Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
The first ensemble
Under Sopkin's leadership, the ASO became one of the country's top twenty-five orchestras. It commissioned new works, began touring, and hosted famous guest artists ranging from violinist Isaac Stern to composer and conductor Igor Stravinsky. Sopkin, who retired in 1966, had made a considerable financial sacrifice to come to Atlanta, and he devoted the rest of his career to building the ASO.
Shaw also led the ASO in meaningful engagement with the African American community, hiring the orchestra's first black players, prompting the election of the first black members of its board, bringing in many African Americans as guest conductors and performers, and forging relationships with the predominantly black colleges of the Atlanta University Center. At his retirement in 1988, he led the ASO and Chorus on their first European tour, performing in East and West Germany, Switzerland, France, and Great Britain.
Shaw was followed by Yoel Levi, who served as music director from 1988 to 2000. Born in Romania in 1950 and brought up in Israel, Levi symbolized the ASO's increasingly international outlook. He made many recordings with the orchestra and in 1991 led its second tour of Europe. The ASO performed concerts in fifteen cities, including London, England; Paris, France; and Vienna, Austria. Levi expanded the orchestra, bringing in many fine new players. His discerning ear for such important aspects of ensemble technique as balance, intonation, and fine gradations of dynamics honed the ASO into one of the finest orchestras in the world. Levi is music director emeritus of the ASO, music artistic advisor to the Flemish Radio Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mindful of the need to train young instrumentalists for excellence in future musical careers, the ASO sponsors the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra (ASYO), an ensemble of 120 players of high school age who are chosen by competitive audition, rehearse under ASO conductors and coaches, and give three or more public concerts each year. Former ASYO players include a winner of the Naumburg Competition, members of the ASO and many other American orchestras, and faculty members of a number of music schools.
In addition to the ASYO, the ASO's educational programs include the Talent Development Program, which develops young minority players on an individual basis through coaching and mentoring by ASO musicians, and Young People's Concerts, which provides an educational experience for students from preschool through secondary school. High school and college students can meet ASO musicians and tour Symphony Hall in conjunction with the orchestra's regular concert series. Orchestra members also volunteer their time to take music into Atlanta-area schools on a regular basis.
The Atlanta Symphony Associates (ASA) is the orchestra's volunteer support organization. Originally founded in 1945 to handle ushering, program books, and other aspects of concert production, it has grown into a broad-based group of dedicated volunteers who raise more than $1 million annually for the ASO through such projects as the Decorators' Show House, Atlanta Symphony Ball, Sleighbell Luncheon and Fashion Show, Annual Fund Campaign, and sales of their own cookbook, Sounds Delicious. The ASA also brings classical music into the lives of more than 40,000 children and adults annually by presenting an Adult Education and Meet the Artist series, ushering for children's concerts, and orchestrating outreach projects. They host ASA Nights at the Symphony and the ASYO Annual Ball, as well as appreciation events for ASO musicians, chorus, and staff.
Present and Future Plans
The orchestra gives more than 200 performances annually, including its principal classical subscription series, pops concerts in Symphony Hall and the Chastain Park Amphitheater, family and children's
Led by a visionary and hard-working board of directors who represent varied constituencies in the city's business and artistic life, the ASO recently completed a major fund-raising drive to increase its endowment funds by $40 million, in order to support its continued growth and its many community-based programs. It is now embarked on an ambitious project to build a new Symphony Center, which will include a concert hall and recital hall, rehearsal and office spaces, and state-of-the-art educational facilities. A team of internationally acclaimed designers has been selected, including the acoustical firm Kirkegaard and Associates, theatrical-design consultants Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, and renowned architect Santiago Calatrava.
Lea Agnew and David Hughes Duke, "Atlanta Symphony Orchestra," Atlanta History 38, no. 1-2 (1994): 60-77.
Nick Jones, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
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