BSO History

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is internationally recognized as having achieved a preeminent place among the world’s most important orchestras. Acclaimed for its enduring pursuit of artistic excellence, the BSO has attracted a devoted national and international following while maintaining deep bonds throughout Maryland through innovative education and community engagement initiatives.

Year Established: 1916, as a branch of the Baltimore municipal government; reorganized as a private institution in 1942.

Mission: The BSO’s mission is to perform the highest quality symphonic music of all eras that nurtures the human spirit. We are committed to engaging, inspiring, educating, and serving our audiences in meaningful and intentional ways, and to enhancing Maryland as a center of cultural vitality and importance.

Music Director: Jonathon Heyward
Music Director Laureate and OrchKids Founder: Marin Alsop
Artistic Advisor: James Conlon
Principal Pops Conductor: Jack Everly
Concertmaster: Jonathan Carney
President & CEO: Mark C. Hanson
Chairman of the Board: Barry Rosen

Operating budget: Exceeds $29 million

Annual attendance: 350,000+ (in-person and digital)

BSO concerts in 2021-22: 130+, including Classical, Off the Cuff, Pops, Special, and Family Series concerts, as well as a robust schedule of community-based performances and summer programming including touring activity across the state of Maryland.

World premiere performances since founding: 89, including 42 commissioned works.

Recordings: The Grammy Award-winning BSO has achieved critical success for its prolific discography.  Since becoming Music Director, Marin Alsop has made a number of recordings with the BSO. In August 2009, Bernstein’s Mass under the direction of Maestra Alsop was released on the Naxos label. Nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Classical Album category, the critically-acclaimed album rose to number six on the Classical Billboard Charts. Between 2007 and 2009, Maestra Alsop and the BSO recorded a three-disc Dvořák cycle of Symphonies Nos. 6 through 9 on Naxos. In 2010, the BSO under Alsop was joined by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet for a Decca recording of works by Gershwin including Rhapsody in Blue and the Piano Concerto. In 2012, recordings of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra coupled with Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan,” were released on Naxos in May and September.

Touring: Regular appearances at Carnegie Hall and international touring were among the priorities instilled at the BSO under the direction of Sergiu Comissiona. In 1987, David Zinman took the BSO on a history-making concert tour of Europe and the Soviet Union – the first American orchestra in more than a decade to tour the Soviet Union after cultural relations resumed towards the end of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Under Zinman the Orchestra also made its first visits to Chicago and the Midwest in 1990, and first tour to East Asia in 1994, with subsequent East Asian tours in 1997 and 2002. Under Marin Alsop, the Orchestra visited the West Coast in 2012, and returned to international touring in 2018 with three prestigious UK and Ireland performances at the Edinburgh International Festival, the International Concert Series in Dublin, and the Orchestra’s debut performance at the BBC Proms. The BSO has often appeared at Carnegie Hall, including a February 2008 concert with the New York premiere of Steven Mackey’s percussion concerto Time Release with soloist Colin Currie, a Grammy-recording-winning performance of Bernstein’s MASS, and, in 2012, Arthur Honegger’s infrequently performed Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher.

Education and Outreach: The BSO’s educational infrastructure reaches 40,000+ Marylanders annually through in-person programming, and now, a widely accessible digital platform. Midweek Education Concerts, arts-integrated, daytime concerts for area schoolchildren, are available completely free for Baltimore City Title-I schools and on-demand for classrooms throughout Maryland. In addition to these programs and the BSO’s Family Concert and Music Box Concert series, BSO on the Go and OrchLab bring BSO musicians into Montgomery County elementary, middle and high schools for interactive music education workshops. The three-ensemble strong Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras, annual Side-by-Side programs with local students from area school systems, and BSO Academy give aspiring and adult amateur musicians the opportunity to hone their skills, study and perform with professional musicians. OrchKids™ is the BSO’s award-winning during- and after-school music education and life-enrichment initiative, designed to create social change within Baltimore City communities.

Volunteers: For nearly the entirety of the BSO’s existence, a dedicated corps of volunteers have donated their time, energy, and financial support to benefit the Orchestra and its educational programs. With historic roots dating back to the Women’s Committee and the Orchestra’s Concerts for Young People, volunteerism was coordinated under the auspices of the Baltimore Symphony Associates (BSA), a membership organization, until 2021. Today, a centralized program carries on a rich history of volunteerism at the BSO and is open to all interested community members and organizations. Learn more here.

Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Opening: September 16, 1982 ─ Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with Sergiu Comissiona (conductor) and Leon Fleisher (piano)

Capacity: 2,443

The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall has been the home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since its opening in 1982. Ground was broken for the hall in November 1978 in order to provide the BSO with a top-notch concert hall befitting of a world-class orchestra. The building was made possible through the financial and administrative support of the late Joseph Meyerhoff, with additional support provided by the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore.

The Music Center at Strathmore

Opening: February 5, 2005 ─ Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with Yuri Temirkanov (conductor), Yo-Yo Ma (cello) and Janice Chandler-Eteme (soprano)

Capacity: 1,976

With the opening of The Music Center at Strathmore in February 2005, the Baltimore Symphony became the nation’s first orchestra with year-round venues in two metropolitan areas.

Administrative Offices

Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall | 1212 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, Md. 21201

The Music Center at Strathmore | 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, Md. 20850

Phone: 410.783.8100 (Administrative Offices) | 410.783.8000 or 877.276.1444 (Patron Support Office)


BSO Music Directors

Gustav Strube
George Siemonn
Ernest Schelling
Werner Janssen
Howard Barlow
Reginald Stewart
Massimo Freccia
Peter Herman Adler
Sergiu Comissiona
David Zinman
Yuri Temirkanov
Marin Alsop
Jonathon Heyward
1917 – 1930
1930 – 1935
1935 – 1937
1937 – 1939
1939 – 1942
1942 – 1952
1952 – 1959
1959 – 1968
1969 – 1984
1985 – 1998
1999 – 2006
2007 – 2021
2023 –