Our History


An informal group of music lovers, led by Hugo and Lucy Vianello, held meetings, defined objectives and incorporated the Missouri Symphony Society as a non-profit community organization. Maestro Vianello was director of orchestral activities at Stephens College since 1968, and had been director of orchestral activities at Northwestern University from 1965-1968 and assistant conductor of the Kansas City Philharmonic 1956-1964.

The Missouri Youth Symphony, composed of 50 high school and college students, and Conductor Hugo Vianello performed their first season in the Columbia College Dorsey Hall Gymnasium. Lucy Vianello and Jean Smith founded the Women’s Committee of the Missouri Symphony Society, which soon became the Missouri Symphony League.

The Society established the Missouri Youth Chorus under the direction of Harry Morrison, which performed its first concert with the Missouri Youth Symphony under the direction of Maestro Vianello at the University of Missouri, followed by a repeat concert at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

The Society established the Missouri Youth Concert Band with 75 students from 10 high schools and three colleges under the direction of Alex Pickard and presented concerts in Columbia and Fulton with the Missouri Youth Chorus and the Missouri Youth Symphony. The Society and Maestro Vianello held the first “Young People’s Concert” at Stephens College Assembly Hall.

The Missouri String Project, a cooperative activity between the Society and the University of Missouri Music Department, was established to encourage third and fourth grade students from Columbia Public Schools to study instruments under the supervision of qualified student teachers. The Missouri Symphony Society purchased 54 instruments, which were available to students for nominal rental fees.

The Missouri Youth Symphony Orchestra, Chorus and Concert Band held concerts in Columbia, Fayette, Osage Beach and Jefferson City in the Capitol Rotunda. The Missouri Youth Band was invited by the Missouri Bandmasters Association to play at Lake of the Ozarks.

The Society formed the Missouri Symphony Society Performing Arts Center (MOSSPAC) with the professional Missouri Chamber Orchestra and the student-oriented Missouri Festival Symphony.

MOSSPAC held a two-week summer program for high school and college-age musicians who, with the 30-member professional resident Missouri Chamber Orchestra, constituted the Missouri Festival Symphony. The Missouri Chamber Orchestra and the Missouri Festival Symphony, conducted by Maestro Vianello, held their first concert season with a sold-out opening concert in Stephens College Windsor Lounge.

The Society and Maestro Vianello established the professional Missouri Symphony POPS. Governor Joseph Teasdale issued a proclamation honoring the work of the organization.

The Missouri Symphony League presented the first Designer’s Showhouse Fundraiser – the Troxel Home. The Missouri POPS Orchestra and Maestro Vianello held their first concert tour in Fulton.

The Missouri Symphony League presented the second Designer’s Showhouse Fundraiser – the Capen Home.

The Missouri Symphony League held its first Holiday Home Tour the first weekend in December at the homes of: David and Carole Babel; Dr. Leland and June Pfefer; Stephens College President Patsy Sampson; and the sisters of Kappa Delta Sorority.

The Missouri Chamber Orchestra played its first concert for inmates at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. No prison official could remember any orchestra ever coming to the “pen” before.

The Society purchased the Missouri Theatre, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as a performing home for the Missouri Chamber Orchestra and the Missouri POPS Orchestra and as an administrative office at the purchase price of $370,000. In its first state-wide tour, the orchestra performed for live audiences of 6,000 in nine Missouri cities and a radio audience of more than 50,000. The Missouri POPS Orchestra performed a concert for inmates at the Boonville Correctional Center.

The Society held its first gala benefit concert, “Night of Nostalgia,” in its new performing home, the historic Missouri Theatre, with the Missouri POPS Orchestra and Maestro Vianello. The Missouri Chamber Orchestra toured to ten Missouri cities and performed the summer concert season in the Missouri Theatre for the first time.

The Paul D. Higday-Mozart Music Trust sponsored a concert featuring Metropolitan Opera soprano Leontyne Price at the Missouri Theatre, its first collaboration with the Missouri Symphony Society. The Society held its second gala benefit concert, “A Night of Romance,” with the Missouri Symphony POPS under the direction of Maestro Vianello.

The Society established the Sponsored Orchestra Chairs Program to underwrite the expenses of a summer resident, professional orchestra.

The Society received a National Endowment for the Arts grant and was designated a Neighborhood Assistance Program recipient.

The Missouri Chamber Orchestra and Maestro Vianello, artistic director and conductor, released their first CD, “Mozart,” which included Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Symphonies No. 39 and 40 and Clarinet Concerto in A Major with John Wiener, clarinetist. Maestro Vianello led the orchestra on its ninth annual state-wide tour.

J.R. Luer & Associates of St. Louis introduced an architectural plan for restoration of the Missouri Theatre.

Pianist Andre Watts performed a benefit concert with the Missouri Chamber Orchestra and Maestro Vianello to celebrate the Missouri Symphony Society’s 25th Anniversary. Mayor Darwin Hindman designated June 20, 1995, as Hugo and Lucy Vianello Day in Columbia.

Pianist Paul Hadley performed a Gershwin benefit concert with the Missouri Chamber Orchestra and Maestro Vianello. The Missouri Chamber Orchestra performed its first out-of-state tour concert in Mount Vernon, Illinois. The 43 professional musicians in the Missouri Chamber Orchestra and Missouri POPS Orchestra presented eight summer season concerts in the Missouri Theatre.

The Missouri Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Vianello, founder and conductor, celebrated its 20th Anniversary.

The Missouri Chamber Orchestra and Maestro Vianello, artistic director and conductor, released “Joseph Haydn,” a CD of Haydn’s Symphony No. 93 in D Major, Trumpet Concerto in E flat Major and Symphony No. 102 in B flat Major, featuring Jeffrey Work, trumpet, and underwritten by Dr. Harry H. and Lina M. Berrier. Maestro Vianello, founder of the Missouri Symphony Society and founder and conductor of the Missouri Chamber Orchestra, celebrated 28 years as conductor. He retired and became Conductor Laureate on December 13.

This year brought the first season of two during which the Society auditioned potential music directors by inviting candidates to conduct a concert during the summer season. Michael Gesme, assistant conductor of the Missouri Chamber Orchestra from 1994-1998, served as interim artistic director of the Summer Concert Series in 1999 and 2000. The Sunday Symphony Series debuted.

The search for a new permanent music director continued, culminating in the selection of Kirk Trevor. Maestro Trevor had been music director and conductor of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra since 1988 and of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra since 1985.

Maestro Kirk Trevor directed his first summer music festival as music director and conductor of the Missouri Chamber Orchestra.

The Missouri Symphony League introduced the Piano Student Showcase auditions and concert, an opportunity for piano students through grade 12 to audition before three distinguished judges. Students who excelled at the auditions were invited to perform at the Showcase public concerts, playing on the grand piano in the Missouri Theatre. The Society established the Children’s Chorus, a treble voice choral group for students in grades 6-9.

The Missouri Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Conductor Trevor released “Soothing Sounds of the Classics,” a CD underwritten by Boone Hospital Foundation. Veteran choral music teacher Melissa Straw became conductor of the Children’s Chorus. The Society became a Columbia Public Schools Partner in Education with Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School. The Society commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Missouri Theatre with the “75th Diamond Jubilee,” a gala evening of music, followed by monthly special events, concerts and films.

The Society and Maestro Trevor introduced Hot Summer Nights, “Not just your parents’ symphony anymore!” The Missouri Chamber Orchestra and Conductor Trevor released “Sounds of the Classics,” a CD underwritten by Boone Hospital Foundation.

Maestro Trevor expanded the Missouri Chamber Orchestra into the Missouri Symphony Orchestra, and the Hot Summer Nights Festival experienced record-breaking success

The Society founded the Plowman Chamber Music Competition in honor of long time member, donor, and volunteer, Janice Plowman, with Ayako Tsuruta as artistic director. The inaugural Plowman attracted 25 chamber groups from across the country, vying for prizes totaling $10,000, including an audience prize later named for Missouri Symphony Society founders Hugo and Lucy Vianello, and established itself as the fourth largest chamber music competition in the United States. The Missouri Arts Council honored Hugo Vianello with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Society announced a capital campaign for the restoration and expansion of the Missouri Theatre with leadership from co-chairs Axie Hindman and Kevin Gibbens and Executive Director David White.

Music Director and Conductor Trevor and the Society founded the Missouri Symphony Conservatory, a new initiative to train, educate and inspire young musicians in a variety of activities through the Children’s Chorus (founded in 2002), and two orchestra ensembles: Junior Strings (grades 3-8) and Chamber Players (grades 8-12). With Children’s Chorus Director Melissa Straw, Maestro Trevor strived for a program that nurtures the joy and creativity within young musicians, while inspiring them to achieve extra-musical and communicative goals rather than just performance ones. The Hot Summer Nights Festival welcomed more than 13,000 patrons and the Missouri Symphony Orchestra played a grand finale on July 27, starring pop star Art Garfunkel. On July 28, the Missouri Theatre closed and the restoration and expansion project began with architectural design by the Architects Alliance and general contracting by Huebert Builders.

The Society celebrated the grand opening of the restored Missouri Theatre with a concert by legendary vocalist Tony Bennett. The Missouri Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Trevor followed with record-breaking attendance for the 2008 Hot Summer Nights Festival. The rooftop patio and administrative offices on the expanded Missouri Theatre second floor opened in late summer.

Missouri Symphony Conservatory ensembles and student musicians swept the competition at Music Showcase Festival International’s Six Flags Festival of Music. Children’s Chorus, directed by Melissa Straw earned the National Grand Sweepstakes Award for the third consecutive year, awarded to the highest scoring middle school/junior high chorus in the nation.

The Society cancelled Hot Summer Nights because of financial difficulties. Maestro Trevor developed a three-concert program, Convergences, to keep the music alive. The Society collaborated with the University of Missouri School of Music on their inaugural Mizzou New Music Summer Festival. The Society terminated all staff on July 31 and accommodated only previously booked events in the Missouri Theatre with volunteers serving all roles in maintaining the theater. Missouri Symphony Conservatory Conductors Kirk Trevor and Melissa Straw continued to educate young musicians through the orchestra and choral ensembles.

The Society resumed booking the Missouri Theatre in January, and a dedicated team of volunteers operated the theater for eight months as a community performing arts venue. Hot Summer Nights returned with a program developed by Maestro Trevor, administered by volunteers and funded by members and music lovers who raised $100,000 in three weeks to jump start the Festival. In August, the Society and the University of Missouri began a partnership for the university to lease and operate the Missouri Theatre with the option to purchase the historic property in three years. The agreement allowed the Society to refocus on its core mission: music production and education. The 5th Plowman Chamber Music Competition and the Missouri Symphony League 10th Annual Piano Showcase were dedicated to the memory of patron and music lover Dr. Lawrence Morehouse. Maestro Trevor developed the first Strings ’n Things Summer Music Camp, a week of music theory, music history and ear training, orchestra rehearsals, a concert performance and other events for young string, wind, brass, and percussion players. The Missouri Symphony Conservatory enjoyed a record enrollment of 150 students and all three ensembles continued to win first place and overall competition awards. The Missouri Symphony League 28th Annual Holiday Home Tour raised funds for Conservatory scholarships and Hot Summer Nights. The Society presented the first annual Symphony of Toys holiday concert, developed and produced by Maestro Trevor.

The Missouri Symphony Orchestra and Music Director and Conductor Kirk Trevor opened the Hot Summer Nights Festival with a free public concert at Stephens Lake Park Amphitheater, a collaboration with the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department and Office of Cultural Affairs. The orchestra played seven additional “Hear Us Here” free, public concerts around the city. The chamber music recitals moved to the Broadway Christian Church. The orchestra played tour concerts in Clinton and at the Lake of the Ozarks. A highlight of the six-week festival was the celebration of the release of Maestro Trevor’s 100th CD. A new exhibit in the Missouri Theatre History Lounge documented the history of the Missouri Symphony Society. The Missouri Symphony Conservatory and the Society held the first annual “Serenade: A Benefit for Young Musicians” at the home of Drs. Stephen and Mari Ann Keithahn with music by Junior Strings, Chamber Players, and Children’s Chorus students. The Conservatory ensembles continued to win competition awards and Children’s Chorus accompanist Grace Lyden won the outstanding accompanist award. The Society celebrated ten years as a Partner in Education with Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School.

Shelter Insurance renewed a partnership with the Society to be the title sponsor of the Symphony of Toys Holiday Concert. Lili Vianello, the daughter of Missouri Symphony Society founders Hugo and Lucy Vianello, assumed the presidency of the organization. The Conservatory’s three ensembles won first place awards and the overall competition awards at Music Showcase Festival International’s Six Flags Festival of Music, with Chamber Players earning the championship trophy. The Strings ’n Things Music Camp expanded into the Joy of Music Summer Camp with the addition of a choral component led by Melissa Straw, who celebrated her 10th anniversary as conductor of the Children’s Chorus. The Conservatory orchestra ensembles experienced 20 percent growth with 180 student enrollments. Junior Strings became Junior Sinfonia and Chamber Players became Young Artists Philharmonic. Lucy Vianello received the HERO Award for the Arts for her 43 years of volunteer service to the Society and the Missouri Symphony League. The sixth Plowman Chamber Music Competition was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Harry Berrier, patron and music lover.

Amy Collette, former Society Treasurer and Secretary, received the HERO Award for the Arts for her exemplary service. The Paul D. Higday-Mozart Music Trust celebrated 25 years of collaborating with the Missouri Symphony Society by presenting a performance of the King’s Singers in the Missouri Theatre. The Conservatory orchestras and chorus continued to win top awards at multi-state competitions and expanded their community outreach with additional recitals. The third annual Serenade fundraiser once again showcased Conservatory students performing in the Keithahn home. The Joy of Music Summer Camp became the Hot Summer Nights Festival Music Academy with expanded offerings. Hot Summer Nights Festival and Conservatory concerts recorded by Mediacom played on community television.

The 2015 spring MOSS Conservatory Serenade concert, held at the beautiful Columbia Country Club, was a great success. We collaborated with the Odyssey Chamber Music Series and sponsored the international Plowman Competition. The annual Hot Summer Nights festival experienced our first tornado warning and an emergency evacuation of the Missouri Theatre auditorium. The Texas Tenors highlighted our summer festival and they performed for one of our largest audiences. The MOSS Board finalized the permanent naming rights of the historic Missouri Theatre auditorium by naming the auditorium in honor of founders, Hugo and Lucy Vianello. The stage was named for Music Director, Kirk Trevor. Georgia Morehouse managed her 14th Piano Student Showcase before passing the baton. The Paul D. Higday-Mozart Music Trust enabled bringing the Juilliard Quartet to Columbia. Shelter Insurance Company generously sponsored the Holiday Toys Concert.

The Missouri Symphony Conservatory Committee had a hugely successful Serenade, a fundraiser for young musicians, netting over $62,000 for the Conservatory program. For the 2016-17 term, the Conservatory Chorus was a partnership with the Choral Arts Alliance of Missouri. Thanks to a generous contribution from the Paul D Higday Mozart Music Trust, the Hot Summer Nights featured a resident opera program with 2 productions of Die Fledermaus and appearances in other HSN concerts. The family concerts became the Free Family Series. For 17 weeks, beginning in February, 90.5 FM Classical radio featured the Missouri Symphony Orchestra Radio Hour. The first Young People’s Concert (YPC) brought all Columbia Public School and many private school third graders to the Missouri Theatre to watch “Let’s Build an Orchestra” with Maestro Trevor as the construction foreman. The newsletter was launched in August. The Board developed a long term strategic plan.
The Missouri Symphony is a not-for-profit arts organization committed to educating young artists, engaging professional musicians, and enthralling diverse audiences through exceptional symphonic performances.
203 S 9th St, 
Columbia, MO 65201
(573) 875-0600
The Missouri Symphony © 2021
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