Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1966, even though regional orchestra formations already existed since long time. Ever since 1821, the year in which the first orchestral concert took place, attempts were made to create a professional orchestra, but several difficulties prohibited professional organization. Only through the help of music-loving supporters the ASO finally incorporated in the 1960s. Until today, the ASO enjoys the help of benevolent helpers.
The first conductor was Vasilios Priakos. In 1968 Glen Owens succeeded as conductor and manager of the orchestra. He helped ASO through winning of a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Arkansas Arts Humanities Council to gain financial stability. 1970, Dr. Francis McBeth followed on as the third musical director/ conductor of the Symphony. With him, the number of concerts of the ASO rose dramatically, and as a consequence also the audience. Nowadays, about 250,000 people listen to the ASO annually. Kurt Klippstatter followed on to the tradition of the directors. In 1981 Robert Henderson began to conduct the ASO. His cooperation with the orchestra lasted 11 years. He helped the final transition from a community orchestra to a professional one and strengthened the ASO as one of the cultural institution in Arkansas. David Itkin succeeded as the new conductor in 1991. Through him and his ideas of f. e. "Happy Hour" or "Classics Go Pop" concerts or a "Blue Jean Night at the Symphony," more audience and a broader mass could be attracted.
The orchestra has performed in several surrounding emphasizing its popularity and high quality. Among them are the Robinson Center Music Hall in 1973, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1976 and appearances on TV such as 1974 on AETN public television or KATV, Channel 7 in 1977. Nowadays, the ASO, being in its 42nd season, performs over thirty concerts at Robinson Center Music Hall each year. It also performs within the Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series, the Acxiom Pops LIVE! Series, the River Rhapsodies Chamber Series and much more like The Masters and Acxiom SuperPops.The orchestra also includes resident ensembles, the Quapaw Quartet, the Rockefeller Quartet, the Sturgis Quartet, the ASO Arts Partners and the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestras.