of the Merced Symphony Association
Merced Symphony began as a community orchestra in 1958 when
a small group of local musicians under the leadership of
Vern Taylor decided to organize and call themselves the
Merced Concert Orchestra with Richard B. Lewis as conductor.
The first concerts were held in the Merced High School auditorium
on ‘G’ Street and the Hoover Junior High gymnasium.
In 1962 the orchestra incorporated as the Merced Symphony
Association. Richard Lewis continued as conductor until
1963 when Nicolas Iacovetti of Fresno replaced him. During
the 1970’s and 1980’s the orchestra had only
three permanent conductors: Jack Fortner (1971-1978); Rhonda
Kess (1979-1981); and Lloyd Elliot (1981-1990). The Symphony
then saw a series of guest conductors until Leonard Ingrade
(1994 – 1996), and Charles Barber (1996-1998), were
hired to lead the orchestra.
Henrik Jul Hansen was selected by the Association Board
in 1999 to serve as Music Director and continues in that
capacity. Under Maestro Hansen’s leadership the Symphony
has continued to grow artistically and the orchestra has
been expanded for increasingly larger venues.
Throughout the history of the Merced Symphony, the goal
has always been to provide the community with the best possible
classical music. This includes introducing young people
to symphonic music by presenting children’s and family
concerts as well as honoring youth winners in auditions
in voice and instrument. Several of these students have
excelled in their instruments and continue to play professionally.
This year the symphony board is formatting a new program,
called the Merced Area Youth Orchestra (known by the acronym
MAYO), which will focus on K-5 elementary students in areas
with low socio-economic levels, and enable children whose
parents cannot afford music lessons for their children to
learn to play an instrument.
Merced Symphony is beginning its sixth season at UC Merced
with two concerts under the Arts UC Presents program. In
2012 the Fall Concert was moved from the Lakireddy Auditorium
on the UC-Merced campus to the historical Merced Theatre
in downtown Merced which accommodates a larger audience.
The symphony board is pleased that our audience is continuing
to expand, because the symphony is a valued part of the
culture and arts in Merced County.