The RSO Story

56 Years “Stayin’ Alive” in Rochester, Michigan

The Rochester Symphony Orchestra began in 1961 as part of the Department of Adult Education of the Rochester Board of Education. The small group of musicians were determined to share the enjoyment of making music with the people of their community. Through its developmental years the RSO experienced inventive growth and maturity under the batons of Frederick Johnson (1961-1963), Richard Goldsworthy (1963-1970), Alonzo Seaboldt (1970-1975), and Ed Steinhardt (1975-1978). These directors built the orchestra and enhanced its recognition as a cultural resource in the greater Rochester area.

In 1965 the orchestra became self-sustaining through the assistance of ARCO: The Association of Rochester Community Orchestra, Inc.

In the early years, volunteers made up the bulk of the musicians in the orchestra. Because of this, the ticket sales, board members, and loyal supporters covered the musicians’ expenses. With the appointment of Music Director, James Hohmeyer (1978-2001) the orchestra became independent, and returned to its original name: Rochester Symphony Orchestra. The dynamic and skilled leadership of Maestro Hohmeyer resulted in the transition to professional musicians. Since the quality of sound reached new levels, the orchestra attained a reputation for musical excellence.

In 1996 the RSO received a grant from the Chrysler Corporation Fund to undertake the production of a classical CD. As a result of recording the album, digital copies of the orchestra’s great work expanded their reach beyond the concert hall and into the community.

Glenn Klassen (2002-2009) later took up the baton, traveling from his home in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada four or five times each season. By doing so, he continued the tradition of excellence to the delight of a loyal and supportive audience. In 2010 the RSO chose Clark Suttle to lead the orchestra into its 50th anniversary year and beyond.

Where We Are Now

In 2014 the RSO became most fortunate to acquire the leadership and talents of Zeljko (Bill) Milicevic as the new music director and conductor. Since Milicevic’s arrival, the caliber and professional performance quality of the RSO has been elevated beyond all expectations. The 2016 season, a sterling example of fresh and exciting arrangements, highlighted the great talent that the community anticipates. The season finished off with a free concert in the Rochester Municipal Park band-shell. The show featured a Broadway and Pops program that lifted a diverse audience to its feet. This upcoming season will no doubt be another fantastic year deserving of high praise.

The RSO offers subscription concerts, which feature noted guest artists and soloists. In addition to its subscription concerts, the RSO also conducts educational and outreach programs in the community. One such program is the annual Young Artist Competition, which the orchestra has held since 1982. The program provides an opportunity for aspiring young musicians to compete for both a cash award and a solo performance with the Rochester Symphony Orchestra.

The RSO is proud of its role as a major contributor to the active cultural and arts environment. Because of their presence, the greater Rochester area is a more pleasant place in which to live, work, and visit.

Dedicated conductors, musicians, and board members, who have and continue to have a vision of excellence have made these last 56 years possible. The RSO has been sustained and supported by loyal audiences and sponsors. They have shared the dream through the years, for which the RSO is most grateful.

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