About the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

When a group of local musicians and prominent citizens joined forces in 1887 to create the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, they did more than plan a season of symphonic music.  They planted the seeds for one of our nation’s longest-lasting – and most forward-looking – orchestras. 

The internationally acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in December 2012, is known for trailblazing performances, visionary maestros, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and an unwavering commitment to Detroit. Esteemed conductor Leonard Slatkin, called “America’s Music Director” by the Los Angeles Times, became the 12th Music Director of the DSO in 2008.  The DSO’s performance schedule includes Classical, Pops, Jazz, Young People’s, Neighborhood concerts, and collaborations with chart-topping musicians from Smokey Robinson to Kid Rock.  A commitment to broadcast innovation began in 1922 when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a radio broadcast and continues today with the free Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series.  Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, one of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, the DSO actively pursues a mission to impact and serve the community through music.

Click on each section to learn more:

Origins & Orchestra Hall | Paradise Theatre & A Temporary Home, A Growing Reputation

Saving Orchestra Hall | A New Era: The Max M. Fisher Music Center

Notable Events

The DSO performs its first concert at the Detroit Opera House conducted by Rudolph Speil (making the DSO the nation’s fourth-oldest orchestra).

The DSO suspends operations for the first time.  

The DSO resumes operations when ten young Detroit society women each contribute $100 and commit to finding 100 additional subscribers.

Renowned Russian pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch is appointed Music Director.  

In response to Gabrilowitsch's insistence that the DSO have a proper concert hall to call home, Orchestra Hall, designed by C. Howard Crane, is completed in just four months.

Gabrilowitsch leads the DSO and pianist Artur Schnabel in the world’s first radio broadcast of a symphonic concert on WWJ-AM.

The DSO travels to Carnegie Hall for the first time and releases its first recording.

The DSO becomes the nation’s first official radio broadcast orchestra with the premiere of the Ford Symphony Hour.

The DSO departs Orchestra Hall for the Masonic Temple.  Orchestra Hall is transformed into the Paradise Theatre, where it plays host to the nation’s top jazz stars for a decade.  The DSO continues to honor that tradition with the Paradise Jazz Series.

The DSO, having disbanded twice more in the previous decades, begins performing again in time for the city’s 250th anniversary.

The DSO moves into Ford Auditorium on the Detroit riverfront and enters a golden age of recording, releasing 70 records in the next three decades. 

Concerned citizens, led by retired DSO bassoonist and current Trustee Paul Ganson, save Orchestra Hall from the wrecking ball and the campaign to restore the hall begins.  The DSO starts the Civic Orchestra, an ensemble of the metro area’s most talented students, which eventually grows into the Civic Youth Ensembles, a program that serves over 1,000 area children through 14 ensembles and partner programs. 

Under Music Director Antal Dorati, the DSO makes it first European tour, visiting 23 cities in 8 countries over five weeks. 

The DSO returns to a restored Orchestra Hall, where it still performs today.

Neeme Järvi is appointed music director and produces 40 albums with the DSO during his fifteen-year tenure.  Erich Kunzel, the “Prince of Pops,” also begins a sixteen-year tenure as Pops Music Advisor as Pops audiences skyrocket at the DSO. 

Järvi leads the orchestra on its first tour of Japan. 

The DSO begins a new holiday tradition in Detroit with the premiere of Home for the Holidays, featuring the DSO performing festive holiday music at Orchestra Hall and, of course, a special visit from Santa. 

The Max M. Fisher Music Center opens, adding new performance, educational, rehearsal, and administrative facilities to Orchestra Hall, and sparking the midtown renaissance.

Leonard Slatkin, “America’s Music Director” becomes the DSO’s 12th Music Director and immediately begins releasing new albums on the Naxos label, including the complete orchestral works of Rachmaninoff and the concertos of legendary film composer John Williams.  

The DSO goes dark for six months during one of the most contentious work stoppages in industry history. Immediately after concerts resume in spring 2011, board, musicians, and staff commit to a new era of communication and collaboration.   

The DSO launches “Live from Orchestra Hall,” making it the only orchestra in the world to offer its classical concerts for free to a global audience at dso.org/live and on mobile devices via the DSO to Go App.

In its inaugural season, the Neighborhood Series attract thousands of new subscribers to DSO concerts in venues throughout metro Detroit.  Kid Rock joins the DSO for a gala concert that raises over $1 million for the orchestra.  Jeff Tyzik is appointed Principal Pops Conductor.

The DSO returns to Carnegie Hall to perform to perform back-to-back concerts, including an evening of all four Ives symphonies, a first for the legendary venue.  Under its Live from Orchestra Hall label, the DSO releases its first in-house all-digital album, a Digital Box Set of all nine Beethoven symphonies, a first for an American orchestra.