Our 77th season and still going strong

One of the oldest community orchestras in the United States, the PVS was founded to serve the Pioneer Valley through music in three ways: by performing symphonic and choral music; by providing members of the community the opportunity to participate in making music; and through musical education, particularly by introducing young children to live orchestral music.

Founded in Greenfield in 1939, the full orchestra performs in Northampton and Amherst as well, drawing its audience from the wider Pioneer Valley. The dynamic leadership of Music Director Paul Phillips provides professional musical direction for over 200 volunteer musicians.

In addition to the orchestra, the Pioneer Valley Symphony has a strong amateur chorus and chamber choir under the direction of Jonathan Harvey, and a youth orchestra directed by Jonathan Brennand.

Each year we offer seven symphonic concerts that include family, educational, and choral programs. In June and July, 2013, we began offering four Summer Sings for members of the community to get together and sing major choral works on an informal basis, often with soloists and instrumental accompaniment. Our Youth Orchestra performs two concerts a season.

The PVS created a much-loved education program for third- and fourth-graders in the Franklin County schools 22 years ago, consisting of a six-week classroom unit, visits to classrooms by PVS musicians, and a final education concert during the school day by the adult orchestra.

Membership in both orchestra and chorus is open to any qualified musician. Youth Orchestra membership is by audition for musicians ages 9 – 20.

Participants in the adult ensembles range in age from high school to retirement years. The geographically diverse membership of the orchestra—from 36 different communities in western Massachusetts, and six communities in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont—is testimony to the orchestra’s reputation and quality.

The Pioneer Valley Symphony has also gained national recognition for its programming of contemporary music, earning three ASCAP awards for adventurous programming: In 1997, 2011, and 2014.

What Makes Us Unique

The fifty musicians who presented the premiere concert of the Pioneer Valley Symphony in the Greenfield High School auditorium on December 10, 1939, became an organization that has enhanced the cultural life of thousands of music lovers here in Western Massachusetts for more than 76 years. When Alexander Leslie, the first conductor, led that group of dedicated and devoted amateur musicians through those early seasons and provided a wide ranging community with the opportunity to listen to and participate in music making of the highest quality, he established a tradition – a tradition of imaginative, creative, challenging programs that offered listeners the finest works from the symphonic repertoire. The enthusiasm and commitment of those “pioneer symphonists” prompted the NY Herald Tribune music critic, Virgil Thomson, to write: “The program was distinguished, the playing admirable. Rarely have I heard an amateur orchestral concert so glowing with musical life.”

That observation and praise is certainly applicable to today’s Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and Youth Orchestra. The musical forces assembled throughout the seasons past have presented programs that exemplify the reason for PVS – the love of making music. This season, which continues our tradition of providing exciting and challenging programs for an appreciative audience, promises much more of the same.