MISSION STATEMENT: To enrich the quality of life in Siouxland through symphonic music.
For over 100 years, the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra has been a dominant force in the cultural life of Sioux City and the surrounding tri-state area. It has evolved from a 30-piece college ensemble to a 90-member professional orchestra with an artistic ability unrivaled by metropolitan orchestras of comparable size.
The origins of the Sioux City Symphony can be traced to 1915 with the start of the Morningside College Orchestra, conducted by George Hubbard. February 27, 1916, was the first public performance by the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra. Fredrick Wick and Oliver Guy Mages filled in as conductors of the orchestra until 1923, when the orchestra featured a performance by a young, Polish-born violin soloist named Leo Kucinski, who attended the Warsaw (Poland) Conservatory, and continued his studies at Oberlin, the Cleveland Institute of Music and at Juilliard. In August 1942 the Sioux City Journal reported that “he was recognized as one of the best [conductors] in the country” – Neil Miller, SC Journal. He soon became a major influence in the musical life of northwest Iowa. For more than fifty years, Kucinski’s name was synonymous with symphonic music in Siouxland. His vision, drive, and dedication to musical excellence guided the development of the orchestra through its formative years. Additionally, Leo Kucinski
was widely known as a violin soloist. In 1946 a core of symphony supporters formed the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra Association, with a board of directors responsible for development and financing. The 1950s became a decade of rapid growth and increased visibility for the orchestra, and in 1965 the Sioux City Symphony celebrated its golden anniversary with a sold-out concert in the Municipal Auditorium featuring Van Cliburn.
Leo Kucinski was sent off to the South Pacific during WWII. He was a Lieutenant in the Air Corps. While Leo was away, Henri Pensis from Luxemburg filled in at the podium for Kucinski from 1942 to 1946. Once again the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra was blessed because while Leo was away contributing to the war effort, his replacement Mr. Pensis had experience conducting the leading symphony orchestras of the nation. One season that Henri Pensis was conducting the Sioux City Symphony, which was performing at the Orpheum, he also conducted six concerts in Carnegie Hall in New York.
Leo Kucinski conducted the symphony from 1923 to 1976 when the baton was passed from Kucinski to Thomas Lewis, a professional conductor, who came to Sioux City with a national reputation as an orchestra builder. Under Lewis’ direction, the Sioux City Symphony was seen throughout the state and heard throughout the nation. In 1979 the orchestra was first chosen to participate in a National Public Radio series featuring American metropolitan orchestras. Tom Lewis also served in the U. S. Army. He was the conductor of the 7th Army Symphony. Several performances, including the 1980-81 Family Concert Series, were televised by the Iowa Public Broadcasting Network. The 1990-91 Season was the orchestra’s Diamond Jubilee and many special events, concerts, and artists, including Itzhak Perlman, were featured in celebration of the 75th anniversary. In 1995, the SCSO welcomed Stephen Rogers Radcliffe as only the fourth full-time Music Director and Conductor in the Orchestra’s history. His energy has proven to be contagious throughout the organization, with dramatic growth in the organization's artistic and educational capacities.
On September 15, 2001, the Symphony celebrated the opening of its glorious new home, the beautifully restored historic Orpheum Theatre. Two weeks later, on September 29, the Orchestra’s first full concert in its new home was presented with another sold-out performance featuring Van Cliburn. In 2005, Xian Zhang was named as Music Director and Conductor of the Sioux City Symphony. Xian assumed the podium beginning with the 2005-2006 Season on September 17, 2005.
The spring of 2009, Ryan Haskins became the sixth Music Director and Conductor in symphony history. The Sioux City Symphony is truly a regional orchestra, drawing its personnel and audience from within a 90-mile radius of Sioux City. Many of the orchestra’s musicians are from nearby educational institutions, including Morningside College in Sioux City, Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, and the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. The musicians travel from as far away as Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Kansas City, Missouri; Omaha, Nebraska; Storm Lake, Iowa; Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Cleveland, Ohio; and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Guest artists have included Marian Anderson, Isaac Stern, Benny Goodman, Victor Borge, Roberta Peters, Andre Watts, Doc Severinsen, Robert Merrill, Joshua Bell, José Feghali, Frederica von Stade, Itzhak Perlman, Leon Fleisher, Peter Serkin, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway,
and Sarah Chang among others.