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HSO History
Hartford Symphony Orchestra
HSO History

Marking its 79th season in 2022-2023, the HSO is Connecticut’s premier musical organization, the second largest orchestra in New England, and widely recognized as one of America’s leading regional orchestras.

The HSO captivates and inspires audiences of all ages by presenting more than 100 concerts annually, including the Masterworks Series, POPS! Series, Sunday Serenades, Discovery Concerts, Symphony in Schools, Musical Dialogues, the Talcott Mountain Music Festival, and more. The HSO aims to deliver uniquely powerful and emotional experiences that lift and transform the spirit, and to give back and help create vibrant communities in the Greater Hartford area.

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra named Carolyn Kuan as its tenth music director in January 2011; she is the first woman and youngest person to hold this title. Since beginning her tenure in 2011 she has led the HSO to new artistic heights with community-minded concerts and innovative programming.

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1934 and formally established as the Symphony Society of Greater Hartford in 1936. Angelo Coniglione, Jacques Gordon, Leon Barzin, Moshe Paranov, and George Heck were the Orchestra’s first music directors. With the appointment of Fritz Mahler in 1953, the HSO began its Young People’s Concerts and made several highly acclaimed recordings for Vanguard. In 1964, Arthur Winograd became music director and the Orchestra grew in artistic stature, performing at Carnegie Hall and other New York locations to highly favorable reviews. Under the artistic leadership of Michael Lankester from 1985–2000, the HSO received national recognition for its programming innovations, including the popular Classical Conversations and Family Matinees, as well as a series of landmark theatrical productions. From 2001–2011, Edward Cumming led the HSO to new levels of artistic excellence and innovative programming.

Each season, the HSO plays to audiences numbering more than 95,000 statewide. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s extensive array of Education and Community Activities serves 23,000 individuals in Hartford and surrounding communities annually.


Our Vision:
HSO will be widely known for and unrivaled in its ability to:

  • Openly engage our community and its diverse people
  • Foster joy for music and an appreciation of its transformative power

Our Goal:

To be the organization of choice for music consumers

Our Brand Promise:
Alive through great music!

Our Values

Criteria by which we will be measured:

  • Excellence – To foster a joy of music and an appreciation of its transformative power, the HSO subscribes to the highest standards of orchestral music performance and experience.
  • Engagement – To develop a relevant, customer-centric organization which builds deep, meaningful – and hopefully life-long – connections.  HSO pledges to listen and be responsive to and positively engage with our patrons, musicians and other stakeholders; to meet pertinent community needs (e.g., education, healing, etc.) and to work with all parties in a spirit of collaboration, partnership and inclusivity.
  • Creativity – Both to maintain the enthusiasm of traditional audiences and develop new and ever-expanding audiences, the HSO must embrace “creative abandon”; it must be bold, adventuresome and inventive in the production of diverse and dynamic programming and experiences that both honor the music and successfully cultivate the next generation of orchestral music lovers.
  • Sustainability – To assure the HSO’s perpetuity and a rich cultural life for our community, the HSO commits to financial, musical and institutional stewardship.  While respecting the HSO’s traditions and musical heritage, we must embrace a culture of adaptability – – achieved through knowledge of state-of-the-art industry trends, innovation, technological savvy and a tolerance of responsible risk-taking.
  • Integrity – To honor the contributions and participation of all HSO constituents, the HSO commits to respect, accountability, transparency, and honesty.