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2020: The State of the Orchestra

SLSO President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard reflects on the SLSO's 2019/2020 season and the year ahead.

Marie-Hélène Bernard, President and CEO, and Norman Eaker, Chair, Board of Trustees
Marie-Hélène Bernard, President and CEO, and Norman Eaker, Chair, Board of Trustees

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! We are deeply grateful for your support of and commitment to the mission of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. You make everything we do on stage and in the community possible—thank you.

This is a defining time in the life of our institution. Stéphane Denève’s arrival this season as Music Director has energized our SLSO family and we are excited about all that lies ahead with Stéphane at the artistic helm. As the Post-Dispatch noted, and as many of you have experienced, “He’s steadily winning over St. Louisans with his combination of personal charm, smart musical choices, and carefully thought-out programming.”

The remarkable collaboration between Stéphane and the musicians of the SLSO amplifies their shared traits including the genuine warmth of their sound, their versatility with repertoire across genre and time, championship of the music of our day, a deep affection for and commitment to the St. Louis community, and their singular welcoming and generous spirits.

Stéphane Denève

We welcome the new year with great anticipation. Next month, we will share with you plans for our 2020/2021 season, Stéphane’s second season as Music Director. There are extraordinary programs awaiting you through the remainder of the current season and we look forward to seeing you at Powell Hall for these! Two highlights of Stéphane’s programming this spring include one of Stéphane’s favorite works, Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, with a dream cast of soloists joining our St. Louis Symphony Chorus, and a symphonic play that fuses theater with music to bring the story of composer Maurice Ravel to life with Artist-in-Residence Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

All of us at the SLSO aspire to shape the orchestra of the future, making music accessible to all with meaningful initiatives: a new $15 ticket price for classical concerts, SLSO Crafted Happy Hour concerts, our sensory-friendly education concerts, free community concerts throughout the region, partnerships with other St. Louis institutions from Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to the St. Louis Blues, and our professional development workshops for teachers. These programs help make us stronger as a community. And the SLSO has been engaging the St. Louis region through this work for more than a century.

Youth Orchestra musicians in rehearsal
Youth Orchestra musicians in rehearsal

In 2020, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Youth Orchestra (YO), one of only a few programs in the country for young musicians that is under the umbrella of a major orchestra. This month, we honor this training program’s legacy with a free concert at Powell Hall, where current YO musicians will be joined by more than 80 YO alumni from 10 different states and as far away as Portland, Oregon. The alumni response to this reunion has been overwhelming and speaks to the tremendous and long-lasting impact our education programs have on generations of young people and the leaders they become in music, education, science, medicine, and more.

Our SLSO family—the orchestra, two choruses, Youth Orchestra, staff, Board, and Symphony Volunteer Association—has built a spirit of generosity to welcome and connect with audiences, as well as collaborate with partners in our region and beyond. We honor the proud traditions of the SLSO while incorporating creative ideas to shape the orchestra of the future.

Stéphane conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Stéphane conducts the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

As we look ahead to all that the new year will bring, I want to offer our special thanks to World Wide Technology and the Steward Family Foundation for their sponsorship of our 2019/2020 Classical Season. I also wish to extend my sincere thanks to you. Your support enables us to make meaningful artistic and economic impact in our region each year. We commit to being extraordinary stewards of your investment to enrich lives through the power of music. We look forward to welcoming you often at the SLSO in 2020.


Marie-Hélène Bernard

President and CEO


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