History & Mission
Mission, Vision, Values
Founded in 1913, the Houston Symphony is one of America's oldest performing arts organizations, with a distinguished musical history. Over the years, the orchestra has grown and matured under the direction of distinguished leaders such as Ernst Hoffmann (1936-47), Efrem Kurtz (1948-54), Ferenc Fricsay (1954), Leopold Stokowski (1955-61), Sir John Barbirolli (1961-67), Andre Previn (1967-69), Lawrence Foster (1971-78), Sergiu Comissiona (1979-88) and Christoph Eschenbach (1988-99). Maestro Hans Graf, who took the podium in September 2001, is the Houston Symphony's fifteenth music director.
The orchestra came of age in the 1940s, when Maestros Hoffmann and Kurtz began hiring highly talented professional musicians, many of whom remained with the orchestra for more than 30 years. Leopold Stokowski brought the Symphony international recognition by commissioning new works and making recordings, and, in Sir John Barbirolli's years, the Houston Symphony flowered under the influence of his lush romantic style. The orchestra moved into Jones Hall, its current home, in 1966, and in 1971, the Symphony signed its first 52-week contract with the musicians. Today, the Houston Symphony is widely acclaimed as one of the top orchestras in the world.
Each year the Houston Symphony performs approximately 170 concerts for more than 350,000 Houstonians. The season includes the Fidelity Investments Classical Series; the 6-concert classical Shell Favorite Masters series, Great Performers and TOTAL Gold Classics series; the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pops at Jones Hall series; Weatherford Family Concerts; the Chevron Fiesta Sinfonica Familiar and the Houston Chronicle Dollar Concert; a summer series at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and KPRC Local 2 Summer Symphony Nights at Miller Outdoor Theatre where the orchestra has performed for more than 60 years. The season also includes six SoundPlusVision concerts underwritten by the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation, and the JPMorgan Chase Summer in the City series.
The Symphony’s Education & Community Programs reach over 40,000 students from various school districts who attend David Dewhurst Symphony Explorer and Macy's Symphony Detective concerts. Every summer the orchestra tours the region with free family Sounds Like Fun! concerts, underwritten by the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, and reaching 13,000 Houstonians. The Houston Symphony honors educators each year at the Spec’s Charitable Foundation Salute to Educators Concert. The Symphony’s educational partners include the Houston Independent School District and five other area school districts, as well as many private schools.
Through the GDF SUEZ Community Connections program, musicians serve the community as soloists, master class teachers and ensemble performers, lecturers, recitalists, touring and in student competitions. They also educate and entertain more than 22,000 area residents in schools, hospitals, retirement homes, shelters and community centers. Through programs like Fidelity Futurestage and Deloitte Dynamics, the Houston Symphony in partnership with business corporations provide music education opportunities and instruments to deserving band students at local high schools.
View the Houston Symphony Archives page