Category Archives: Local Music

Louisville Orchestra

Through the years, the Louisville Orchestra has performed for prestigious events, including “A Festival of the Arts” at the White House, the Inter-American Music Festival at the Kennedy Center, “Great Orchestras of the World” at Carnegie Hall and a tour of Mexico City.

In 1981, the ensemble officially augmented to full-time status. In 2001, the Louisville Orchestra received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, presented annually by ASCAP and the American Symphony Orchestra League (now known as the League of American Orchestras) to one orchestra in North America. Continuing its commitment to the music of our time, the Louisville Orchestra has earned nineteen ASCAP awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. Most recently, the Orchestra was awarded large grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the National Endowment for the Arts, both for the purpose of producing, manufacturing and marketing the Orchestra’s historic First Edition Recordings collections. Three compact discs of world premiere performances dating from the 1950s have been released, with seventeen more to follow.

Chronology of the Louisville Orchestra


The first official resident symphony orchestra is founded by the Society of St Cecilia.


Robert Whitney is appointed conductor of the Louisville Orchestra.


The Louisville Civic Orchestra becomes the Louisville Philharmonic Orchestra.


The Womens’s Association of the Louisville Philharmonic Orchestra is formed. Still in existence today, this group is now known as the Association of the Louisville Orchestra.


Charles Farnsley, Mayor of Louisville, insists the Orchestra begin commissioning new works from contemporary composers. He is called a “wide-eyed visionary.”


William Schuman’s “Judith” is given its world premiere in Louisville. “Judith” is performed at Carnegie Hall by the Louisville Orchestra. A treatise Judith and the Louisville Orchestra.

The Orchestra creates its own recording label, First Edition Records.


The U.S. State Department selects Louisville and the Louisville Orchestra as a host for a seven-city tour by a delegation of Russian composers.

The Louisville Orchestra hosts Russian composers Shostakovich, Kabalevsky, Krennikov, Konstantin, Dankevich, and Amiroy.


The Orchestra appears at “A Festival of the Arts” at the White House in Washington D.C.


Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft conduct the Louisville Orchestra in concert at the Louisville Gardens with an audience of over 7,000.


Robert Whitney retires and Jorge Mester is appointed as the 2nd Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra.


Jorge Mester conducts the Orchestra at the Inter-American Music Festival at Washington’s Kennedy Center.


Akiro Endo is appointed as Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra.


The Louisville Orchestra evolves from “per-service” employment model to 70 musicians on salary.  Takes its first international tour, June 21-July 5, performing 3 weeks of concerts in Mexico City.


Lawrence Leighton-Smith is named Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra.

The Orchestra provides music for the gala celebrating the opening of the Kentucky Center for the Arts.


The Louisville Orchestra produces “Sound Celebration”, a contemporary music festival featuring composers, critics and musicians from around the world.


The Orchestra performs at Carnegie Hall as part of the “Great Orchestra of the World”.


Uriel Segal becomes the Louisville Orchestra’s sixth Music Director.


Jorge Mester is named Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra.


Feature-length documentary film, ‘Music Makes A City’, released chronicling the founding years of the Louisville Orchestra (1937-1966).


The Orchestra formally deals with re-organization via Chapter 11 in U.S. Federal Court to restructure debt after decades of financial stress; no concerts cancelled.


Organization endures season-long labor impasse with no public performances.  Labor accord reached April 2012 providing for 55 musicians on salary.  75th Anniversary season begins September 8, 2012.