The West Michigan Symphony is a widely recognized professional orchestra and proud to be a leader in West Michigan’s cultural community for the past 72 years.
Every Orchestra Tells Its Own Story….
The first half of the 20th century witnessed tremendous expansion in numbers of symphony orchestras in the United States. While some were permanent, fully professional enterprises from the start, far more orchestras were comprised of avocational musicians or a mix of professionals and non-professionals. Many of these community orchestras came into being through the efforts of a local conductor or musicians; others were formed because a group of music lovers decided that the community needed an orchestra to establish its cultural identify.
Mr. A. M. Courtright, a Muskegon Heights teacher, and Mr. Palmer Quackenbush are credited with early pioneering efforts to provide Muskegon with a symphony orchestra. In November, 1938 a musical group of 40 members presented its first concert with Mr. Quackenbush conducting and Mr. Courtright assisting. The group incorporated the following year and elected its first Board of Directors.
Performances were initially held in area schools, eventually moving into Downtown Muskegon’s historic Frauenthal Theater. Conductors have included Tauno Hannikainen, Hugo Kolberg, Wayne Dunlap, Lyman Starr, John Wheeler, Philip Greenberg, Murray Gross, and current Music Director Scott Speck.
In 1975 the orchestra first hired a professional manager. This effort, along with expanded artistic direction by dedicated and talented conductors, provided the climate for the orchestra to seriously organize, sell tickets, raise funds, and continue forward momentum. In the 1978-79 concert season, the orchestra began to charge admission to concerts and changed from single presentations to concert pairs.
On May 10, 2009, the West Shore Symphony Orchestra became the West Michigan Symphony. Given the growing presence as a regional orchestra and the fact that many musicians come from across the area, the new name better explains the symphony and is easier for people to identify. At the same time the West Michigan Symphony formalized it relationship with the youth symphony by assuming its operations, now formally known as the West Michigan Youth Symphony.
Today the West Michigan Symphony presents eight pairs of subscription concerts (five classical and three pops) in the historic Frauenthal Theater. Built in 1929, the 1726 seat theater has undergone a $7.5 million renovation that restored it to its original Spanish Renaissance splendor while also creating a spacious modern lobby linking the Frauenthal with the adjacent 180-seat Beardsley Theatre. With its extraordinary beauty, excellent acoustics and sight lines, the Frauenthal Theatre is praised by artists and audiences alike. The Frauenthal’s purchase of a concert grand Steinway Piano in 1999 has added immeasurably to our ability to program and present some of the world’s finest pianists playing the most beloved piano concertos.
With the prime location of its performance hall and offices in the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts at the intersection of Downtown Muskegon’s Western Avenue and Third Street, the West Michigan Symphony is proud to be a key player in this period of renaissance that will bring a renewed vitality and life to the center of the city.
WMS Mission Statement
The West Michigan Symphony is recognized for musical passion and excellence, engaging our communities through innovation and education to inspire and enrich lives.
WMS Core Values
- Community Focus