Mission & History

Mission & History

The mission of the San Antonio Symphony is to inspire and enrich our community by vigorously influencing the artistic fabric of San Antonio through excellent symphonic performance, education and service.

On February 16 2010, Sebastian Lang-Lessing was introduced as the eighth music director in the orchestra’s 71 year history. On October 2, 2010 Sebastian Lang-Lessing made his debut as new music director with a sold-out performance featuring Mahler Symphony No. 1, “Titan.” His Classic Series debut was January 7, 2011. Lang-Lessing brings vast experience in both opera and symphonic music and performs with almost unlimited energy and passion. From Berlin to Paris, from Australia to Houston, from San Francisco to San Antonio, audiences have been swept away.

2000 - 2010

The search for Wilkin’s replacement ended on November 14, 2002 when Larry Rachleff was named music director designate. In 2003, the Symphony was again plagued with financial difficulties and canceled the last few concerts of the season. The Symphony declared bankruptcy, and the board of directors spent the 2003-2004 season reworking the Symphony’s business plan. Rachleff remained committed to the San Antonio Symphony and his tenure as music director began with the 2004-2005 season.

Under new administrative leadership and Larry Rachleff’s artistic vision, the Symphony bounced back to finish four consecutive seasons with a balanced budget and won the MetLife Foundation Award for Excellence in Community Engagement and the Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation Resident Conductor Award. It was also selected to participate in the Kennedy Center initiative “Sustaining the American Orchestra” and the American Symphony Orchestra League’s “Institutional Vision program.” In recognition of the Symphony’s importance to the community, voters overwhelmingly approved a $100 million bond package including a Performing Arts Center, which would later become the Symphony’s home. The new center was named The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, after a lead gift was made by the Tobin Endowment.

The 2007-08 season, Larry Rachelff’s final season as Music Director, featured a 14-week classical series, a six-week Pops series, an opening season gala with violinist Itzhak Perlman, and a variety of free community concerts, including a concert at San Fernando Cathedral in October, Veterans Day Concert, Luminaria festival, Cinco de Mayo series, and the Sounds of Summer concert series. The Symphony featured great musical artists, such as flutist James Galway, violinist Midori, and pianist Peter Serkin. The Symphony continued the tradition of innovative programming by performing works by Heitor Villa-Lobos, John Adams, and Einojuhani Rautavaara. The Symphony was delighted to present the world premiere of Something Miraculous Burns by David Heuser. We also began our Community Engagement program, which brought great performances directly into schools and other community organizations.

In 2008, Christopher Seaman was named the artistic advisor for the San Antonio Symphony, as the Symphony searched for a new Music Director. In February 2009, the Symphony along with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet performed the world premiere of Interchange for Guitar Quartet and Orchestra, written for this occasion by the Brazilian composer, Sergio Assad. Other performances included the music by the living composers Benjamin Gutierrez of Costa Rica and Osvaldo Golijov of Argentina.

1980 - 1990

Lawrence Leighton Smith, music director of the Oregon Symphony, became the San Antonio Symphony’s fourth music director in 1980. Smith increased the Symphony’s service to San Antonio by expanding the city-funded outreach program of free concerts to include underserved neighborhoods. Increased touring provided greater exposure of the orchestra to audiences in the south Texas region, as well as Louisiana. In 1982, the orchestra was warmly welcomed back to Mexico City. Smith resigned from the San Antonio podium in 1985 to become music director of the Louisville Orchestra.

During the Symphony’s search for a fifth music director, Sixten Ehrling was engaged as artistic advisor beginning with the 1985-86 season. However, the search ended in the spring of 1987 when lingering financial difficulties led the board of directors to cancel the 1987-88 season. Seeing the need for the symphonic music to continue in San Antonio, the orchestra musicians agreed to produce a season of concerts in cooperation with the newly formed Orchestra San Antonio, Inc. The Orchestra San Antonio board engaged Akira Endo as artistic advisor and principal conductor. After negotiating a revised agreement with the orchestra musicians, the San Antonio Symphony reinstated its season on January 5 and assumed all remaining Orchestra San Antonio commitments. Board members of Orchestra San Antonio became board members of the San Antonio Symphony.

With the beginning of the 1988-89 season, Zdenek Macal accepted the title of artistic director and principal conductor, which he held concurrently with his post as music director of the Milwaukee Symphony. Under Macal’s baton, the San Antonio Symphony made significant strides artistically and in the number of patrons attending performances. Macal ushered in a banner year for the San Antonio Symphony’s 50th Anniversary season, directing the orchestra in a new residence: the restored Majestic Theatre, in the heart of San Antonio ‘s downtown arts district.

1960 - 1980

In 1969, the Symphony took up residence in San Antonio’s Theater for the Performing Arts. This facility, part of the city’s newly constructed Convention Center, would later be re-christened the Lila Cockrell Theater, honoring a mayor of San Antonio .

During Alessandro’s 25-year tenure, the San Antonio Symphony continued to grow in size and stature. By 1970, the orchestra made three recordings on the Mercury label, including the world premiere of John Corigliano’s Piano Concerto, featuring soloist Hilde Somer. Victor Alessandro’s tenure as music director ended in 1976 when he retired at his doctor’s urging, becoming “conductor emeritus.” Alessandro passed away later that year.

In 1978, a two-year search for Alessandro’s replacement ended with the appointment of François Huybrechts as the third music director of the San Antonio Symphony. Huybrechts, formerly music director of the Wichita (Kansas) Symphony, brought to San Antonio a dedication to innovative programming and contemporary repertoire. Huybrechts also cast the Symphony in the role of international cultural ambassador for the city of San Antonio, with an acclaimed tour of Mexico City.

1940 - 1960

From 1943 to 1945, the city of San Antonio experienced a wartime population boom due to its numerous military installations. The patron base for the Symphony grew proportionately, bringing further success to the young orchestra. In 1945, Reiter founded the San Antonio Symphony Grand Opera Festival, bringing world-class stars and productions to the stage of Municipal Auditorium. To support the productions, Reiter created the San Antonio Symphony Opera Chorus, which would later become the San Antonio Symphony Mastersingers.

Audience growth in following years was accompanied by artistic success, with Reiter and the Symphony presenting the world premieres of works by Antheil, Gillis, Hanson, and Richard Strauss. Guest conductors included Igor Stravinsky, Sir Thomas Beecham, and Dimitri Mitropolous. Beecham characterized the San Antonio Symphony as “among the few leading orchestras of this country,” and Mitropolous declared, “This orchestra can compete with any orchestra in this country or Europe .”

In 1950, Max Reiter died suddenly of heart failure. Early the next year, Reiter’s own choice for his successor, Victor Alessandro, became the second music director of the San Antonio Symphony. Alessandro, a Texas native and music director of the Oklahoma City Symphony, had been a guest on the San Antonio podium on several occasions. Alessandro’s arrival came at a difficult time for the Symphony — post-war recession had left the community with few economic resources to support its orchestra. To deal with these new challenges, Alessandro expanded the Grand Opera Festival and added a pops season to the Symphony’s classical offerings. These well-attended performances allowed the Symphony to survive and even thrive during these lean years. Alessandro also expanded the Symphony’s lauded Young People’s Concert series, which Max Reiter had created in 1945.

1880

The 1880s brought San Antonio’s earliest symphonic concerts, but no formal orchestra was formed at first. The San Antonio Symphony was founded in 1939 by conductor Max Reiter, a native of Trieste, Italy, who brought with him to America a background in symphonic and operatic repertoire. Eritrea was formerly the director of the symphony orchestra of Milan; he was one of few Jewish conductors working in Italy at the time. When the Italian government proclaimed an official anti-Semitic policy, Reiter was forced to sign a release renouncing all professional contracts. Seeing no future for himself with European orchestras, Reiter boarded a ship for New York carrying only a briefcase of introductory letters, a few articles of clothing, and $40 in cash.

Finding New York crowded with musicians whose circumstances mirrored his own, Reiter purchased a round-trip train ticket and began a circuit of the southern United States. Leaving the train at each major town, Reiter approached citizens with his dream of creating a new American orchestra. When he made his presentation in San Antonio, civic leaders encouraged Reiter to conduct a “demonstration concert” in the Sunken Garden Theater at Brackenridge Park on June 12, 1939. He was able to assemble group of musicians for the performance. The show, before an audience of 2,500, was a resounding success, and Reiter’s proposal for a full-time orchestra for San Antonio received the city’s support. Reiter’s leadership and inspiration lead to a November 24, 1939 inaugural concert presented by the newly incorporated Symphony Society of San Antonio, launching the first season. The first San Antonio Symphony season included four concerts. For each performance, a full one-third of the 95 musicians were brought in from other cities in the Southwest. Fueled by public enthusiasm and Reiter’s vision, the fledgling orchestra enjoyed rapid growth to become a fully professional ensemble of 75 musicians performing a 16-week season in 1943. A budget of $100,000 for the 1944-45 season made the San Antonio Symphony one of America’s 19 major orchestras and the only one in Texas.

Thanks!

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Dec 13, 2017 - Dec 20, 2017 9:45am

Young People’s Concerts December 13, 19 & 20, 2017, 9:45 am & 11:10 am Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Co-Curricular Theme – ELA...

Holiday Pops

Holiday Pops

Dec 15, 2017 8:00pm - 10:00pm

December 15 & 16, 2017, 8:00pm December 17, 2017, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Akiko Fujimoto, conductor Children's...

Holiday Pops

Holiday Pops

Dec 16, 2017 8:00pm - 10:00pm

December 15 & 16, 2017, 8:00pm December 17, 2017, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Akiko Fujimoto, conductor Children's...

 Holiday Pops

Holiday Pops

Dec 17, 2017 2:00pm - 4:00pm

December 15 & 16, 2017, 8:00pm December 17, 2017, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Akiko Fujimoto, conductor Children's...

Disney in Concert: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Disney in Concert: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Dec 22, 2017 7:30pm - 9:30pm

One of Tim Burton's most celebrated films, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas will be projected on the big screen with dialog and effects accompanied...

Disney in Concert: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Disney in Concert: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Dec 23, 2017 2:00pm - 4:00pm

One of Tim Burton's most celebrated films, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas will be projected on the big screen with dialog and effects accompanied...

Disney in Concert: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Disney in Concert: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Dec 23, 2017 7:30pm - 9:30pm

One of Tim Burton's most celebrated films, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas will be projected on the big screen with dialog and effects accompanied...

Tricentennial Celebration

Tricentennial Celebration

Jan 5, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

January 5 & 6, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Ana María Martínez,...

Tricentennial Celebration

Tricentennial Celebration

Jan 6, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

January 5 & 6, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Ana María Martínez,...

Beethoven's Eroica

Beethoven's Eroica

Jan 12, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

January 12 & 13, 2018, 8:00pm January 14, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Ellington:...

Beethoven's Eroica

Beethoven's Eroica

Jan 13, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

January 12 & 13, 2018, 8:00pm January 14, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Ellington:...

Beethoven's Eroica

Beethoven's Eroica

Jan 14, 2018 2:00pm - 4:00pm

January 12 & 13, 2018, 8:00pm January 14, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Ellington:...

THE WATER CYCLE

THE WATER CYCLE

Jan 16, 2018 - Jan 18, 2018 9:45am

Young People’s Concerts January 16, 17 & 18, 2018, 9:45 am & 11:10 am Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Co-Curricular Theme – Science Join...

Classical Mystery Tour

Classical Mystery Tour

Jan 19, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

January 19 & 20, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor Jim Owen - Rhythm guitar, piano, vocals Tony...

Classical Mystery Tour

Classical Mystery Tour

Jan 20, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

January 19 & 20, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor Jim Owen - Rhythm guitar, piano, vocals Tony...

Jaws in Concert

Jaws in Concert

Jan 26, 2018 7:30pm - 9:30pm

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the concert hall… The original summer movie blockbuster, with an Academy Award-winning score that made...

Jaws in Concert

Jaws in Concert

Jan 27, 2018 7:30pm - 9:30pm

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the concert hall… The original summer movie blockbuster, with an Academy Award-winning score that made...

Elgar: Enigma Variations

Elgar: Enigma Variations

Feb 2, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

February 2 & 3, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Akiko Fujimoto, conductor Bonnie Terry, violin Vaughan...

Elgar: Enigma Variations

Elgar: Enigma Variations

Feb 3, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

February 2 & 3, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Akiko Fujimoto, conductor Bonnie Terry, violin Vaughan...

TRICENTENNIAL SAN ANTONIO

TRICENTENNIAL SAN ANTONIO

Feb 21, 2018 - Feb 28, 2018 9:45am

Young People’s Concerts Feb. 21, 27 & 28, 2018,  9:45 am & 11:10 am Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Three hundred years and counting...

Bernstein & Brahms

Bernstein & Brahms

Feb 23, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

February 23 & 24, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Philip Edward Fisher,...

Bernstein & Brahms

Bernstein & Brahms

Feb 24, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

February 23 & 24, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Philip Edward Fisher,...

La La Land in Concert

La La Land in Concert

Mar 2, 2018 7:30pm - 9:30pm

Experience the original musical film like never before with a live symphony orchestra! Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday...

La La Land in Concert

La La Land in Concert

Mar 3, 2018 7:30pm - 9:30pm

Experience the original musical film like never before with a live symphony orchestra! Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday...

Dvořák's 8th

Dvořák's 8th

Mar 9, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

March 9 & 10, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Kenneth Freudigman,...

Dvořák's 8th

Dvořák's 8th

Mar 10, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

March 9 & 10, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor Kenneth Freudigman, cello  Bernstein,...

A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

Mar 16, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

March 16 & 17, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor Harolyn Blackwell, vocalist Aisha de...

A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

Mar 17, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

March 16 & 17, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor Harolyn Blackwell, vocalist Aisha de...

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Mar 23, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

March 23 & 24, 2018, 8:00pm March 25, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin...

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Mar 24, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

March 23 & 24, 2018, 8:00pm March 25, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin...

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Mar 25, 2018 2:00pm - 4:00pm

March 23 & 24, 2018, 8:00pm March 25, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin...

Rachmaninoff's 3rd Symphony

Rachmaninoff's 3rd Symphony

Apr 6, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

April 6 & 7, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Jeffrey Kahane, conductor Eric Gratz, violin Barber:...

Rachmaninoff's 3rd Symphony

Rachmaninoff's 3rd Symphony

Apr 7, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

April 6 & 7, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Jeffrey Kahane, conductor Eric Gratz, violin Barber:...

Moser Performs Elgar

Moser Performs Elgar

Apr 13, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

April 13 & 14, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Johannes Moser, cello  Wagner:...

Moser Performs Elgar

Moser Performs Elgar

Apr 14, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

April 13 & 14, 2018, 8:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Johannes Moser, cello  Wagner:...

Fiesta Pops

Fiesta Pops

Apr 20, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

April 20 & 21, 2018, 8:00pm April 22, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor Sebastien de la...

Fiesta Pops

Fiesta Pops

Apr 21, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

April 20 & 21, 2018, 8:00pm April 22, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor Sebastien de la...

Fiesta Pops

Fiesta Pops

Apr 22, 2018 2:00pm - 4:00pm

April 20 & 21, 2018, 8:00pm April 22, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor Sebastien de la...

Disney in Concert: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Disney in Concert: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

May 11, 2018 7:30pm - 9:30pm

Watch the adventures of Captain Jack and his motley crew unfold in this thrilling adventure on the big screen while a live symphony orchestra simultaneously...

Disney in Concert: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Disney in Concert: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

May 12, 2018 7:30pm - 9:30pm

Watch the adventures of Captain Jack and his motley crew unfold in this thrilling adventure on the big screen while a live symphony orchestra simultaneously...

LINK UP: THE ORCHESTRA SINGS

LINK UP: THE ORCHESTRA SINGS

May 23, 2018 - May 25, 2018 9:45am

Young People’s Concerts May 23, 24 & 25, 2018, 9:45 am & 11:10 am Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Presented in partnership with the...

Patriotic Pops

Patriotic Pops

May 25, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

May 25 & 26, 2018, 8:00pm May 27, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Michael Krajewski, conductor Join...

Patriotic Pops

Patriotic Pops

May 26, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

May 25 & 26, 2018, 8:00pm May 27, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Michael Krajewski, conductor Join...

Patriotic Pops

Patriotic Pops

May 27, 2018 2:00pm - 4:00pm

May 25 & 26, 2018, 8:00pm May 27, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Michael Krajewski, conductor Join...

Tchaikovsky, Mozart and More!

Tchaikovsky, Mozart and More!

Jun 1, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

June 1 & 2, 2018, 8:00pm June 3, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Olga...

Tchaikovsky, Mozart and More!

Tchaikovsky, Mozart and More!

Jun 2, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

June 1 & 2, 2018, 8:00pm June 3, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Olga...

Tchaikovsky, Mozart and More!

Tchaikovsky, Mozart and More!

Jun 3, 2018 2:00pm - 4:00pm

June 1 & 2, 2018, 8:00pm June 3, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor Olga...

Rodgers and Hammerstein Celebration

Rodgers and Hammerstein Celebration

Jun 8, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

June 8 & 9, 2018, 8:00pm June 10, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor William Michals, vocalist  A...

Rodgers and Hammerstein Celebration

Rodgers and Hammerstein Celebration

Jun 9, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

June 8 & 9, 2018, 8:00pm June 10, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor William Michals, vocalist  A...

Rodgers and Hammerstein Celebration

Rodgers and Hammerstein Celebration

Jun 10, 2018 8:00pm - 10:00pm

June 8 & 9, 2018, 8:00pm June 10, 2018, 2:00pm H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts TBD, conductor William Michals, vocalist  A...