Who We Are
The Salisbury Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is a professional symphony orchestra home-based in Salisbury, North Carolina. The SSO consists of forty-five to ninety musicians that perform five to seven concerts annually, typically in Keppel Auditorium on the Catawba College campus or Varick Auditorium on the Livingstone College campus. We perform a large variety of repertoire from early classical works to recent pops selections, often with guest soloists and performers of note from all over the world. The Orchestra’s season finishes in June each year with the annual “Pops at the Post” celebration, a free, outdoor event held in downtown Salisbury near the Salisbury Post office building and co-sponsored by the Post, an event which brings more than a thousand visitors to Salisbury each year. The SSO also sponsors music-related educational programs, small group instruction and summer camps for local school-age children.
"The Salisbury Symphony seeks to educate, entertain, inspire, engage and enrich our community through orchestral music and other musical performances of the highest quality."
It is relatively rare for a municipality to host it's very own professional symphony orchestra, and rarer still that the hosting city is as small as Salisbury. But it is even less common to find such an orchestra which has existed continuously for over 52 years, and yet that is exactly what our community has in the Salisbury Symphony!
The idea of having a symphony orchestra here in Salisbury, North Carolina was first conceived by Dr. Samuel E. Duncan, the fifth president of Livingstone College in the early sixties. In the spring of 1966 he invited Dr. Donald C. Dearborn, then president of Catawba College, to collaborate with him to establish a community symphony. Together with the Salisbury City School System, the two colleges jointly hired Albert Chaffoo to organize the area's first symphony orchestra and to teach college and high school classes in music. Chaffoo, an Iranian-born college professor, had previously helped to create the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra - Iran's first symphony orchestra - and later conducted the Birmingham and Bournemouth Orchestras in London. Accepting a teaching position which brought him to the United States, he later directed the Asheville Symphony and was the founding Music Director for the Western Piedmont Symphony Orchestra (Hickory, NC) before coming to Salisbury.
The fledgling Salisbury Symphony Orchestra's first concert took place on November 6, 1967 in Keppel Auditorium of Catawba College. Professor Chaffoo continued to serve for fifteen years as a music educator for the community as well as the music director and conductor of the orchestra. When he retired 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 Professor Chaffoo as music director and conductor. Previously serving as 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 is credited with steering the Salisbury Symphony in a professional direction and persuaded the Board to hire the first business 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 expand its repertoire.
Following Dr. Fiske's resignation in 1987, the Board of Directors utilized guest conductors for the 1987-88 season while they conducted a national search for the next Music Director. Their search produced a contract with Dr. David Hagy in the summer of 1988.
Now, more than fifty years after our founding, the Salisbury Symphony has evolved to become a professional orchestra ranging from thirty to ninety musicians led by Music Director David Hagy. The Symphony performs seven programs each year; five "regular season" concerts divided between the Catawba and Livingstone College campuses, a Nutcracker Ballet performance in December and an annual “Pops at the Post” outdoor performance each year in June.
In 1972 the board of the Salisbury Symphony and the local board of the North Carolina Symphony merged to become the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony Society, and formally incorporated on March 2, 1973. The new board pledged to continue the longstanding tradition of sponsoring an annual "Education Concert" performance by the North Carolina Symphony expressly for school children in conjunction with the five-concert season of the Salisbury Symphony. After years of informally using the name "Salisbury Symphony," the Board changed the legal name of the organization to "Salisbury Symphony, Inc." on August 22, 2018.
The Salisbury-Rowan Symphony Guild was created in support of the Symphony in 1977, and since then has raised substantial funds and has rendered invaluable service to the board, the orchestra, and the entire community.
One of the Salisbury Symphony’s primary purposes is providing symphonic music-related cultural and educational experiences to the area’s school-age children. With support from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Rowan Arts Council and other local organizations, foundations and individuals, the Symphony privides an “After-School Strings” program in several schools, the countywide Salisbury Symphony Youth Orchestra and a series of special “Miniconcert” performances each year where, each Fall, a classical musica trio or quartet demonstrates the use of their instruments and gives a short performance for elementary children in every elementary school in Rowan County.
The Salisbury Symphony, a registered nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, receives funding from the North Carolina Arts Council, The Rowan Arts Council, Catawba College, Livingstone College, Rowan County, the City of Salisbury, and other local foundations and organizations. In addition, the Symphony obtains some 40% of its annual budget through funding support from individuals and local members of the community like you, who recognize the true value of having one of the state’s art treasures - a professional symphony orchestra - based here in Salisbury.
Maestro Albert Chaffoo returned in May of 2007 to direct the Salisbury Symphony on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Symphony's founding. He was 90 years old at the time; he died just 3 years later.