The Portland Symphony Orchestra was established in 1923 in Portland, Maine. It was started by a small group of leading musicians who had sent out invitations to join their organization to people in the area. In 1924 the Amateur Strand Symphony Orchestra had its first rehearsal with 75 instrumentalists. Their first concert was given a month later at the Strand Theater. In 1969, the orchestra's name was changed to the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Today the orchestra is recognized to be one of the top orchestras of its size in the country. The concert season runs from September to May and during July and performs a variety of concerts; including the Magic of Christmas, which has been a tradition for 36 years. PortTIX is the official box office for Portland Symphony Orchestra. The Portland Symphony performs at Merrill Auditorium.
The Portland Symphony Orchestra has had 13 main conductors since its establishment in 1923. Its first conductor was the city of Portland's organist, Charles Raymond Cronham, from 1927 to 1932. During his tenure, he extended rehearsals and the concert schedule. He also inaugurated out-of-town concerts such as the performance at Bowdoin College in January 1928. Volunteers and musicians transported the orchestra and all its instruments, including two pianos.
In 1933, a school of music supervisor from Brunswick took over for a year. His name was Charles A. Warren.
From 1935-1937, Paul E. Melrose was the main conductor. He was part of the 5th US Infantry Band at Fort Williams as the Warrant Officers and Band Leader.
Dr. Russell Ames Cook was the first out-of-state conductor. An outgoing man, he befriended the "leading families" of the Portland. These people helped him get support for the orchestra. During his tenure, 1938-1951, there was an increase in donations, supporters, and volunteers which are all essential to its success.
In 1952, the concertmaster and associate conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Richard Burgin, became the PSO's conductor. His legacy is that he helped improve the string section.
Rouben Gregorian took over in 1958, after Burgin's administration ended. He was a graduate at Central College in Iran. He was the co-founder and past conductor of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra. As the main conductor of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, he finalized the enactment of a fully paid orchestra in 1959.
In 1962, Arthur Bennett Lipkin began his tenure. He was the first resident conductor and began the Youth concerts. The orchestra was involved with the Voice of American Broadcast, including a broadcast to Kyoto, Japan.
From 1967-75, Paul Vermal was the main conductor. He conducted a five-day Canadian Tour. He also introduced outdoor concerts and concert previews.
The Portland Symphony Orchestra developed a national reputation for its artistic quality during Bruce Hangen's tenure. He helped expand educational programs which attracted children of all ages. He also created and developed the Portland Symphony Chamber Orchestra. His administration lasted from 1976-1986.
Toshiyuki Shimada took over in 1986. He tightened the "orchestra's grasp of symphonic masterworks and deepening its commitment to youth and family programming, while building higher on the firm music foundations left by his predecessors."
Robert Moody was the 12th Music Director of the Portland Symphony from 2008-2018. He was a champion of new music, particularly the work of Mason Bates and began the Discovery Concert series for families.
Eckart Preu has been named the 13th Music Director of the Portland Symphony and will begin his tenure as Music Director in the 2019-2020 season.
1956-1958 Guest Conductors: Samuel Seineger, Rouben Gregorian, Attilio Poto, and Francis Findlay
1966-1967 Guest Conductors: Charles Gabor, Elyakum Shapiro, Maurice Kaplow, Andrew Galos, Andrew Galos, and Paul Vermel
1975-1976 Guest Conductors: Michael Palmer, Michael Charry, Claude Monteux, Bruce Hangen, Maurice Kaplow, Richard Williams, and Tibor Pusztai.
1985-1986 Guest Conductors: Robert Bernhardt, Toshiyuki Shimada, Robert Page, Catherine Comet, and Paul Polivnick