The Hartford Symphony Orchestra, marking its 63rd season in 2006-2007, is Connecticut's premier musical organization and is widely recognized as one of America's leading regional orchestras. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra believes passionately in the performance of live symphonic music and its value in the community. To that end, the mission of the HSO is to perform live orchestral music of the highest quality for ever-expanding audiences, and to increase through its educational programs the understanding and enjoyment of that music by residents in Connecticut.
After an extensive search involving nearly 300 applicants from around the world, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra named Edward Cumming as its ninth Music Director in June 2001. During his first season Cumming introduced several exciting and successful initiatives including the popular United Technologies Rush Hour Classics and Classical Connections Series at The Bushnell's Belding Theater; the HSO's first Latino Music Celebration; and a long-awaited return to Bushnell Park with Sounds of the City, a concert embracing the rich musical traditions of many of Hartford's diverse ethnic populations. Recognizing his commitment to performing the music of our time, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) presented Edward Cumming and the HSO with its 2003 Award for Adventurous Programming. The HSO also was one of three orchestras in North America to be honored with the 2004 MetLife Award for Excellence in Community Engagement, awarded by the American Symphony Orchestra League in June, and a 2003 award from the Hispanic Professional Network recognizing the HSO's dedication to promote awareness of Hispanic arts and culture.
The HSO presents more than 70 concerts annually - from The Masterworks Series, Hartford Symphony POPS!, and Family Matinees at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, to The Choral Collection, a series presented in collaboration with The Hartford Chorale and CONCORA, and the Talcott Mountain Music FestivalSM in Simsbury. Highly talented resident musicians have helped the Orchestra reach its highest artistic level ever.
The HSO launched a major community engagement initiative designed to reach new audiences in 2000 with I Have a Dream, the HSO's first concert celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2001 and again in 2003, the popular tenor Andrea Bocelli chose the HSO to accompany him on tour in a total of eleven cities across North America. In June 2004, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra was awarded the Governor's Arts Award "in recognition of remarkable artistic achievement and contributions to the arts in the state of Connecticut".
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1934, and formally established as the Symphony Society of Greater Hartford in 1936. Angelo Coniglione, Jacques Gordon, Leon Barzin, Moshe Paranov and George Heck were the Orchestra's first music directors. With the appointment of Fritz Mahler as music director in 1953, the HSO began its Young People's Concerts and made several recordings for Vanguard. In 1964, Arthur Winograd, a founding member of the Juilliard String Quartet, became music director. Under Winograd, the Orchestra grew in artistic stature and performed in Carnegie Hall and other New York locations to strongly favorable reviews. Under the artistic leadership of Michael Lankester from 1985-2000, the HSO received national recognition for its programming innovations, including the popular Classical Conversations and United Technologies Family Matinees, as well as a series of landmark theatrical productions.
Each season, the HSO plays to audiences numbering approximately 170,000 and reaches thousands statewide through its broadcast concerts on Connecticut Public Radio. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra's extensive array of Musical Pathways educational activities serves more than 60,000 individuals in Hartford and surrounding communities annually. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is supported by more than 8,000 subscribers and 3,000 donors. The organization has been greatly strengthened by an extensive level of communication and involvement with its musicians that has become a national model for orchestral governance. Now representing 15% of the Board of Directors and one-third of its Executive Committee, musicians also serve on all major Board committees.