The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra has been a part of Ann Arbor’s cultural life for over 90 years. It was founded as a community orchestra in 1928 by five musically-inclined members of the local Methodist Church and has since grown to become the largest arts employer in Washtenaw County. Since 1986 the A2SO has been a fully professional orchestra, counting among its music directors Carl St.Clair, Sam Wong, Arie Lipsky, and Earl Lee.
Four musicians at the local Methodist Church form a group to perform at services. Philip Potts was their manager.
Warren Ketcham, a student at the University of Michigan School of Music, becomes the group’s first director.
The group grows to 12 members and adopts the name Ann Arbor Community Orchestra.
Frederick Ernst, another School of Music student at the University of Michigan, becomes the group’s second director. Also, the orchestra, now at 18 members, gives its first major program, including Poet and Peasant Overture by Franz Von Suppe.
The 30-member orchestra performs on 18 occasions, including 4 major concerts in Petersberg, Saline, Ann Arbor, and Hartland.
William Champion becomes the third music director.
Still at 30 players, the orchestra performs 6 concerts during the 1934-35 season.
Newly organized under the general administration of Ann Arbor’s Department of Recreation, the group renames itself Ann Arbor Civic Orchestra.
Forty musicians give concerts at neighborhood schools in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Dexter, and participate in the 2nd annual Civic Music Night.
An Evening of Ballet, the orchestra’s first ballet dance concert, is given with the Sylvia Studio of Dance.
Preparations are made for the first concerts at the West Park Music Shell (designed by Symphony founder Philip Potts) to take place in the summer of 1939.
E.A. Schaeberle is elected the first president of the orchestra’s Board of Directors as the group strives for a more formal organization.
The orchestra has its first concert at the Michigan Theater in the 1940-41 season.
Professor Joseph Maddy takes over as Music Director when Wm. Champion is called into U. S. Navy Service.
A song pageant, “Battle Songs of Freedom,” is given to the U. S. Navy Service School, Dearborn.
The Ann Arbor Civic Orchestra hosts its third annual Michigan Massed Orchestra Festival.
The orchestra grows to 50 players.
The orchestra plays for the 8th Annual Evening of Ballet, the last one until 1955.
A performance at Michigan Union for the International Center marks the orchestra’s 100th Concert.
The symphony performs Bach’s “Come Sweet Death” on the occasion of the anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
The orchestra establishes Langford Youth Scholarships to attend the National Music Camp at Interlochen with money donated by a symphony supporter.
Seventy-five musicians are listed in the orchestra’s attendance book.
Orchestra participates in the 10th Annual Michigan Massed Orchestra Festival.
Orien Dalley becomes the orchestra’s fifth conductor.
The Women’s Auxiliary is formed and raises $390 for the Ann Arbor Community Orchestra.
The orchestra celebrates its 25th anniversary; Philip Potts resigns as Business Manager.
University of Michigan composer Michael Daugherty is born. In November 2003, the orchestra premiered a new work for the A2SO and theater organ, written by Mr. Daugherty.
Emil Raab becomes orchestra’s sixth conductor.
The 200th anniversary of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birth was on January 27 of this year.
George C. Wilson, Vice President of the National Music Camp at Interlochen, becomes seventh conductor.
Musicians had to do nothing more than show up for three rehearsals to become members of the orchestra–no auditions!
Ann Arbor Civic Symphony presents a youth concert to 1,500 youngsters.
Jack Elzay, Ann Arbor Public School Superintendent, writes a letter to conductor George Wilson recognizing the importance of music in children’s lives.
WUOM broadcasts the January 22nd concert. William Fitch becomes orchestra’s eighth conductor.
The orchestra concludes its main stage season by accompanying the Ann Arbor Civic Ballet. In June they play a Pops Concert in West Park.
Emil Holz becomes orchestra’s ninth conductor.
Orchestra grows to 66 members with an 18-member executive board.
Interlochen founder and Ann Arbor Civic Orchestra conductor of 10 years, Joseph Maddy, dies at the age of 74.
The Orchestra selects three, rather than the usual one, youth soloists to perform on the annual Youth Concert.
After 40 years of free concerts, the orchestra hosts “Symphony Week” to raise awareness and funds.
On December 16, Philip Potts, founder and orchestra manager for decades, dies at the age of 76.
Women’s Association of the Ann Arbor Symphony holds its first Catherine Crippen Scholarship competition for junior high students to attend music camp.
Ed Szabo becomes orchestra’s tenth director.
One hundred fifty couples attend the Symphony Ball, raising $2800 for the Ann Arbor Symphony.
The Symphony holds a benefit concert to support rising costs while keeping most concerts free. Tickets cost $2.50-$10.
Mayor Albert H. Wheeler declares May 16-22, 1976 “Geranium Week” in honor of the Annual Geranium Sale run by the Women’s Association to benefit the Symphony.
The Women’s Association of the Ann Arbor Symphony celebrates its 25 years of service with a musical performance by youth scholarship winners.
The Orchestra celebrates its 50th Anniversary; Ann Arbor Mayor Louis D. Belcher names Oct. 5 1978 “Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra Day.”
The orchestra presents “The Story of Babar” by Poulenc for its annual free Children’s Concert on November 25th.
Robert Taylor, “Fat Bob the Singing Plumber,” joins the orchestra as a baritone soloist for its November 30th concert.
Orchestra roster lists 100 musicians.
Ed Szabo conducts a February 21st concert as a “Centennial Observance of the Births of Zoltan Kodaly and Igor Stravinsky.”
The symphony recognizes the contributions of Estelle Titiev, orchestra supporter and board member, by naming the concertmaster’s chair in her honor. This is one of many ways the Symphony shows appreciation to its donors.
Cathy Cho, a featured soloist of the A2SO’s 75th season, performed Paganini’s violin concerto as a youth soloist with the orchestra.
Carl St.Clair becomes orchestra’s eleventh conductor. For the first time in its 57-year history, the orchestra charges admission to meet expenses.
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra commissions a work by University Professor and dancer David D. Gregory. He insists that his piece “is to be shared, not inflicted.”
The Symphony collaborates with four other local arts agencies for a production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, a theater piece for singers, musicians and dancers.
The orchestra participates in Jazz for Life, a benefit concert supporting two local child-care agencies that help low-income households.
The orchestra fundraising efforts include the Fifth Annual Gala Benefit and a Radiothon on WAAM AM 1600, both hosted by Briarwood Mall.
The Ultimate Tailgate Party, Fantasy Tailgate Silent Auction, and Benefit Pops Concert are among the fundraising festivities for the 63rd season.
Samuel Wong becomes orchestra’s twelfth conductor.
The symphony begins its annual benefit golf outing, Symphony Swing.
The Symphony performs “Oh, Lois” and “Lex” from Metropolis Symphony by U-M composition faculty member Michael Daugherty, based on popular Superman lore.
In keeping with the Symphony’s exciting programming, the orchestra presents The Tap Dance Concerto by Morton Gould with soloist Job E. Christenson.
The orchestra hosts its first annual Mozart Birthday Bash concert honoring the great Classical composer.
Catherine Cho returns to the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra to perform with the Symphony at a MainStage concert.
The A2SO begins a conductor search. In 2000, Jane Wilkinson was awarded the Governor’s Service Award for volunteering over 5,000 hours as Search Chair.
Arie Lipsky becomes orchestra’s thirteenth conductor.
Collaboration with Ann Arbor Public Schools “March is Art & Music Month” with partners Ann Arbor District Library and Main Street Area Association with support from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and the Ann Arbor Educational Foundation.
For the first time in its history, the orchestra presents a full-length opera in concert with its performance of Bizet’s Carmen.
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra celebrates 75 years of Excellence. The A2SO performs William Bolcom’s Violin Concerto in recognition of his contributions to music in Ann Arbor.
Season Finale, Carmina Burana, sells out.
World premiere of the family program Mozart Comes to Ann Arbor by EMU professor Jeff Duncan.
World premiere of Raccoon Tune based on the children’s book by Ann Arbor author Nancy Shaw.
A2SO records music of Paul Fetler for Naxos, its first commercially available CD.
Conductor Arie Lipsky celebrates 10 years with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra.
Beethoven’s 9th Symphony concert at Hill Auditorium breaks A2SO’s all-time records for highest concert attendance.
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra celebrates 85 years of excellence.
A2SO starts live broadcast of the concert on WKAR (90.5 FM) and via delayed broadcast the following week on WKAR and WRCJ (90.9 FM).
Publication of Presenting: the Orchestra! Activities for Young Music-Makers, a kids activity book distributed at concerts, Taste of Music.
The A2SO is chosen to participate in Carnegie Hall’s “Link Up” program, an elementary school classroom-to-concert hall experience. Over 4,000 youngsters attend.
The A2SO receives the Distinguished Service Award from Rotary of Ann Arbor for excellent service in the schools.
The A2SO commissions and premieres Ann Arbor Saturday from composer, William Bolcom to celebrate the orchestra’s 90th anniversary.
The A2SO announces six new Music Director finalists who will each conduct the orchestra throughout the 2020-2021 season.
The A2SO returns to the concert stage with live audiences, presenting a 10-performance mainstage season conducted by six music director finalists.
Earl Lee is appointed the 14th Music Director of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra.