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Grace Thompson Edmister and the Orchestra

MISSION: The NMSO's mission is to provide the population of New Mexico with the highest quality live performances of symphonic music, and to be an important educational force.

Today, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra enriches the lives of over 130,000 people each year. But that success has come by way of many people and events over our 76-year history.

Grace Thompson Edmister

It all started when nearly 2,000 people gathered at the University of New Mexico's Carlisle Gymnasium on November 13, 1932, to hear the debut performance of the 61-member Albuquerque Civic Symphony, led by founding conductor Grace Thompson Edmister, and comprised primarily of teachers, students, housewives and businesspeople.

Edmister, head of the University of New Mexico music department at that time, was one of the first women in the nation to direct a city orchestra and helped the new orchestra flourish, serving as conductor until 1941. Although she moved from Albuquerque in 1942, she returned in 1970 and continued to promote the performance of music within the community until her death at age 93.

Succeeding Edmister, William Kunkel served as conductor from 1941 to 1945. During his tenure, the orchestra began the practice of featuring internationally renowned guest artists for its concerts. Carl Cramer served as assistant conductor during this period.

Following a distinguished career as performer and conductor on both sides of the Atlantic, Kurt Frederick became conductor of the ACS in 1945 and served until 1950. A highlight of Frederick's tenure came when he conducted the orchestra in the American premiere performance of Arnold Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw. One of the most remarkable musical personalities in Albuquerque's history, Frederick also was involved with the Albuquerque Youth Symphony, the UNM Chamber Orchestra and was one of the founders of Albuquerque Opera Theatre.
Hans Lange

Hans Lange served as the ACS's music director from 1950-1958. During his tenure, Lange led the symphony from amateur to professional status, and for the first time, every player received some pay for his or her work. Albuquerque opened the Civic Auditorium with a performance by the ACS in 1957.

Maurice Bonney
Maurice Bonney, who served in the U.S. Navy orchestra during World War II, succeeded Lange as music director in 1958, serving until 1968. During Bonney's tenure, the experienced tremendous growth in performance quality, community support increased and even more world-class soloists began to appear every season.

In 1966, the ACS's name was changed to the Albuquerque Symphony Orchestra. That same year Popejoy Hall, the NMSO's current primary home, was completed on the University of New Mexico campus.

During the 1968-69 season, Bonney's final year as conductor, he shared the conducting duties with Jose Iturbi. The following season, the ASO presented a series of six guest conductors. Bonney left the ASO, and went on to found symphonies in both Anchorage, Alaska and Mesa, Ariz.

Yoshimi Takeda was engaged as ASO music director in 1970. He founded the New Mexico Symphony Chorus and began the Symphony's statewide touring program. Within 10 years, the Symphony had visited 35 communities. In recognition of the ASO's services throughout the state, Gov. Jerry Apodaca issued an executive order on January 26, 1976, by which the Albuquerque Symphony Orchestra became official orchestra of the State of New Mexico. The Symphony's name was changed to the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. Takeda served as NMSO music director until 1984.

Roger Melone
By that time, the NMSO was maturing into a nationally recognized symphony. In both 1977 and 1978, American Society of Composers, Artists and Performers presented the NMSO with the Adventuresome Programming of Contemporary Music award, making it the only metropolitan symphony to win the award two years in a row. In 1981 the Mexican government invited the NMSO to perform during the October Festival in Tijuana, Ensenada and Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.

In 1983, Roger Melone joined the NMSO as resident conductor. Since joining, he has conducted subscription, tour, pops and children's concerts. Currently, Melone is the longest-serving conductor in NMSO history.

Yoshimi Takeda
Following Takeda, Neal Stulberg was confirmed as NMSO music director in January 1985. A concert pianist, Stulberg often appeared as a soloist, directing the NMSO from the piano bench. Under his direction, the Symphony increased its tour circuit and added contemporary music to its repertoire. Also during his tenure with the NMSO, Stulberg won the prestigious Seaver Award. He served as music director through the end of the 1992-93 season

Cellist David Lockington took the baton as music director in 1995. During his five years at that post, Lockington inspired the orchestra to extend itself musically as he led its members to become one of America's finest orchestras.

Neal Stulberg
The NMSO emerged from a decade of financial difficulties in 1997, establishing an endowment and capitalizing on organizational stability to create a dynamic vision for the orchestra as a uniquely New Mexican institution reflecting the character and spirit of our unique state.

Upon Lockington's departure, renowned violinist Guillermo Figueroa became the NMSO's new music director. Highlights of Figueroa's tenure, so far, include the expansion of the Classics series, the establishment of the country's most comprehensive Berloz festival as well as his oversight of Time and Again Barelas, a fully-staged opera by composer Miguel del Aguila, commissioned and performed by the NMSO to commemorate Albuquerque's tricentennial in 2006.

David Lockington
Today, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra is the largest year-round performing arts organization in the state of New Mexico, employing over 100 full and part-time musicians and staff, and has taken its place among the great cultural institutions of our state.

That institution serves one of the largest states in America, with one of the smallest populations. Deeply committed to educational activities and to serving its multi-cultural environment the NMSO performs each year for an audience of more than 130,000 - over half of them attending free NMSO Family Concerts. In fact, over half of the NMSO's performances every year take place in Albuquerque area neighborhoods, schools, and in the various New Mexico communities served by the NMSO's touring program.

The NMSO was honored by its inclusion in June 2000 in one of the largest and most far reaching philanthropic programs ever created for American orchestras. The NMSO was named by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as one of only fourteen orchestras nationwide in a nine-year program to recognize orchestras on the cutting edge of the field. The smallest orchestra to participate in this program, the NMSO enjoys the company of the Cleveland Orchestra and the orchestras of San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Baltimore and others.¬ÝGrant funds to the NMSO, totaling $600,000 for the first three years of the program, are being used to pursue educational and multi-cultural initiatives, artistic advances, and institutional self-examination.

Guillermo Figueroa
The NMSO Chorus, currently led by Roger Melone, is recognized nationally as one of the finest symphony choruses in the United States, garnering wide acclaim following its three appearances at the annual Vail Valley Music Festival in Vail, Colo.—in July 2006 with the Rochester (N.Y.) Philharmonic and in July 2007 and July 2008 with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Governed by a Board of Trustees, the organization is also served by more than 200 members of the New Mexico Symphony Guild. Each summer, the Albuquerque area's premier fundraising event, Vintage Albuquerque Fine Wine and Art Auction takes place, and has raised over $1,000,000 since 1992.

The NMSO's educational programs rank it as the largest non-governmental provider of music education in the state of New Mexico. More than 50,000 young people around the state are served each year. In February 2001 a long anticipated dream was fulfilled with the establishment of the Symphony School program which provides for weekly individual lessons from members of the NMSO for economically disadvantaged middle and high school students for $1 per lesson.

Important community activities include a series of five to nine concerts each year in neighborhood and community centers as well as major collaborations with the National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico and several of the New Mexico pueblos.

For more information on the NMSO, including concert and ticket information or other ways to support the orchestra, visit our website at or call (505) 881-8999.

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