The Fort Collins Symphony
Our Mission, Vision, and History
To perform spectacular live orchestral music and host educational events as a means of inspiring, bringing joy and providing an environment that is entertaining, nurturing, and inclusive for all residents of and visitors to Northern Colorado.
The Fort Collins Symphony will continue to be a source of community pride as the leading regional orchestra with an expanding audience while achieving a national level of artistic excellence.
The Fort Collins Symphony is the oldest arts organization and the only professional symphonic orchestra in Larimer County. For almost 100 years, this orchestra and its forerunner have enriched lives, shaped the musical landscape of Northern Colorado, and served as an enduring cornerstone of our region’s cultural foundation.
The Fort Collins Symphony’s roots were planted in 1923 as the Fort Collins Concert Orchestra. Under the baton of Editha Todd Leonard, the volunteer musical ensemble was comprised of college students, teachers, and other community members. In 1948, Will Schwartz was a young violinist fresh out of New York City’s prestigious Juilliard School. He arrived in Fort Collins to become a professor of music at Colorado A&M College, now Colorado State University (CSU). Maestro Schwartz held his first rehearsal of the Fort Collins Symphony on October 5, 1949.
Schwartz’s talent and reputation quickly grew the volunteer ensemble. In the decades that followed, he recruited extraordinary talent, inspired a loyal following, and cemented respect for the orchestra–a legacy that remains in place today.
As the FCS matured, additional support was needed to manage its professional growth. The Fort Collins Symphonic Society (now the Fort Collins Symphony Association), incorporated in 1950 to provide programming guidance, personnel management, and fiscal oversight for the organization. In 1963, the Women’s Guild (now the Friends of the Symphony), was established to create special events and coordinate fundraising activities. Clare Wilber served as the Symphony’s first Executive Director from 1969 to 1984. Since then, a series of dedicated executive directors have worked to increase the Symphony’s accessibility and strengthen its reputation through exceptional programming, nationally recognized competitions, professional fundraising, and meaningful educational opportunities. Our current Executive Director, Mary Kopco, joined the FCS in February of 2015.
After 50 years on the podium, Maestro Schwartz stepped down as conductor of the Fort Collins Symphony in 1999. Fusao Kajima, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and University of Michigan, served as music director and conductor of the Symphony for the next two seasons. In 2003, the Fort Collins Symphony Association and CSU’s Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance announced the joint hiring of award-winning conductor Wes Kenney. In the spirit of true collaboration, Maestro Kenney serves as music director for the Fort Collins Symphony, CSU Symphony Orchestra, CSU Chamber Orchestra, Opera Fort Collins, and the Denver Young Artists Orchestra. He also teaches CSU’s graduate conducting course and appears as a guest conductor for orchestras around the world.
From its amateur beginnings to the professional orchestra we enjoy today, the Fort Collins Symphony is regarded as one of the premier cultural organizations in the greater Northern Colorado region. We are poised to build upon this tradition of excellence for years to come.