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The Music Foundation of Spartanburg: History

The Music Foundation of Spartanburg is dedicated to the purpose of enriching the Spartanburg community and surrounding areas through performance of classical music by the Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra, both for entertainment and educational outreach.

The rich musical history of Spartanburg has its roots in the 19th century. Converse College, founded in 1889, was the home of a series of annual three-day festivals, which started in 1895. Famed musicians, orchestras, and conductors from metropolitan centers of the Northeast performed at Converse. During these years the Spartanburg Civic Music Association (1884), later called the Spartanburg Music Festival Association, became the Music Foundation of Spartanburg in 1948.

Following the Great Depression in 1929 Spartanburg Music Festivals were revised to include musical talent from the community. Guy Hutchins, who studied at Wofford College, Clemson, and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, returned to Spartanburg where he started an all-volunteer orchestra using musicians from the area and music students from Converse College. As this group expanded and grew it became a permanent organization known as the Spartanburg Symphony Orchestra (SSO). Other conductors of this volunteer orchestra included Ernst Bacon (1938-1945) and Spanish conductor Pedro Sanjuan (1946-1952). Henry Janiec came to Converse in 1952 where he remained Dean of the School of Music and conductor of the orchestra until his retirement in 1995.

In 1995, the Music Foundation hired Dr. Bill Scott to take on the duties of conductor and Music Director of the symphony, and in a few short years, the orchestra became a paid professional organization with a new name, the Greater Spartanburg Philharmonic (GSO). Under his leadership, the Music Foundation launched several community outreach and education programs like Music Sandwiched In, and annual Youth Concert, and even an early version of today's Apprentice Program. After several years growing the GSO into a successful contract orchestra, Scott left Spartanburg in the spring of 2003 to take a position at Western Kentucky University.

An intensive search under the leadership of James W. Hudgens brought the esteemed conductor and Music Director, Sarah Ioannides to the podium in 2005. In celebration of this new chapter, the symphony was renamed the Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO). Ioannides served for 12 seasons with the SPO, and under her leadership, the orchestra presented the community: balanced and innovative programming for the symphony series; free concerts at the Spartanburg Public Library Headquarters and Barnet Park; creative programming for our youth in the schools; and SPO performances to school children in Carnegie Hall’s Link-up program.


Now, the SPO is embarking on a new phase, and searching for a new Music Director of the orchestra. Project Maestro is a year-long concert series featuring three candidates auditioning for the role. Click Here to learn how you can offer important, critical feedback in the selection process.



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