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About CRSO
February 2, 2006

History

In its inaugural concert on April 13, 1921, the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra featured 48 volunteer musicians performing in Sinclair Auditorium on the Coe College campus, under the baton of Joseph H. Kitchin, professor of violin at Coe. By 1928 the orchestra had grown to 56 musicians performing eight concerts on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons in Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. General admission was 75 cents and season tickets were $5. However, the orchestra was far from complete and several of the musicians had to take up different instruments to fill the gaps in the ranks. Dr. Lynn Crawford, a cellist, traveled to Chicago for oboe lessons, and organist Marshall Bidwell filled in on the kettledrums. The Cedar Rapids Symphony was unique among orchestras by continuing to perform during the years of the Depression and World War II, making it one of the oldest continuously operating symphonies west of the Mississippi.

In 1952 Kitchin led the search for his own replacement. Henry Denecke, timpanist with the Minnesota Orchestra, was selected from a field of over 60 applicants to become the symphony's first salaried music director. Under his leadership the orchestra increased in size and began to pay its musicians, adding many talented players from the University of Iowa and adding more concerts to the symphony season. The orchestra budget grew to $28,000. In 1970 Richard Williams became music director, beginning a period of rapid expansion for the Symphony. The audience doubled, a string quartet was established and new music was commissioned. All this served to attract funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. By 1980 the orchestra was performing eight pairs of concerts along with a two-concert youth series and had found a permanent home in the newly restored Paramount Theatre.

A nationwide search for a music director was conducted in 1981 and Christian Tiemeyer, then associate director for the Dallas Symphony, was selected. Under his artistic leadership, the symphony has grown to be one of the largest in Iowa, with an annual budget of over 1.7 million dollars and performing 32 Classical, Pops, Chamber, Youth and Discovery concerts. As a professional orchestra with 82 musicians contracted for an average of 80 rehearsals and performances each season, the Cedar Rapids Symphony maintains a significant economic presence in the community.

Along with the continued recognition for its artistic excellence, the symphony has become a leader in music education and currently offers a broad range of educational programs involving over 600 students.

In 1990 yet another milestone was marked with the establishment of the Cedar Rapids Symphony Foundation, assuring the continued growth and financial stability of the symphony into and beyond the 21st century. The symphony has recently made strides to broaden and enlarge the audience by targeting patrons in the Iowa City community. To accomplish this, the Cedar Rapids Symphony most recently has performed several concert repeats in Iowa City rather than at the Paramount in Cedar Rapids.

In the last 20 years, the symphony has been recognized for its outstanding educational programs by the Kennedy Center, and called, "a model for the whole country" by Time magazine. The symphony is also appreciated by the local community, as shown in a Cedar Rapids Gazette editorial that noted, "...cities much larger would be fortunate to have an organization as good as the Cedar Rapids Symphony."

During fall of 2004, the administrative staff, all symphony school staff and Symphony School classes moved to the new Symphony Center (119 Third Avenue SE). For the first time both the Cedar Rapids Symphony administration and Symphony School are in one location. The new state-of-the art music studios and Rockwell Collins Recital Hall offer Symphony School students the finest facility for music study and performance in the area.

The 2004-2005 season marked the final season for Music Director Dr. Christian Tiemeyer. In January 2004, a twelve-member search committee consisting of board members, musicians and community leaders began a nationwide search for a new music director. After receiving over 170 applications and visiting many candidates in their home orchestras, the committee chose five final candidates to content for the position of CRSO music director.

Each candidate will guest conduct one Masterworks concert during the 2005-2006 season as well as undergo a series of interviews with musicians, board members, staff and community leaders. After the fifth Masterworks concert of the season the search committee will choose a new music director who will serve their first year during the 2006-2007 season.



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119 Third Ave SE  ·  Cedar Rapids, IA 52401  ·  800.369.TUNE
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