Founded in 1871 as the “University Orchestra,” the Cornell Orchestras program is one of the oldest organizations on campus. Composed today of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra and the Cornell Chamber Orchestra, it was created by a community of students who sought to perform music for the enjoyment of the community. The ensembles are made of approximately 100 young musicians dedicated to performing symphonic repertoire from the Western classical canon (Bach-Shostakovich), as well as contemporary works of our time. Currently directed by interim director Michelle Di Russo, the orchestras present 7 to 8 concerts a season, including the Annual Young Person’s concert, as well as one where the Cornell Concerto Competition performs with the orchestra.
The Cornell Orchestras also tour both domestically and internationally. These tours provide an incredible opportunity for young musicians to see the world, perform in world-class venues with top professional organizations around the world, bond as a group, and form life-long friendships; international destinations have included Taiwan, Argentina, Ireland, Puerto Rico, and Germany.
Guest conductors have included the late Leon Fleisher, Johannes Schlaefli (Zurich Hochschule), and Larry Rachleff (Rice University), and the orchestra has collaborated with many of today’s most prominent composers, including Roberto Sierra and the late Steven Stucky. Guest soloists who have appeared with the CSO in recent seasons include Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Xak Bjerken (piano), Ariana Kim (violin), Tim Feeney (percussion), and Inbal Segev (cello). The orchestras present premieres and commissions of new music each season. The Cornell Orchestras have also been named one of the top 20 college orchestras in the country by Online Schools Center. The CSO has been distinguished with six awards in seven years with the ASCAP prizes in the Collegiate Division by the League of American Orchestras, most recently in the 2017-18 season.
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