When you hear Cincinnati, you might immediately think about Graeter's ice cream, its seven hills, and the local chili. But did you know that the Queen City also has a word class orchestra of its own?

Yes, you heard that right. The ensemble even provides the official musical accompaniment to the Cincinnati Ballet, the Cincinnati May Festival, and the Cincinnati Opera.

Read on to learn more about the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra!


There have been other orchestras founded in the city between the years 1825 and 1872. It is believed that the direct predecessor of the present ensemble is the Cincinnati Orchestra, which was founded in 1872.

The present Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was established in 1893 by Helen Herron Taft under the name Cincinnati Orchestra Association.

Its first concerts were held at Pike's Opera House before moving to Music Hall, where it is still presently housed.

The orchestra would see great conductors and composers like Frank Van der Stucken, Richard Strauss, and Edward McDowell.

Interestingly, they also performed the United States premiere of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5!

However, it has not been a smooth-sailing journey for the CSO. For a while, they had to move to the Emery Auditorium. The orchestra would also disband due to financial difficulties and labor issues for some time.

It would eventually reorganize under the direction of Leopold Stokowski in 1909. The ensemble would again perform the U.S. premiere of the Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler.

The CSO would also produce its first recordings and go on a national tour around this time. Let's not forget that they would come home to the Music Hall in 1936!


It is the goal of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to become the best orchestra in the world.

The CSO prides itself on its commitment to showcasing topnotch artistry and experimental works.

It is also their goal to elevate the cultural scene of the city that they hail from.


The CSO would actually tour widely, both across the United States and all over the European continent. In fact, it would be the first American orchestra to go on a world tour! 

Their first tour would happen under the United States Department of State's sponsorship and Max Rudolf's direction. The ensemble continues to tour regularly and they have recently been at the BBC Proms, the Quincena Musical de San Sebastian, and Edinburgh International Festival.

Here is an impressive feat: the CSO has actually performed in at Carnegie Hall a total of 48 times since its first performance at the venue in 1917.

Music Hall is the ensemble's primary home but it also performs at the outdoor Riverbend Music Center every now and then.


The Cincinnati Pops also performs under the CSO. The group delves into various musical styles without sacrificing what has come to be known as the “Cincinnati Sound”.

Officially founded in 1977, the group has since been able to sell ten million recordings all over the globe! Did you know that some records even went on to appear on the Billboard charts?

They also tour locally and internationally. The Pops even traveled to Beijing to participate in the Opening Festivities during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games!

The Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra is also affiliated with the CSO. Launched in 1964, the program is targeted at student musicians who are in the 9th to 12th grade.

At the moment, there are over 200 young musicians who are undergoing extensive training to become great orchestra members. Assistant Conductor Gene Chang presently heads the CSYO.


Anyone who is a fan of the orchestra knows that it takes a lot of effort to overcome financial difficulties. Luckily, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra seems to be doing well in this regard.

The ensemble has been able to raise the funds that they need in order to hire more full-time players and expand the ensemble size. This is a great turn of events, considering the financial difficulties the CSO had in 2009.

The orchestra might have sold out a lot of shows in the more recent seasons, there is no guarantee that this will continue.

Support and donations can go a long way when it comes to ensuring the cultural tradition lives in on Cincinnati.




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