The music genre that comes to mind when talking about Texas is country music. Being a state in the South, the fiddle of honky tonk and twang of hillbilly is a huge part of the experience. These might as well reflect the endearing approach the people of this state have for music in general. The love for music is not only felt in country tunes in the Lone Star State; it is also observed among the established symphony orchestras found in many of its cities. All of them are known for their exceptional performances and beautiful history.
The long tale of Texas symphony orchestras was the result of the classical music movement during the dawn of the 20th century. Prominent individuals decided to bring the elegance and virtuosity found in classical music to the South. Benefiting from these are most of the established symphony orchestras. The most notable among them is the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, which is located in the sunny city it was named after. The 93 years of the symphony orchestra are filled with notable people who broke glass ceilings to push the orchestra forward to sophistication and prolific achieved performances. All of these result in the orchestra being a huge part of the city’s development and culture. A treasured performance art organization, the El Paso Symphony Orchestra is an essential part of the El Paso experience and is a testament to the city’s dedication to excellent music.
El Paso Symphony Orchestra Tickets:
“Innovative chord progressions, wonderful melodies and the astounding vocals of Freddie Mercury make the music a perfect choice to orchestrate.” – Brent Havens, EPSO’s Conductor
The El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s history distinguishes it from other Symphonies in the state. Going back in time, El Paso began to embrace orchestra way back in the late 1880s. Multiple groups decided to create one for several years but were unsuccessful, but that was about to change when Frederich R. Koch decided to start one in 1893. It had a turbulent start when it faced challenges due to a lack of support. However, things started to change right between the 1920s and 30s. This era was notable for the creation of the Symphony Society, which led to the stronger establishment of orchestras. The company solidified its establishment when conductor and music teacher Hine Arthur Brown came to Texas.
The Julliard-honed conductor was teaching violin at New Mexico State University when he received a contract to conduct for the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. He trained the company for several months and received support from the Scottish Rite Auditorium. On January 26, 1931, the notable performance signified the beginning of the orchestra’s prominence in the city. Its association was then established, which boosted the business side of the orchestra.
This one-time performance led to 21 years of stellar leadership of Brown. Under his management, more members were recruited. They also began to get national exposure with the help of radio stations playing records of their performances and through newspapers. This sudden surge in the orchestra’s popularity then opened the growing musical culture of the city. More people are learning to play instruments, which has led to more teachers and musical experts visiting or settling. On the other hand, more music shops opened. All of these encouraged the conception of a music department in the city’s university.
“Mesmerizing and inspirational!” – Rick’s Cafe Texan
When Brown retired in 1951, Italian conductor Orlando Barera followed. Barera was notable for his ambitious works, which he applied to the orchestra. The level of difficulty in performances increased, which also upgraded its prominence, not only in El Paso but also in the state of Texas. Resources increased during this era, and internationally-acclaimed musicians started to perform with the orchestra. Among such performers were Eleanor Steber, Cesare Siepi, Victoria de Los Angeles, Claudio Arrau, and Isaac Stern. These people became important in bringing the El Paso Symphony Orchestra to the world stage.
However, the momentum suddenly halted due to Barera’s passing in 1969. He was succeeded by William Kirsch, who worked for the company for four years. His handling was known for being a turbulent time and conflict in management.
After his termination, Abraham Chavez Jr. took the helm starting in 1975. Unlike his predecessors, Chavez Jr. grew up being honed as a member of the symphony orchestra. He was with them starting in 1940 and remained through the shaky years. The choice to contract someone who understands the ins and outs of the company paid off for the association. Chavez Jr. made sure that they received proper funding and reasonable salaries for the performers. With these moves, he worked to improve the symphony orchestra to a professional level. He also began the youth orchestra division of the company.
After two decades, Chavez Jr. retired from his post. Gürer Aykal, a Turkish maestro took over in 1992. In his time, the orchestra reached international theatres. They worked on a tour in Germany in 1996. Following this, they went to Turkey in 2000. He departed from the orchestra in 2004.
A major move came after this year when Sarah Ioannides, a British conductor, became the orchestra’s first female conductor. She debuted in 2005. Using the orchestra’s past accomplishments as a stepping stone, she pushed for more international tours and encouraged more world-class musicians to join them. She also expanded the reach of the orchestra by having collaborations with other art organizations. She also strengthened the youth orchestra, inviting young performers from primary to undergraduate to join their training and performances. She left the orchestra in 2011.
By this time, the musical director position of the orchestra has become extremely competitive. For the 2011-2012 season, six conductors alternately directed the orchestra. All of them vying for the position. A city and audience ballot was exercised to choose who among the six would take on the spot.
The winning conductor was Bohuslav Rattay from the Czech Republic. He is known for his innovative handling of the orchestra, being an individual who advocates for the fusion of classical music and contemporary styles. He continues to handle the company to this day.
Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Center
Among the main venues where the El Paso Symphony Orchestra brings its masterpiece of performances is the Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Center. The 2024 season is jampacked with powerful performances. The company will expose the audience to Fantastic Classics from January 19 to 20. On January 28, the El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestra will perform a spectacular EPSYO Winter Concert. A Beethoven and Tchaikovsky musical special will then mesmerize audience members on February 16. A celebration of the music of the legendary rock band Queen will occur from March 1 up to March 3. On March 24, musicians from both the youth and the main orchestra will join forces for a Side By Side Concert.
Ticket sales for these performances have begun. You can reserve your tickets here by clicking the “Get Tickets” link.