic young Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who currently holds the position of music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra—and has held or currently holds positions with the London Philharmonic and Rotterdam Philharmonic—held the position of Principal Guest Conductor of the Victoria Symphony from 2003 to 2007. Another acclaimed Québécois musician and conductor, Alain Trudel, succeeded Nézet-Séguin in 2009, a position he held until 2013.