Friday, November 9, 2018

New York Symphony Debuts!

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

Last month, I shared about the history of the telephone and the amazing transformations it has taken in just a little over 100 years. If you missed that post, you can read it here:

Now, let's go from our vocal instruments to the crafted instruments of music.

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The New York Symphony Orchestra

The Apollo on lower Broadway
Also known as the New York Philharmonic, this orchestra is the oldest American symphony orchestra and one of the oldest in the world. When I was nine, I held my very first violin in my hands and began what would become a twelve-year career as violinist. By high school, I achieved the high honor of "first chair" and was given several solos. My violin traveled with me to college where I continued to take lessons and practice, but I never again played with an orchestra after my Junior year.

I kept my violin for another twenty years, though, and I even brought it out from its case to play a few songs for my husband and children. Last year, my beautiful violin and I finally parted ways as I sold it to a young girl just getting started with her own playing. Passing the torch, I guess it's called. The smile on that girl's face when she received the violin with the case for her birthday warmed my heart. I know that instrument is being loved and honored and still making beautiful music.

There are definite times when I miss playing, but my love of classical music has never dwindled. Those renowned performers of days gone by still inspire today, and I am sure they also treasured the instruments they played, passing them down to the next generation to keep the music alive.

Ureli Corelli Hill
The New York Philharmonic was founded in 1842 by the American conductor Ureli Corelli Hill. It was then called the Philharmonic Society of New York and existed with the purpose of, "the advancement of instrumental music." The first concert of the Philharmonic Society took place in the Apollo Rooms on lower Broadway before an audience of 600. The concert opened with Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, led by Hill himself.

Two other conductors led parts of the eclectic, three-hour program, which included chamber music and several operatic selections with a leading singer of the day. The musicians operated as a cooperative society, deciding by a majority vote such issues as who would become a member, which music would be performed and who among them would conduct. At the end of the season, the players would divide any proceeds among themselves.

Carnegie Hall
In 1878, the Symphony Society of New York became a rival to the New York Philharmonic and they both continued performances around the city for the next thirteen years. It was then that Walter Damrosch (the conductor of the Symphony Society) convinced Andrew Carnegie that New York needed a first-class concert hall. On May 5, 1891, both Walter and Russian composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted at the inaugural concert of the city's new Music Hall, which in a few years would be renamed for its primary benefactor, Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie Hall would remain the orchestra's home until 1962.

On board S.S. de Grasse / European tour
In 1909, to ensure the financial stability of the Philharmonic, a group of wealthy New Yorkers formed the Guarantors Committee and changed the Orchestra's organization from a musician-operated cooperative to a corporate management structure. The Guarantors were responsible for bringing Gustav Mahler to the Philharmonic as principal conductor and expanding the season from 18 concerts to 54, which included a tour of New England. Under Mahler, the season expanded, musicians' salaries were guaranteed, the scope of operations broadened, and the 20th-century orchestra was created.

Twenty years later, the Philharmonic merged with the Symphony Society, bringing the two biggest orchestras in the city together and consolidating extraordinary financial and musical resources. In 1930, the present conductor led the Symphony on a tour to Europe, bringing about immediate international fame. A few years later, nationwide radio broadcasts began. The orchestra was first heard on CBS direct from Carnegie Hall, and those broadcasts would continue uninterrupted for the next thirty-eight years.

Bernstein / Televised performance
Program from Bernstein's debut
In 1943, Leonard Bernstein made his spectacular and memorable debut with the Philharmonic as a substitute, but wasn't appointed Director until 1957, a position he held for the next eleven years. He is one of the most famous conductors and worked hard to continue the orchestra's recognition. From that point forward, several tours abroad occurred, and the orchestra also began appearing on television, with award-winning programming and performances that reached across the country.

On May 5, 2010, the New York Philharmonic performed its 15,000th concert, a milestone unmatched by any other symphony orchestra in the world. It is without a doubt leaving a legacy transcending multiple generations.

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* Have you ever attended a symphony performance? Where?

* Did you play an orchestra instrument as a child or have you as an adult? What is/was it?

* Do you listen to or enjoy classical music? Who is your favorite composer?


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an author and speaker who also works as a force for literacy as an educational consultant with Usborne Books. On the side, she dabbles in the health & wellness and personal development industry, helping others become their best from the inside out.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and two dogs: Nova, a Shiba-Inu/Chihuahua mix and Nugget a Corgi/Chihuahua mix, in Colorado. She has sold twenty (21) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on FacebookTwitterGoodReads, and LinkedIn.


  1. I'm not personally a fan of classical music and have never attended an orchestra. I did play trumpet and baritone at a small local band, and marched in a few parades. Thanks for the post. I enjoyed hearing about your violin.

  2. Love classical music! It's hard to pick a favorite composer. I play flute, piano and for a couple of years in high school, french horn. I was part of the band/orchestra all the way through high school. I sometimes play at church, but have considered selling my flute and "pass the torch," so the story about your violin touched me. We had season tickets to the Kennedy Center when we lived in the Washington, DC area.

  3. I have attended several of our local Philharmonic orchestra presentations. Not sure it qualifies as a symphony, but my all-time favorite was Mannheim Steamroller playing their Christmas songs.

  4. I love the symphony orchestras. I went to hear the Dallas Symphony regularly when I was growing up in Dallas. I took piano lessons for two years and was in several recitals,but I can't play now. I can read music and pick notes with one hand, but that's all. Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Tchaikovsky are among favorites. The Nutcracker Ballet is one piece of music I listen to over and over and will attend the ballet here in Houston in December as a Christmas gift from my daughter-in-law. Such a sweet story about your own violin.