The Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra
Founded in 1938
The Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra is a full symphony orchestra which was founded in 1938 by three Cleveland area musicians - bass clarinetist Alfred Zetzer, oboist Robert Zupnik, and cellist Irving Klein - who all went on to professional careers. The orchestra's early membership consisted of players who were interested in gaining experience and familiarity with works they might encounter later in life if they pursued careers in music.
Over the years, the Philharmonic has expanded its focus to provide musicians of all ages and professions a means of learning and performing symphonic music. The Philharmonic prides itself in presenting outstanding programs to audiences in the greater Cleveland area. The Orchestra is comprised of about 60 musicians and performs six concerts each season at Cuyahoga Community College Metro, Parma, and Highland Hills campuses. A modest ticket price enables families and seniors to afford programs which are comparable to the quality of significantly more expensive offerings.
Dr. F. Karl Grossman of Western Reserve University was the Orchestra’s first conductor and remained its Music Director for its first quarter century. Beginning in 1963, this position was filled by conductors George Cleve, Zoltan Rosznyai, Jose Serebrier, Robert Marcellus, and John Ross. William B. Slocum, served as Music Director from 1981 through 2007. The Cleveland Philharmonic’s current Music Director, Victor Liva, began his first season with the orchestra as it celebrated its 70th concert season in 2007-2008.
The Philharmonic has traditionally presented outstanding Cleveland area musicians as well as artists of international stature in its roster of soloists. Annually, since 1973, the Philharmonic has sponsored the Frieda Schumacher Young Artist Competition. This statewide competition is open to music students of high school age who audition for a cash award and the opportunity of performing a full length concerto with the Orchestra at one of its regular season concerts. Over the years, Cleveland, American, and world premieres of new music have been presented by the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra.
Beyond the regular season, the Philharmonic has become involved in various community activities. It was the first symphonic group in Cleveland to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This annual concert has been a tradition at Cuyahoga Community College attracting capacity audiences for many years. The Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra Chamber Ensemble, which was formed during the 2002/2003 season, consists of players from within the CPO and performs for welcoming and enthusiastic audiences in Cleveland area churches and at other community venues.
SYMPHONIC JOURNEY, Con Amore, a History of the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra was published in 2003. It was written by Robert Finn, former music critic of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, freelance writer, teacher, lecturer and arts advocate. The book recounts the orchestra’s 1938 founding and history in detail and contains many photographs and reproductions of early Philharmonic programs and newspaper reviews. There are extensive appendices that list players, conductors, repertory and winners of the orchestra’s Young Artist Competition through the years.
In all its endeavors, the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra is mindful of the organization's Mission Statement, which reads as follows:
The Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra provides a quality musical and educational contribution to the Northeast Ohio community by skilled and dedicated musicians from all walks of life. The orchestra performs symphonic music at a high artistic standard in an environment that is welcoming for audiences and musicians.
Post Office Box 16251 § Cleveland OH 44116 § (216)556-1800 ▪ www.clevephil.org