QSO HISTORY – FROM 1953 TO TODAY
QSO provides world-class music & arts education
to the international community of Queens.
Queens Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1953 by David Katz and incorporated a year later as a non-profit organization. However, Maestro Katz had been diligently working with Queens-based instrumentalists for years prior to its incorporation, rehearsing in the basement of his Forest Hills home and performing a series of chamber concerts for the community free of charge. At this time, QSO was affiliated with the American Symphony Orchestra League and Forest Hills Community Center. Katz hoped that his passion would eventually allow Queens residents to experience classical music without crossing a bridge or tunnel into Manhattan. His mission for QSO was to make a lasting contribution to the cultural advancement and prestige of the community, including the youth. By QSO’s second season, children’s concerts were added to the schedule. By the 1970s, the Music BAG Program (Music for Boys and Girls) was reaching over 17,000 school children annually throughout Queens. Also in the 1970s, the QSO musicians joined the union and became a professional orchestra. It remains the only professional orchestra in Queens to this day. QSO highlights during David Katz’s lifetime included performances featuring Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, and Metropolitan Opera singer Roberta Peters. David Katz died in 1987.
Conductor Arthur Fagen assumed the post of Music Director two years later in 1989. He successfully kept the orchestra vibrant and a fixture in the Queens community for the next 15 years. During his tenure, notable artists performed with QSO under his baton, including pianists André-Michel Schub and Ruth Laredo, violinist Cho-Liang Lin, America’s Tenor Daniel Rodriguez, tenor Michael Amante and cellist Janos Starker. Under Maestro Fagen’s leadership, QSO commissioned and performed the works of contemporary composers including Morton Gould, Dorothy Chang and Huang Ruo. The various QSO programs including the Concerts on the Green - free summer parks series, Music on the Move! Chamber Series and Arts-In-Education Program continued to grow and develop. He led QSO in his final concert as Music Director in June 2005 and is now recognized as QSO’s Conductor Laureate.
After a rigorous two-year search, Constantine Kitsopoulos was offered the position of Music Director and officially took over in September 2006. Maestro Kitsopoulos is in a rare position in the orchestral world in that he is only the third Music Director in the 59-year history of Queens Symphony Orchestra. Under his guidance, QSO has embarked upon a new strategic artistic plan; combining the various world art forms with the traditional symphonic style to create entirely new genres of music that speak to the heart of the ethnically diverse borough of Queens. New additions to QSO’s already varied programs include a return to the Young Soloist Competition, a pre-concert lecture in advance of each QSO Concert and Symphony 101-a free, family-friendly musical demonstration series in public libraries throughout the borough.
Currently in its 60th season, Queens Symphony Orchestra (QSO) is the borough's only professional orchestra and the oldest and largest professional arts organization in Queens. QSO is comprised of professional, Local 802 union musicians who also perform on Broadway, with the New York City Ballet and other freelance regional orchestras.
QSO’s vision and mission statements reflect the organization’s priority of service to the culturally diverse members of the Queens community. QSO has continued to provide numerous programs to the borough of Queens, presenting 10 to 20 concerts throughout the year, serving 30,000 residents, including 8,000 youth. QSO will continue to serve the Queens community and beyond for many years to come.