Classical and symphonic music in Oakland have a rich history, dating back more than 80 years from the original Oakland Symphony (1933-1986), and the subsequent formation of Oakland Symphony Chorus and Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra over 50 years ago. Oakland Symphony grew from this tradition and community commitment. Following the closure of the original Oakland Symphony in 1986, the Chorus and Youth Orchestra split into two independent organizations. In 2010, the Symphony, the Youth Orchestra, and the Chorus merged to establish one organization that combines the history and accomplishments of all three ensembles and is able to better serve our entire community. After 26 years under the name of Oakland East Bay Symphony, we are once again known as the Oakland Symphony.
The Oakland Symphony is celebrated as one of the most distinct regional orchestras in the country, serving a diverse population through its unique convergence of artistic excellence, community service, and education programs. Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra was founded in 1963 and has been providing world-class orchestral training to young musicians for over 50 years. Oakland Symphony Chorus is launching its 56th season of serving the community through vocal training and performance opportunities for all.
The Symphony, the Youth Orchestra, and the Chorus have the shared aim of making classical music accessible to all members of our community by presenting unique programs and attracting a wide-ranging, culturally diverse audience. We strive to bring together people who might otherwise never have met, to sit side-by-side and share a meaningful cultural experience. In the 25 years since Maestro Michael Morgan took on the artistic leadership of the Symphony, we have united the diverse Oakland and East Bay communities through music, and now reach over 60,000 people annually.
In addition to presenting unconventional, approachable concerts, the Symphony invests heavily in education and outreach, working with schools and in the community to introduce people of all backgrounds to the joys of playing an instrument and experiencing classical performance. To date, our education programs, including the MUSE (Music for Excellence) program and Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra, have helped over 100,000 young people discover a passion for music. The Youth Orchestra provides training to young musicians with a rigorous program of weekly rehearsals, extensive coaching with leading Bay Area professionals, and performance opportunities throughout the region and the world. Through our Access Scholarships, no young musician is ever excluded from the Youth Orchestra due to limited financial resources.
Along with our education programs, we foster the future of classical music through partnerships with contemporary musicians and composers. To ensure the future of symphonic music, the Symphony regularly commissions works from composers who have never composed for a full orchestra. New American works are frequently showcased in our programming and young artists are encouraged to create as well as perform. In the 2013-14 season alone, four new pieces were commissioned in styles ranging from gospel to world music.
Throughout the years, the Symphony has fostered collaborations with local arts organizations, from children’s choruses to jazz ensembles. The Oakland Symphony Chorus collaborates with a number of regional performing arts groups including Berkeley Symphony, California Symphony, and the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, as well as regularly collaborating and performing with the Symphony and Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra. The Chorus serves as a premier resource for continuing education in the choral arts and holds open auditions throughout the year.