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|St. Louis Symphony Orchestra|
|Concert hall||Powell Hall|
|Principal conductor||Stéphane Denève|
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is an American symphony orchestra based in St. Louis, Missouri. Founded in 1880 by Joseph Otten as the St. Louis Choral Society, the St. Louis Symphony is the second-oldest professional symphony orchestra in the United States, preceded only by the New York Philharmonic. Its principal concert venue is Powell Hall.
The St. Louis Choral Society performed in the auditorium of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at Locust and Broadway in Downtown St. Louis. During the 1881/82 season the 80-member chorus was joined by an orchestra of 31 members. A disbanded Musical Union joined the group. In 1893, the St. Louis Choral-Symphony was formally incorporated. It remained largely a choral organization through its performances at the 1904 World's Fair under Alfred Ernst when it expanded to a 200-member chorus and an orchestra of 55. Under Max Zach's tenure (1907 to 1921), it changed its name to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Before moving to its current home in Powell Hall, the SLSO performed for many years at the Kiel Opera House. The orchestra has given concerts regularly at Carnegie Hall and has made overseas tours to Europe and to Japan. The St. Louis Symphony has recorded for the Columbia, RCA Victor, Red Seal, Telarc, Vox/Turnabout, Angel EMI, and Nonesuch labels. It has also issued CD recordings on its own label, Arch Media, and has received seven Grammy Awards and 58 nominations. For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the St. Louis Symphony has been the resident orchestra since 1978, divided into two ensembles, each performing two of the operas in the season. Also associated with the orchestra is the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, which was founded in 1977. Its first director was Thomas Peck. Since 1995, Amy Kaiser has served as the chorus director.
The national prestige of the St. Louis Symphony grew most prominently during the music directorship of Leonard Slatkin, from 1979 to 1996. During his tenure, the orchestra made many recordings for the EMI and RCA Victor labels, and toured to Europe and the Far East, as well as concerts at Carnegie Hall. However, this growth in prestige was not matched by stabilization of long-term finances. In 2000, the SLSO's endowment stood at US$28 million. In 2000, the executive director and President of the SLSO at the time, Don Roth, had secured a US$40 million challenge grant from the Taylor family (owners of privately held Enterprise Rent-A-Car) to help the organization's money situation. However, in that same year, he revealed the situation of severe financial problems with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra finances, which nearly led to the orchestra's bankruptcy in 2001. Roth resigned his position in July 2001, and was succeeded by Randy Adams, a former St. Louis bank executive. Adams embarked on extensive fund-raising efforts in the following years, seeking to enlarge the SLSO's endowment in the process. As part of the budget cuts and cost-saving measures, the musicians agreed to salary cuts over that time, and also a reduction of their 52-week contract to 42 weeks.
Following the departure of Hans Vonk as music director after the 2001-2002 season, Itzhak Perlman served as music adviser to the orchestra from 2002 to 2004. In December 2003, the symphony's board announced David Robertson as the next music director of the orchestra, effective with the 2005/06 season.
In January 2005, a labor dispute led to a cancellation of concerts for two months. Before the musicians could vote on the terms of the new contract, management changed the locks to Powell Hall without notifying them. Auditions were cancelled, and the health insurance for musicians was cancelled without notice as well. Whilst the musicians considered themselves to be 'locked out', management considered this action to be an illegal strike, since the players' attorney, Leonard Leibowitz, had advised them against filing certain documents as required by law. The National Labor Relations Board agreed with management. After a two-month period of negotiations, the musicians agreed to a ten-week reduction from a 52-week season, and 30% wage reductions. Upon returning to the stage, the musicians enacted a "Vote of No Confidence" on Executive Director Randy Adams. Both parties then reached a mutual agreement under which they agreed to refer to the eight-week period as a "Work Stoppage" and the "Vote of No Confidence" was rescinded. In March 2005, the musicians and Adams agreed to a new contract.
Since September 2005, the American conductor David Robertson has been the music director of the orchestra. During Robertson's tenure, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has partnered with St. Louis Public Radio to broadcast its subscription concerts live every Saturday night during its regular season, since the fall of 2010, after the sale of the St. Louis classical radio station KFUO. Robertson conducted the orchestra's first-ever appearance at The Proms in September 2012. In 2013, Robertson's contract was extended through the 2015/16 season, and a further contract extension, announced in March 2014, was through the 2017/18 season. In December 2016, the SLSO and Robertson jointly announced an additional one-year extension of his contract through the 2018-2019 season, at which time he is scheduled to conclude his SLSO tenure. In June 2017, the orchestra noted an update to Robertson's contract, where he is scheduled to conclude his tenure in 2017-2018, in a reversion of the December 2016 situation.
Adams stood-down as the orchestra's president and executive director in June 2007. Fred Bronstein assumed the posts in March 2008. Faced with declining ticket sales and deficits, Bronstein immediately launched an aggressive new revenue plan with audience development at the core of its actions. Bronstein has also taken steps to broaden and diversify the symphony's programming through popularly oriented programming series such as "Live at Powell Hall". Since 2008, because of new programming and marketing strategies, ticket revenues have grown 39% in the 2012 fiscal year, the highest revenues in over a decade, while seats sold grew by 16% and more than 31,000 new people were added to the customer base, reversing five years of decline. Because of successful audience development initiatives at the core of the plan as well as other revenue progress and strong management of expenses, the structural deficit (whose gaps are funded by additional contributions) has declined 18% from $3.4M in 2007 to $2.8M in 2011, dipping as low as $2.62m in 2010.
Symphony management undertook a rebranding in 2010, by adopting of a new logo and a new look and changing its name from the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) to the St. Louis Symphony. The move was not received with universal approval, and many, including members of the local news media, proved resistant to the marketing-based change. The name was changed back, without fanfare, in the summer of 2017.
Bronstein left the SLSO to head the Peabody Conservatory in Spring 2014. In February 2015, the SLSO named Marie-Hélène Bernard, then-president of the Handel and Haydn Society as its new president and CEO. She began her new job on July 1, 2015.
The STL Symphony Youth Orchestra was established in 1970 by Leonard Slatkin. The post of Resident Conductor (formerly Assistant Conductor), who also acts as music director of the Saint Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, is currently held by Gemma New. Past St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Assistant Conductors have included Slatkin, Gerhardt Zimmermann, David Loebel, David Amado, Scott Parkman, Ward Stare, and Steven Jarvi.
In 2003, Stéphane Denève first guest-conducted the orchestra. In June 2017, the orchestra named Denève as its next music director, effective with the 2019-2020 season, with an initial contract of 3 seasons. He is to hold the title of Music Director Designate for the 2018-2019 season.