The Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra made its debut as a community orchestra on April 15, 1961. Conducted by Arlo Deibler, the Symphony had 24 musicians and performed in community centers and schools. A year later, the Symphony Chorus was formed and the organization became known as the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Association.
Maestro Deibler led the Symphony for 25 years and then passed the baton to Joseph Eger, who continued with the Symphony for the next four seasons.
In 1990, Paul Nadler, a staff conductor with the New York Metropolitan Opera and founder of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, was appointed Music Director and Conductor. Nadler launched the Sanibel Series in 1998 as an avenue in which to take classical music out into the community.
In 2001, the Symphony welcomed ever-entertaining Pops conductor Carl Topilow and Joseph Caulkins as Director of Choruses. Caulkins launched the Stained Glass Series in the fall of 2002 to showcase the talent of the chorus.
In our 2005/2006 season, we bid farewell to Carl Topilow and Maestro Nadler, who have an enduring role with us as Conductor Emeritus.
For several seasons world-renowned Pops Conductor Eric Kunzel conducted several pops concerts.
Excitement reigned in 2006/2007 as we embarked on the search for our new Music Director – only the 4th in the Orchestra's history. Over 250 applied. Seven were invited to conduct. The unanimous response of our patrons and musicians selected Michael Hall as the Symphony’s new Music Director and Conductor.
Maestro Hall with his talent, passion, energy and infectious love of music expanded our reach, sharing the gift of music to more people in communities through the Sanibel Series and our educational and community engagement programs.
The 2010-2011 Season marked the 50th anniversary of the Southwest Florida Symphony. We are proud to be among Lee County's oldest performing arts organizations and look forward to another 50 years of educating and entertaining the Southwest Florida communities.