ASO History

ASO History

Since its first concert more than 70 years ago, the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra has matured from a small community orchestra to an exuberant and dedicated core of musicians, influencing the musical and artistic standards of symphonic music performance and education throughout our community and our state.

ASO Circa 1952

Building the legacy…
Long before Alaska's statehood, Anchorage had an orchestra. The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra was first formed in 1946 when seventeen local musicians, both amateur and professional, began meeting once a week to share their interest and enthusiasm for creating an organized community orchestra. This founding group made its first public appearance in December 1946, when it joined the Anchorage Little Theatre to perform Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The first full concert presentation occurred in May of the following year, with member Peter Britch named conductor in 1948. By 1949 the orchestra had 32 members, many of these from the ranks of the 752nd division at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

In 1953, the growing orchestra experienced a large setback when Anchorage’s municipal auditorium (housing some of the group’s instruments and equipment) burned to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1955 and the Symphony played a prominent part in the dedication ceremonies. During the next decade, the ASO performed its first Youth Concert and joined forces with the Community Chorus, the Community College, the Civic Ballet and the Civic Opera for various productions. During the same period the Executive Board was formed and the Anchorage Symphony Women’s League was established to assist the Board, promote the Symphony and organize special events.

In the 1980s the ASO Board of Directors realized that the Orchestra was on the threshold of significant change. Evolving into a sophisticated urban center, Anchorage wanted its arts community to reflect the same status. To allow the ASO to grow and change with the community, the Board set out to stimulate and challenge the Orchestra musically and administratively through expanded programming and increased resource development. Currently, the ASO employs four full-time staff members, directed by the Board to actively promote the Symphony and aggressively seek opportunities for the ASO to acquire the resources and support needed to carry out its objectives and serve the people of Alaska. Dedicated to assuring the continued growth of the orchestra the ASO Board of Directors has established an ASO Endowment Fund and are developing a long-range plan that will lead us into the future.

ASO Group Today, the ASO is a vibrant and professional group of 80 musicians who consistently win critical acclaim in the press and enthusiastic approval from audiences. They rise to the musical challenges offered them and demonstrate their commitment to performing challenging, artistic, and entertaining concerts.

Many of the ASO musicians have been trained at renowned conservatories and schools, yet most of them are not employed as full-time musicians. They represent a broad cross-section of occupations within the Anchorage community including teachers, engineers, attorneys and accountants. As musicians they share a commitment to perform orchestral music of the highest quality for their families, friends, and neighbors within South Central Alaska. In 2001 the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra was awarded the first Mayor’s Arts Award for Outstanding Arts Organization and the Governor's Arts Award for Outstanding Arts Organization.

<April 2021>


Thank You

The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra is funded, in part, by the Atwood Foundation, Richard L and Diane M Block Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Carr Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Alaska State Council on the Arts, Municipality of Anchorage, and through the generosity of many individuals and corporate community leaders.
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