The Bronx Symphony Orchestra
In 1997, the Bronx Symphony Orchestra celebrated 50 years of bringing music to the Bronx community and music lovers from all over New York City. It is one of the oldest continuously operating community orchestras in the metropolitan area.
The Bronx Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1947 as a project of the Walton Community Center under the auspices of the Division of Community Education of the New York City Board of Education. It was originally part of an adult education class, performing free concerts on Friday evenings and occasional Sundays under the baton of Irwin Hoffman. Its members did, however, have other interests: During the 1950s, the orchestra changed its rehearsal night from Tuesday to Thursday so its members wouldn't have to miss Milton Berle. (They continue to rehearse on Thursdays, though Uncle Miltie is long gone.)
In 1968, having worked with five more conductors, the orchestra moved from Walton to Bronx High School of Science, which had superior facilities, and acquired a new conductor, Michael Spierman (founder and president of the Bronx Opera). Unfortunately, during New York City's financial debacle in the 1970s, the orchestra lost its funding, and for the first time had to charge admission -- one dollar -- in order to survive.
Money woes were alleviated in 1980 when the Lehman College Music Department obtained a grant from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) to acquire and run the orchestra. Professor Joseph Delli Carri led the orchestra from 1980 until his untimely death in 1986. But new problems arose between the orchestra and the College; a series of conductors came and went; and the Bronx Symphony found it necessary to take the bold step of going independent.
This it did in 1995, becoming a self-managed organization with a board of directors chosen from among the orchestra members. A DCA grant enabled the orchestra to give free concerts in all neighborhoods of the Bronx, and so, for the first time in its history, the orchestra began to "tour" the Bronx, performing at different locations all over the borough.
The Bronx Symphony has worked with a number of outstanding artists, including David Nadien, Marilyn Dubow, Clamma Dale, and Janet Hopkins of the Metropolitan Opera. It frequently reaches out to the youth of the community by inviting local high school concert choirs to perform. During the 1997-98 and 1999-2000 seasons, for example, the Christopher Columbus High School Concert and Alumni Choirs joined the orchestra in a performance of selections from Handel's Messiah. In the 2000-01 season, the Bronx youth group Highbridge Voices performed with the orchestra.