Founded in 1947 when Phoenix had a population of less than 100,000, the orchestra began as an occasional group of musicians performing a handful of concerts each year. Today, the orchestra appears before 300,000 subscribers, ticketholders, and music enthusiasts each year, offering 275 concerts and presentations in an annual season running from September to May.
Based in Phoenix Symphony Hall (opened in 1972, renovated in 2005, and seating 2,312), the 76-member ensemble is Arizona's only full-time, professional orchestra. The Phoenix Symphony operates on an annual budget of more than $8 million and is supported by ticket sales and private and corporate contributions, as well as by public funding provided through the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the City of Phoenix's Office of Arts and Culture.
The symphony offers classical and pops concerts in downtown Phoenix as well as symphonic and community presentations in Scottsdale, Mesa, Prescott, and other locations throughout central Arizona. As part of its educational and community engagement activities each season, the symphony performs annually for more than 70,000 students representing 265 schools.
Classical guest artists have included Mstislav Rostropovich, Shlomo Mintz, Emanuel Ax, Van Cliburn, James Galway, Horacio Gutierrez, Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, André Watts, Sarah Chang, Olga Kern, Karen Gomyo, Pinchas Zukerman, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Hugh Downs. Doc Severinsen was the principal pops conductor of the orchestra from the 1983-84 season through the 2005-06 season, and guest pops artists have included Sandy Duncan, Michael Feinstein, Marvin Hamlisch, Bobby McFerrin, Andrea Marcovicci, and Peter Nero.
Michael Christie (born Buffalo, New York, 1974) was named music director of the Phoenix Symphony in 2005 and, as a token of gratitude for his eight years of work as maestro of the symphony, the board of directors of the Phoenix Symphony named him music director laureate in 2013.
In February 2014, the orchestra named Tito Muñoz (born Queens, New York, 1983) as its 11th music director. Tito Muñoz is internationally recognized as one of the most gifted conductors on the podium today. Maestro Munoz recently signed a new 5-year contract with the Phoenix Symphony. He will remain as The Phoenix Symphony's Music Director until at least 2023.
- John Barnett (1947 - 1948)
- Robert Lawrence (1949 - 1951)
- Leslie Hodge (1952 - 1958)
- Guy Taylor (1959 - 1968)
- Philip Spurgeon (1969 - 1971)
- Eduardo Mata (1972 - 1978)
- Theo Alcantara (1978 - 1988)
- James Sedares (1989 - 1995)
- Hermann Michael (1997 - 2004)
- Michael Christie (2005 - 2013, Music Director Laureate in 2013)
- Tito Muñoz (2014 - )