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Our History

Kansas City Symphony PHOTO

Founded by R. Crosby Kemper, Jr., in 1982, the Kansas City Symphony has established itself as a major force in the cultural life of the community. Praised for performances of uncompromising standard, the orchestra is the largest in the region and enjoys a national reputation under the artistic leadership of Music Director Michael Stern. 

The Kansas City Symphony also experienced impressive artistic growth through its history and under the batons of Russell Patterson (1982-1986), William McGlaughlin (1986-1997) and Anne Manson (1998-2003). Jason Seber, David T. Beals III Assistant Conductor, conducts the Family, Pops and Classics Uncorked concerts. Charles Bruffy is the chorus director.

The Kansas City Symphony serves a metropolitan population of 2.1 million people. The orchestra’s 80 full-time musicians are area residents and vital contributors to the artistic life of Kansas City. During its 42-week season, the Symphony performs a wide variety of subscription, educational, touring and outreach concerts. In addition, the Kansas City Symphony performs with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet.


The Kansas City Symphony is governed by a Board of Directors under the leadership of Board Chair William M. Lyons and is administered by a full-time professional staff led by Executive Director Frank Byrne. In addition, the Kansas City Symphony benefits from the dedicated efforts of its volunteer associations.

The Symphony’s five auxiliaries, with total membership of more than 700, raise more than $1 million annually, making them some of the most successful orchestra volunteer forces in the nation.


The Kansas City Symphony has demonstrated a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility. From a budget of $1.5 million in its first season, the Symphony’s annual operating budget has grown to more than $16 million. Major gifts from the Board, local foundations and individuals have created an endowment that is in excess of $70 million. The Symphony’s annual fund campaign and other fundraising events are integral to our continued success.


The vision of the Symphony’s education department is to enable people of all ages in the greater Kansas City area to learn, create and become inspired through orchestral music. More than 54,000 people participate in Kansas City Symphony education programs annually. Most popular are the John and Marny Sherman Education Series — KinderKonzerts, Young People’s Concerts and Link Up — performed for more than 30,000 students and teachers annually.

Several thousand more are involved with the Symphony through activities including the Open Rehearsal Series, Bush and Jamie Helzberg Instrument Petting Zoo program and Charles and Virginia Clark Inside Music Series. Dozens of area student musicians participate in the Woman’s City Club Charitable Foundation Young Artist Competition, where the winner is awarded a cash prize and the opportunity to perform with the Kansas City Symphony. The Symphony’s Bill and Peggy Lyons Support School Music program takes the orchestra into area schools to perform a concert and all ticket sales directly benefit the school district’s music department. Since the program’s inception, more than $152,000 has been generated for school music education programs. Recently, the Symphony has piloted new music education programs and partnerships, including Petite Performances for ages 0-6.


The Symphony has released six recordings on the Reference Recordings label — “Shakespeare’s Tempest,” the Grammy®-winning “Britten’s Orchestra,” an Elgar/Vaughan Williams project, “Miraculous Metamorphoses,” an all-Saint-Saëns CD featuring the magnificent “Organ” Symphony, and most recently, the music of contemporary American composer Adam Schoenberg (recorded June 2014). Additional projects have been recorded and slated for future release, including Holst’s The Planets (recorded January 2015), and an album featuring one-movement symphonies by Barber, Scriabin and Sibelius. The Symphony’s concerts with internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato were featured on the national PBS Summer Arts Series in July 2012. The DVD, “Homecoming: Kansas City Symphony Presents Joyce DiDonato” may be purchased on the Symphony website or by calling the Symphony box office at (816) 471-0400. The Grammy®-nominated audio recording of the complete performance may be downloaded from iTunes. 

In addition, the Symphony has taped three nationally broadcast PBS television specials and performed on National Public Radio, including on the prestigious SymphonyCast series. Highlights of Classical Series performances are broadcast Thursdays at 9 p.m. on KCUR-FM 89.3, Kansas City’s National Public Radio affiliate.

Adam Schoenberg: American Symphony; Finding Rothko; Picture Studies January 2017 | Reference Recordings
Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 “Organ.”  June 2015 | Reference Recordings
Miraculous MetamorphosesMarch 2014 | Reference Recordings
Enigma Variations: The Wasps / Greensleeves January 2013 | Reference Recordings
Homecoming: Kansas City Symphony Presents Joyce DiDonato July 2012 | PBS
Britten’s Orchestra, November 2009 | Reference Recordings
Shakespeare’s Tempest, July 2008 | Reference Recordings