Agency History #1793


The Utah Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1940 by the board of directors of the newly created Utah State Symphony Orchestra Association, later renamed the Utah Symphony Society (Agency #1792). Throughout its 36-year association with the state, the Utah Symphony Orchestra's two-pronged mission was to regularly perform symphonic programs and maintain the highest standards of music as well as develop, in-so-far as would be consistent with regard to business efficiency and artistic performance, the musical talent and resources of the state.

Since its inception, the orchestra has been known as the Utah State Symphony Orchestra (1940-1946), Utah Symphony Orchestra (1946-1967), the Utah Symphony Society Orchestra (1967-1988), and the Utah Symphony Orchestra (1988-present).


A primary function of the Utah Symphony Orchestra has been to supply employment and training for native musicians in orchestral, choral, and operatic performances. Much of this training was accomplished through the symphony's long association with the University of Utah. Beginning in 1948, the Utah Symphony became the official orchestra for the University of Utah Summer Festival productions of opera and Broadway musicals. The symphony secured rehearsal quarters in the Annex. In return the orchestra's library became available for use by the university's music department and leading symphony personnel became available for instructing instrumental students. The orchestra has also been an integral part of the university's ambitious ballet program since its inception in 1950 as well as forming the pit orchestra for University Theatre productions of representative Broadway musicals each season. The University of Utah Chorale became the official recording and performing voice of the Utah Symphony.

The orchestra's concert schedule included subscription concerts in two cities, youth concert programs, student assembly school concerts, special performances, regular concert tours throughout Utah and the intermountain region and special national and international tours. Symphony performances were regularly featured on local radio broadcasts and the orchestra made guest appearances on nationwide broadcasts. Since beginning its commercial recording program in 1957, Utah Symphony has had more than 125 major releases on several different record labels. Utah Symphony musicians, billed as the Columbia Symphony, also participated in recordings of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on several occasions. The Utah Symphony was also the official orchestra for the annual Ballet West production of "The Nutcracker" as well as for the Utah Opera Company.


The Utah Symphony Orchestra was initially governed by the 25-member board of directors (later increased to 33 members) and the 7-member executive committee of the Utah State Symphony Orchestra Association. A musical director employed by the board recruited, hired, and conducted musicians. An associate conductor has been employed since 1948. Business affairs were handled by the manager (later called the executive director). As chief operating officer, the manager supervised the executive staff and ran the front office.


The Utah State Symphony Orchestra Assocition, meeting jointly with the art institute board (#369), first convened on April 8, 1940. Association members scheduled a concert for May 8, 1940, and began the work of recruiting and hiring musicians to form the new orchestra. Former members of the Utah State Sinfonietta, a community orchestra established in 1935 through funding by the federal Work Projects Administration (WPA) and operating under an art institute campaign designed to develop Utah talent in all the arts, formed the nucleus of the new orchestra hired by the board. A contingent of professional musicians augmented the holdover players to form a 52-piece orchestra.

After six seasons of this two-tier arrangement, the symphony board in December 1945 decided to upgrade the orchestra to a fully professional, full-time organization. Although its goal of a full-time (52-week, year-round schedule) professional symphony orchestra wasn't realized until 1980, the board immediately began contracting with professionals for the 1946 season. This action had a stabilizing effect, making the 1946 season the first with stable personnel.

The Utah Symphony Society, which governed the 85-piece orchestra, severed organizational ties with the Division of Fine Arts (#369) on May 24, 1976, becoming a non-governmental, publicly supported, non-profit corporation. The Utah Symphony continues to receive funding from the Utah Division of Fine Arts in the form of grants to non-profit arts organizations.


Utah State Symphony Orchestra Association, 1940-1946

Utah Symphony Orchestra, 1946-1967

Utah Symphony Society Orchestra, 1967-1988 (In 1976 the society then became a non-governmental, publicly supported, non-profit corporation.)

Utah Symphony Orchestra, 1988-present


Joseph Silverstein, 1983-present

Varujan Kojian, 1980-1983

VACANT (guest conductors), 1979-1980

Maurice Abravanel, 1947-1979

Werner Janssen, 1946-1947 season

VACANT (James Sample and other guest conductors), 1945-1946 season

Hans Heniot, 1940-1945


Kirk Muspratt, 1990-present

Christopher Wilkins, 1986-1989

Charles Ketcham, 1982-1986

Robert Henderson, 1979-1982

Ardean Watts, 1968-1979


Kory Katseanes, 1987-present

David Austin Shand, 1948-1965


Paul R. Chummers, 1986-present

Robert J. Darling, 1985-1986

Herold L. (Huck) Gregory, 1958-1985 (manager, 1957-1977; exec. director, 1977-1985)

David S. Romney, 1949-1958

Ruth Cowan, 1946-1949

Gail Martin, 1940-19xx


Joan H. Squires, 1988-present

Stephen Boyd, 19xx-1988

COMPILED BY: W. Glen Fairclough Jr., September 1990


Administrative Reports, Compiled Digest of, (Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1957), p. 150; (June 30, 1958), p. 190; (June 30, 1959), p. 194; (June 30, 1960), pp. 197-98; (June 30, 1961), pp. 200-202; (June 30, 1962), pp. 202-203; (June 30, 1963), pp. 196-97; (June 30, 1964), pp. 199-201; (June 30, 1965), pp. 216-17; (June 30, 1966), pp. 228-29.

Appropriations Report (1987-88), pp. 81-82; (1988-89), pp. 79-81.

Audit Report, Utah State Institute of Fine Arts and Utah Symphony Society, July 1, 1965 to June 30, 1966.

Deseret News, "Symphony a state agency?", 2 April 1974, p. 12-B.

Draper, Ruth, "Maurice Abravanel: Never Less Than 100 Percent" (periodical title unknown, about 1976), pp. 24-27.

Harrison, Conrad B., Five Thousand Concerts: A Commemorative History of the Utah Symphony (Salt Lake City: Utah Symphony Society, 1986).

Laws of Utah, 1937 (Chapter 118), Utah Art Institute renamed the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts, powers expanded.

Laws of Utah, 1967 (Chapter 175), Utah Department of Development Services formed; Institute of Fine Arts renamed the Division of Fine Arts.

Poll, Richard D., et al., Utah's History (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1978), pp. 572, 596-98, 605.

Report on the Fine Arts in Utah 1968 (Salt Lake City: Utah State Institute of Fine Arts, a Division of the Department of Development Services (June 1968), pp. 70-72.

Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah State Symphony Orchestra Deserves Full Support of Citizens, Officials," editorial (19 Oct. 1949), p. 8.

Utah Code Annotated, 1953, 63-33-1 et seq., DCED.

Utah Code Annotated, 1953, 64-2-1 et seq., Division of Fine Arts.

Utah State Symphony Orchestra Association, Minutes, April 1940.

Utah State Symphony Orchestra Association, Rules and Regulations, 1940.

Utah Symphony Constitution and Amendments, 1946.

Utah Symphony concert programs, various performance dates including the Gala Opening of the new Symphony Hall on September 14-15, 1979.

Utah Symphony Fact Sheet, July 1980.

Utah Symphony Society, Articles of Incorporation, 24 Feb. 1967; amended 24 May 1976 and 20 Oct. 1988.

Willis, Cherie Ann, 1989 draft articles for Encyclopedia of Utah.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.