The idea of a symphony orchestra in Salisbury, North Carolina was conceived by Dr. Samuel E. Duncan, fifth president of Livingstone College in the early sixties. In the spring of 1966, he collaborated with Dr. Donald C. Dearborn, then president of Catawba College, to establish a symphony. The two colleges and the Salisbury City School System jointly hired Albert Chaffoo to organize the first orchestra and to teach for them. The first concert was presented on November 6, 1967 in Keppel Auditorium of Catawba College.
In 1972 the board of the Salisbury Symphony and the local board of the North Carolina Symphony merged to become the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra. The new board continued to present a performance by the North Carolina Symphony which they now promote with the Salisbury Symphony in a five-concert season. The new board also continued the long-standing tradition of presenting concerts for school children by the North Carolina Symphony.
Since 1977, the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony Guild, now the Friends of the Symphony, has raised substantial funds for the Society and renders invaluable service to the board, the orchestra, and the entire community.
The Salisbury Symphony's first conductor, Albert Chaffoo, served for fifteen years as a music educator for the community and as the music director and conductor of the orchestra. When he left Salisbury in 1982 he observed, "I think I've done what I wanted to do here. I leave Salisbury with a symphony I think I can be proud of."
Dr. Douglas Meyer succeeded Mr. Chaffoo as music director and conductor. Coming from conductor of the orchestras at Luther College in Iowa, Mr. Meyer challenged the community and the orchestra by leading the orchestra in its first performance of a Mahler symphony, the fourth. He steered the Salisbury Symphony in a professional direction and persuaded the Board to hire a manager. He served from 1982 to 1984.
The following season the board engaged Dr. Richard Fiske, a faculty member at the North Carolina School of the Arts, as music director and conductor. Dr. Fiske continued to refine the musical quality of the orchestra and to extend its repertoire.
Following Dr. Fiske's resignation in 1987, the Board of Directors conducted a national search, utilizing guest conductors for the 1987-88 season, and subsequently employing Music Director David Hagy in the summer of 1988.
The Salisbury Symphony Orchestra is now a professional orchestra ranging from thirty to ninety musicians and is led by Music Director David Hagy. Annually it performs six concerts on the Catawba and Livingstone College campuses and outdoors each June at the Salisbury Post. Its players come from Rowan County and throughout the Piedmont. The orchestra performs a large variety of repertoire from early to modern and classical to pops.
The Salisbury Symphony Orchestra raises its $350,000 budget from ticket sales, program ads, and contributions from dedicated individuals and corporations. It is also supported by the city and county governments, the North Carolina Arts Council, and Catawba and Livingstone Colleges.
In addition to providing fine music and educational opportunities for its citizens, the Salisbury Symphony is a source of cultural pride for the Salisbury-Rowan community.