The Kansas City Symphony was Kansas City‘s first symphony orchestra, formed in 1911 for Carl Busch. It closed its doors at the start of World War I because the majority of the musicians were sent off to fight. Kansas City’s second symphony orchestra was the Kansas City Philharmonic, founded in 1933 and ceased in 1982. Months later, businessman and philanthropist R. Crosby Kemper, Jr. founded the Kansas City Symphony after realizing the dire need for a local symphony. Kemper chose a group of other prominent businessmen, including Hallmark Cards Chairman and CEO Donald J. Hall, Sr. and H&R Block co-founder Henry W. Bloch, to be the founding trustees. This first board established the Symphony’s initial endowment. They also directed the Symphony’s mission to “advance and advocate the art of classical music for the enrichment of the community.”
The Kansas City Symphony’s previous home was the Lyric Theatre, housed there until 2011, when they moved to Helzberg Hall, inside the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Notable Achievements of the Kansas City Symphony
In 2002, the Kansas City Symphony was instrumental in developing the Concert Companion, led by then-executive director Roland Valliere. Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Concert Companion was tested by the Kansas City Symphony, as well as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Aspen Music Festival, and Oakland East Bay Symphony.
Facts about the Kansas City Symphony
The Kansas City Symphony currently has 80 full-time local musicians. Each year, the symphony plays a 42-week season, which includes subscription concerts, educational concerts, regional and national tours, and public outreach concerts. The Symphony also performs music for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet.
The Symphony is supported by seven specialized auxiliary groups as well as support from ordinary donations and concert proceeds. These seven auxiliary groups raise approximately $900,000 each year. Fund-raising events include Kansas City’s main debutante ball, the Jewel Ball, the Symphony Ball, the Designers’ Showhouse (a designer showcase house expo in Kansas City’s Country Club District which chooses one historic home to renovate each year), a Friends of the Symphony Gift Shop, and a docent program for educational concerts.
In 1995, the Kansas City Symphony released its first CD, American Voices, conducted by William McGlaughlin. Next, the Sound of Kansas City CD debuted in 2004. In July 2008 the Symphony released Gordon Chin’s Formosa Seasons on the Naxos label, and two settings for Shakespeare’s Tempest (by Arthur Sullivan and Jean Sibelius) with Reference Recordings. The Symphony released Britten’s Orchestra, in 2009, a Vaughan Williams/Elgar disc in 2013 and a Hindemith/Prokofiev/Bartok disc in 2014 also with Reference Recordings. The Kansas City Symphony has also performed on National Public Radio (NPR) and has participated in two nationally broadcast PBS television specials, such as Homecoming: The Kansas City Symphony presents Joyce DiDonato, recorded in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Every week during the Symphony’s season, KCUR-FM broadcasts highlights of Symphony performances.