Our Mission & History

 

            
            

            
            MISSION

               The mission of the Allentown Symphony Association is to provide
               a first-class symphony orchestra and Hall, quality performing arts,
               and cultural education in partnership with the community.
 


HISTORY


ALLENTOWN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 

With passion and finesse, the Allentown Symphony with Music Director & Conductor, Diane Wittry, plays time-honored masterworks, newly commissioned world premieres, and unusual and intriguing repertoire, including works by prominent new composers.  Each year, the ASO performs more than 20 classical, pops, educational, and family concerts. In 2014, the orchestra received the national American Prize for “orchestral excellence.”

Exciting world-class artists that have performed with the ASO include Midori, Emanuel Ax, Richard Stoltzman, Garrick Ohlsson, Angela Meade, and Peter Serkin, as well as jazz trumpeter Byron Stripling, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, and Broadway vocalist Christiane Noll.  The orchestra’s classical trained musicians include players from the major urban centers of New York, Baltimore-D.C., and Philadelphia.

The ASO has received music commissioning grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, and from the League of American Orchestras in support of its El Sistema-inspired program for at-risk youth.  The Symphony Association also annually hosts the National Schadt String Competition which attracts top young performers from all over the world.

Music Director Diane Wittry, a California native who has worked with Michael Tilson Thomas among others, is known for her innovating programming style, using video, dancers, subtitles and other visuals that give her concerts a sense of occasion. She has been a stellar advocate for music education outreach for all ages and skill levels.  Lehigh Valley native Ron Demkee serves as the Symphony’s Associate Conductor, directing the Pops Series. The two previous ASO conductors were Donald Voorhees, the distinguished conductor of the
studio orchestra for NBC’s Emmy-award-winning The Bell Telephone Hour and William Smith, assistant Conductor to the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy.

Presenting exciting concerts for all, the Allentown Symphony is only one of a handful of American orchestras to own its own acoustically superb concert hall, Miller Symphony Hall.  As it has for the last 65 years, the Allentown Symphony will continue its pursuit of excellence with passion, keeping alive the legacy of masterworks while bringing the works of modern masters to the concert stage for you and all of the community.

 

MILLER SYMPHONY HALL
One of Pennsylvania's Most Beautiful Concert Halls

Serving as a cultural destination for the greater Lehigh Valley and beyond, Miller Symphony Hall is the Lehigh Valley’s premier Performing Arts Center.

It began its life in the 1800s as a large, three-story central marketplace. The building was converted to a theatre in 1899 by the renowned architect J.B. McElfatrick and renamed the Lyric. Today it is one of only a dozen of 200 McElfatrick prized ‘beaux arts’ theatres that have survived.

Once the home of vaudeville, burlesque and Broadway-bound theatricals, its stage has showcased the comedy of Bob Hope, George Burns and Gracie Allen, the magical voices of Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett and Placido Domingo, the stirring marches of the Allentown Band and the musical perfection of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.

In 1953, with the help of Call-Chronicle newpaper owners Sam and Donald Miller, the Lyric was purchased by the Allentown Symphony Association (established in 1951) as a permanent home for its symphony orchestra, and re-christened Symphony Hall.  

Since 1990, $12 million has been raised by the Allentown Symphony Association from public and private sources to improve the Hall and turn it into the leading performance  venue it is today.  

Renovations to this historic theatre continue to this day with more plans for future projects. Most recently, the Balcony Level was refurbished with wider, cushioned seating so patrons can better enjoy its superb acoustics.

Recently renamed Miller Symphony Hall in honor of the family who saved it and who continue to support it today, the Hall has helped catalyze the redevelopment of Allentown’s urban core.  As a fully-fledged performing arts center, it serves as a performance space for the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and a range of artistically diverse programs that help create a vibrant community for all of us.

We invite you to create some memories of your own at Miller Symphony Hall.