St. Louis Symphony Orchestra History

The Grammy Award-winning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, led by Music Director Stéphane Denève, is one of the world's preeminent orchestras, celebrated for its warm and engaging sound, prolific and acclaimed recording history, national and international touring activities, and distinctive commitment to educational and community outreach efforts. Now in its 143rd season, the current artistic leadership at the SLSO includes Music Director Stéphane Denève, Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress, Conductor Laureate Leonard Slatkin, and IN UNISON Chorus Director Kevin McBeth. The SLSO has been led by President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard since 2015.

SLSO's Origins

The nation's second-oldest orchestra, the SLSO traces its roots to 1880 with the founding of the St. Louis Choral Society by Joseph Otten, recognized as the SLSO's first Music Director. The St. Louis Symphony Society was formed ten years later when, in the spring of 1890, the St. Louis Choral Society absorbed the St. Louis Musical Union, a small symphonic group that was organized in 1881 by August Waldauer. Upon consolidation of these two groups, the name of the Choral Society was changed to St. Louis Choral-Symphony Society. In 1907, when Max Zach assumed the leadership of the orchestra, it became known as the St. Louis Symphony Society. Shortly after this change, musicians were first hired for a 20-week regular season. 

Learn More

Powell Hall History

Erected in 1925 as the St. Louis Theatre, the building now known as Powell Symphony Hall was acquired by the St. Louis Symphony Society in 1966 through a $500,000 gift from Oscar Johnson, Jr., a longtime leader and benefactor of the Orchestra. Since its opening in November 1925, the St. Louis Theatre had presented the best in live vaudeville as well as motion pictures. 

Following an extensive $2 million renovation, the SLSO was blessed with its first permanent home and one of the world's finest concert halls. The 2,683-seat Powell Hall is named for Walter S. Powell, a St. Louis shoe manufacturing executive whose widow, Helen Lamb Powell, made the Symphony Society beneficiary of a $1 million charitable trust. 

Learn More