HISTORY & MISSION
The mission of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is to inspire, entertain, educate and challenge through innovative programs and symphonic music performed at the highest artistic level.
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1930 by German conductor and local violin teacher Ferdinand Schaefer. At first comprised of volunteer musicians who split the revenue from ticket sales, the ISO became a professional orchestra with salaried musicians in 1937. That same year, Fabien Sevitzky – a Russian-born conductor and nephew of famed conductor Serge Koussevitsky – became Music Director of the ISO. Sevitzky’s appointment was highlighted in an April 5, 1937 article in Time magazine, which began, “Of Midwestern orchestras, none has risen so rapidly or so recently as the Indianapolis Symphony.”
Soon after, the ISO blossomed into one of the nation’s most renowned orchestras. Sevitzky worked to promote the ISO through a variety of national radio broadcasts, and his successor, Izler Solomon, ensured the creation of the Clowes Memorial Hall as a venue meant specifically for the ISO. (Until then, the ISO had been performing at the Murat Theater). Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the ISO traveled around the world to perform “Salute” concerts in countries such as Finland, Korea, Japan, Formosa, Portugal, The Netherlands, Israel, Mexico, Austria, Venezuela, Thailand, Greece and Chile – earning the Orchestra a Citation from the Voice of America and the United States Information Agency as well as a letter of commendation from John F. Kennedy – the first ever such commendation from a president to a symphony orchestra.
Solomon’s successor, John Nelson, is associated both with the founding of the Marsh Symphony on the Prairie Series in 1982 as well as the Orchestra’s move downtown to the restored venue the Hilbert Circle Theatre. In 1993 and 1997, under Music Director Raymond Leppard, the Orchestra embarked on European tours, performing at world-famous concert halls such as the Barbican Centre in London and the Musikverein in Vienna. It was also during Leppard’s tenure that the ISO’s beloved Yuletide Celebration shows began to delight audiences during December.
Today, the ISO is the largest performing arts organization in Indiana and performs hundreds of concerts every year. In September 2011, Krzysztof Urbanski began his tenure as Music Director of the ISO, and at the age of 29, is the youngest Music Director of any major American orchestra.
Ferdinand Schaefer (1930-1937)
Pops ConductorsErich Kunzel, Pops Music Director (1982-2002)
Jack Everly, Principal Pops Conductor (2002-present)
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