Our Mission & History
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.
ALLENTOWN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Allentown Symphony Association’s 2015-2016 season represents the 65th anniversary of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, and the 20th anniversary of its esteemed Music Director, Diane Wittry. The Allentown Symphony Orchestra offers you extraordinary music-making through its Classical Series conducted by Diane Wittry, and the Pops Series with Associate Conductor Ron Demkee.
Renowned classical and popular artists are showcased as the Orchestra performs favorite masterworks, newly commissioned world premieres and other unusual and intriguing repertoire. The orchestra’s classically trained professional musicians are drawn from Pennsylvania and six surrounding states. Under Wittry’s leadership the Symphony has risen to increasing standards of excellence, performing with passion and commitment. Maestra Wittry is known for her innovative programming style, creating concerts with their own personality and sense of occasion. She also has been a stellar advocate for outreach.
There have been only two other conductors of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra. Its first conductor was Lehigh Valley’s own Donald Voorhees, who achieved national celebrity as the conductor of the studio orchestra for NBC’s Emmy-award winning Television and Radio Show, The Bell Telephone Hour. Voorhees was the conductor of the Allentown Symphony for 32 years until 1983. During his tenure, Voorhees brought legendary guests artists such as Marian Anderson, Alicia de Larrocha, Van Cliburn, Leontyn Price, and Jascha Heifetz, from the Telephone Hour to perform with the Allentown Symphony.
Voorhees was succeeded by William Smith (1986-1993) who also served as assistant conductor to the Philadelphia Orchestra under their famous conductor Eugene Ormandy.
Presenting concerts for all ages and backgrounds, the Allentown Symphony is only one of a handful of American orchestras to have its own acoustically superb concert hall. With its long and stellar history, the Allentown Symphony Orchestra continues to serve as a beacon of the arts for the Lehigh Valley and beyond.
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.