The Multiple Grammy Award-winning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is one of the world’s preeminent orchestras and the second-oldest professional symphony orchestra in the United States having been performing for over 142 years. With a prolific and acclaimed recording history, national and international touring activities, and distinctive commitment to educational and community outreach efforts. The SLSO performs a 43-week season from September through June, performing approximately 120 concerts at its home here in its principal concert venue, the historic Powell Hall, located in midtown St. Louis. Plus, additional performances throughout the St. Louis area, across the country and internationally each season.
During its home season at Powel Hall where the SLSO has hosted more than 150 performances, they entertain audiences through their main series, Live at Powell Hall, which also includes the Summer at the Symphony performances, featuring concerts from films with an orchestra, like Singin‘ in the Rain, Harry Potter, and Jurassic Park, to tribute concerts for Queen, and one-night-only performances with award-winning guests including John Williams, Boyz II Men, Ben Folds, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Idina Menzel. Come and celebrate your Holidays at Powell, every year SLSO offers heartwarming musical experiences from Thanksgiving through to the extremely popular New Year’s Eve concert. The Sunday afternoon Family Concerts are the perfect way to introduce children to the thrill of an orchestra. Designed for children ages 5-12, these shorter 45-minute performances build family memories to last a lifetime. The SLSO also serves as the resident orchestra of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
Situated in America’s heartland, the SLSO has become known as the quintessential American orchestra and is known as the world’s foremost proponent of contemporary American music. Under the direction of Leonard Slatkin from 1979 to 1996 the orchestra’s creative direction was firmly entrenched in American repertoire, but still maintained a sterling reputation as a standard-bearer for European repertoire. They regularly record works by American composers, including John Adams, Copland, Ives, William Bolcom, Gershwin, Bernstein, and Barber, and this commitment to American Musical Spirit has led to the creation of a composer-in-residence position, with influential American composers including Joseph Schwantner, Joan Tower, Donald Erb, Donal Fox, and Claude Baker creating new American works for the SLSO.
The SLSO regularly tours around St. Louis, to communities large and small throughout the Midwest as well as nationally and internationally to critical acclaim. The orchestra’s very first performance in Carnegie Hall was in 1950, and has since become a regular guest Orchestra there, even performing, John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary at Carnegie Hall as part of the composer’s 70th birthday celebration. The SLSO began international tours in 1978 with their first European tour being three concerts at the Athens Festival. Since then, the SLSO has given concerts in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
During its 140-plus year history, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has earned a staggering nine Grammy Awards out of 60 nominations from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. It is the second-oldest professional symphony orchestra in the United States, preceded only by the New York Philharmonic and can trace its roots as far back as 1880 with the founding of the St. Louis Choral Society by Joseph Otten. It was formed into The St. Louis Symphony Society when it absorbed the St. Louis Musical Union in 1890 and in 1907 it became the known as the St. Louis Symphony Society.
Stéphane Denève, Music Director
The current Music Director for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Stéphane Denève took over from Leonard Slatkin in 1996. Denève also serves as Music Director of the Brussels Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and Director of the Centre for Future Orchestral Repertoire. He is recognized internationally for the exceptional quality of his performances and programming, and regularly appears at major concert venues with the world’s greatest orchestras and soloists. He has a special affinity for the music of his native France and is a passionate advocate for music and musicians of the 21st century.
Stephanie Childress, Assistant Conductor
Appointed to the position of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Assistant Conductor in 2020 by Music Director Stéphane Denève. She also serves as the Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. Childress is the second prize winner at the inaugural conducting competition, La Maestra, held in Paris in autumn 2020. She was recently likened to, “other notable young conductors of the past such as Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Sir Simon Rattle.” By Varsity.
Leonard Slatkin, Conductor Laureate
Internationally acclaimed conductor Leonard Slatkin is Music Director Laureate of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Directeur Musical Honoraire of the Orchestre National de Lyon, and Conductor Laureate of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, having previously held the position of Musical Director from 1979 to 1996. He maintains a rigorous schedule of guest conducting throughout the world and is active as a composer, author, and educator. Slatkin has received six Grammy awards from 34 nominations, is a recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Arts and holds the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor. He has received Austria’s Decoration of Honor in Silver, and the League of American Orchestras’ Gold Baton Award.
Ben Folds was in a pedagogical mood on Friday night. “I just want tonight to be, like, orchestra process awareness night,” he said as he took the stage with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Hall. Throughout much of the concert, the pianist, vocalist and songwriter spent time between numbers acknowledging the orchestrators of his pop and rock songs, pointing out various facets of their arrangements and talking about the songs themselves. Folds has performed several times with the SLSO, and it’s always a delight to discover anew how well his music, whose irreverence can make it seem uncomplicated, is suited to an orchestra.
The SLSO, led by assistant conductor Stephanie Childress, brought the scores to life. Some were newly commissioned. “How about the band?” Folds said early on. He praised Childress, various sections and concertmaster David Halen. Folds, a passionate advocate for the arts, talked at length about their importance to society. A symphony, he said, is a symbol of civilization: It shows that a large group of people can work together to create something meaningful. “A town sucks that doesn’t have a symphony orchestra, and this town has one of the best,” he said. “Come back,” he urged the audience. “Promise me now while you’re drunk.”Review by Daniel Durchholz, Special to the Post-Dispatch for STL Today