San Antonio Symphony

The San Antonio Symphony is a full-time professional symphony orchestra based in San Antonio, Texas. Its season runs from late September to early June. Sebastian Lang-Lessing is Music Director.

The orchestra is a resident organization of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio.

Artistic and organizational facts

The San Antonio Symphony presents a large and diverse selection of music on its concert schedule. The 20182019 season includes 14 different classical subscription programs (each performed twice), six Pops programs (also performed twice each), four different programs in a Young People's Concerts series (each performed between four and eight times), a Family Concert, a concert featuring the musical soundtrack with the screening of a major motion picture, community outreach programs, and others.[1] Many orchestral concerts feature performances by noted guest artists. The San Antonio Symphony also presents world-renowned soloists in recital, open rehearsals, and an annual string-instrument master class by a visiting guest artist.

The 20182019 artistic staff of the San Antonio Symphony consists of Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Assistant Conductor Noam Aviel, Mastersingers Conductor John Silantien, and 72 full-time musicians. Christopher Wilkins holds the title of Music Director Emeritus. The orchestra musicians collectively belong to the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), and virtually all individually are members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). The San Antonio Mastersingers is a chorus that performs frequently with the symphony. Although its members participate on a volunteer basis, the Mastersingers are considered by many to be of professional quality. Each year the San Antonio Symphony are joined by the Philharmonic Orchestra of YOSA, Youth Orchestras of San Antonio, for a side-by-side concert.

The San Antonio Symphony's primary performance venue is the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in downtown San Antonio. It became the Symphony's home in 2014.

The Symphony Society of San Antonio manages operations of the San Antonio Symphony. As of January 2019, Kathleen Weir Vale is the board chair and Corey Cowart is the executive director.[2][3]

The organization is a member of the League of American Orchestras.


Orchestral music in San Antonio traces its beginnings to a series of four concerts by a 49-piece orchestra directed by German immigrant Carl Beck at the state Sängerfest in 1887. A performance of the Symphony No. 4 by Felix Mendelssohn in these concerts was the first of a complete symphony in the state of Texas. Beck again conducted a symphony orchestra when the Sängerfest returned to San Antonio in 1896. Beck was engaged as the director of the Beethoven Männerchor in San Antonio, then succeeded in that role by Carl Hahn in about 1904. Hahn worked with Anna Goodman Hertzberg, a leading local musician and arts patron, to create the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, which gave its first concert on May 18, 1905. The orchestra performed sporadically for the next several years but was revived in 1914 (as the "San Antonio Philharmonic") by a new conductor, Arthur Claassen. By 1916, the ensemble was again called the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra. By 1918 it was under the musical direction of Julien Paul Blitz. Concerts continued into the 1920s, but this organization appears ultimately to have foundered.

The present San Antonio Symphony, an organization independent of the aforementioned predecessors, was created in 1939 by Max Reiter, a German-Italian immigrant, who became its first Music Director. The group's early ambition is evidenced by the fact that the legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz was a guest artist during the first season. By 1943, the orchestra employed 75 professional musicians, and in the 19441945 season the organization's budget topped $100,000, making it one of only 19 "major" orchestras in the country at that time, and the only one in Texas. Unlike many orchestras, the San Antonio Symphony was able to continue operations through World War IIlargely because the city's strong military presence helped bolster the local economy. Before his death in 1950, Reiter had started an Opera Festival, created an Opera Chorus, and brought nationwide attention to the orchestra, with world premieres by several important composers, guest appearances by world-class artists, and overall high musical quality.

Reiter was succeeded by Victor Alessandro, a native Texan. The Symphony continued to grow in scope, including the addition of Young People's Concerts. In 1969 the orchestra took up residence in the Theater for the Performing Arts (which would later be renamed the Lila Cockrell Theatre after a San Antonio mayor). In 1967 the orchestra made its first major-label recordings, for Mercury Records. Alessandro died in 1976. A complete chronological list of San Antonio Symphony Music Directors is shown below.

Financial difficulties forced the cancellation of much of the 19871988 season. During this time, the musicians formed and presented a concert series with their own organization, Orchestra San Antonio. Later, the 20032004 season would likewise be cancelled due to bankruptcy.

The 1990s were highlighted by recognition and acclaim for the San Antonio Symphony's creative and culturally diverse programming, culminating in awards by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), American Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL), the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), and the Knight Foundation.

Due to decisions made in the wake of recent financial difficulties, the San Antonio Symphony currently performs a shorter season and with a slightly smaller musician complement than in some previous years, but it continues to be highly regarded artistically.

In the early part of the 2006–2007 season, CEO David Green and the executive board chose not to renew Music Director Larry Rachleff's contract beyond the 2007–2008 season. This decision was opposed by a majority of the musicians and by many San Antonio Symphony supporters. In January 2008, Christopher Seaman was appointed Artistic Adviser, a "position . . . similar to that of an interim music director" for the 20082009 season.[4] Sebastian Lang-Lessing became the orchestra's eighth music director in 71 years with a concert on October 2, 2010.

From 1939 to 2017, the Symphony Society of San Antonio managed operations of the San Antonio Symphony. In 2017 operations were turned over to Symphonic Music for San Antonio, a nonprofit organization.[5][6] SMSA pulled out of this agreement in December 2017, leaving the organization in poor position, and in January 2018 it was announced the bulk of the symphony's remaining 2017–18 season would be cancelled.[7] With the help of a fundraising effort spearheaded by Kathleen Weir Vale, the remainder of the 2017–18 season was salvaged, and the Symphony Society returned as the governing body.[2]

Music directors

1939–1950 Max Reiter (20 October 1905 Trieste, Italy – 13 December 1950 San Antonio)
1950–1976 Victor Alessandro (27 November 1915 Waco – 27 November 1976 San Antonio)
1978–1980 François H. Huybrechts (born 15 June 1946 Antwerp, Belgium)
1980–1985 Lawrence Leighton Smith (8 April 1936 Portland – 25 October 2013 Colorado Springs, Colorado)
1992–2000 Christopher Wilkins (born 28 May 1957) — Wilkins was named "Music Director Designate" in 1990 and held that position during the 1991–1992 season and beyond. During Wilkins' tenure Robert Xavier Rodriguez served as Composer-in-Residence with the Orchestra.
2004–2008 Larry Rachleff (de) (born 25 February 1955) — studied percussion before becoming a conductor. He earned a Bachelor of Science in music education from the University of Connecticut (1977) and a Master of Music in percussion (1978) and Master of Music in conducting (1979) from the University of Michigan. In addition to conducting, Rachleff is a professor at Rice University, and formerly at Oberlin, University of Texas at Arlington, and USC[8][9][10]
2010–present Sebastian Lang-Lessing (born 1966 Germany)
Notes: Sixten Ehrling (3 April 1918 Malmö, Sweden – 13 February 2005 New York City) and Christopher Seaman (born 7 March 1942 Faversham, England) have served as Artistic Advisors, and Zdeněk Mácal (born 8 January 1936 Brno, Czechoslovakia) has served as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor.


Members of the San Antonio Symphony with Wikipedia articles include:

See also


  1. San Antonio Symphony. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  2. Kathleen Weir Vale by Jasmina Wellinghoff. San Antonio Woman, Sept/Oct 18. Retrieved 2018-09-24.
  3. San Antonio Symphony names new executive director by Deborah Martin. San Antonio Express-News, 13 Nov 2018. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  4. "S.A. Symphony taps New York conductor" by Jennifer Roolf Laster, San Antonio Express-News, 24 January 2008 (link ).
  5. H-E-B helps found new nonprofit to take over San Antonio Symphony by David Hendricks. San Antonio Express-News, 19 Jul 2017. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  6. Former Express-News Publisher to Head New Symphony Organization. Rivard Report, 7 Aug 2017. Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  7. SA Symphony to Suspend Remainder of Season After This Weekend’s Concerts by Nicholas Frank. Rivard Report, 3 Jan 2018, Retrieved 2018-01-04.
  8. Rachleff Mixes Conducting And Teaching Career, The Day (New London), March 29, 1998, pg. A6
  9. International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory (10th ed.) ("Rachleff, Larry"), Ernest Kay (ed.), International Who's Who in Music (1984); ISSN 0307-2894
  10. "Larry Rachleff," Marquis Who's Who; OCLC 4779711360
  11. "Bill Sinkin, Father Of Hemisfair, A Life Well Lived," by Eileen Pace, Texas Public Radio, February 4, 2014


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