Mission & History
To entertain, educate, and inspire through music. The Peoria Symphony Orchestra presents excellent live musical performances, innovative music education programs, and engaging community outreach efforts, which significantly impact the cultural life of Central Illinois.
Now in its 125th season, the Peoria Symphony Orchestra was first known as the Bradley Symphony Orchestra under the direction and vision of musician and conductor Harold Plowe. On November 24, 1897, the Peoria Journal Star newspaper wrote: “An orchestra is to be organized under the auspices of the Bradley Institute for the study of orchestral compositions of the best masters, classic and modern. It will be open to all persons who possess the requisite musical skill and are otherwise suitable for membership. The orchestra will be under the general supervision of Dr. C.T. Wyckoff of the Institute. It will be directed by Harold Plowe, whose experience as a teacher and conductor especially fit him for this service. It is hoped to make this a permanent feature of the educational work of the institute and Peoria.” Nineteen years later, on December 5, 1916, the Bradley Symphony Orchestra incorporated and was renamed the “Peoria Symphony Orchestra.”
In its first performance that month at the Shrine Temple, the playbill carried a notice reading: “Financial help and moral support are necessary to further the aims of this institution. Will not our citizens contribute these essentials in this worthy cause?” This is a question that the Peoria community answered and continues to answer with a resounding “Yes!”
Conductor Plowe retired in 1927. For the next 50 years, nearly a dozen different conductors directed our symphony. In 1978, Dr. William Wilsen took the podium and remained for 21 years, the longest reign since that of Harold Plowe. Under Wilsen’s direction, the Peoria Symphony rose to a new level and experienced our centennial celebration. In 1989 we were acclaimed nationally and internationally when we played in Germany at the International Bodensee Festival. After Wilsen’s retirement in 1999, David Commanday was music director until 2008.
During the 2009-2010 season, the PSO auditioned seven talented conductors, chosen from a pool of over 250 world-wide applicants. In June of 2010, George Stelluto was selected to become the PSO’s new Music Director beginning with the opening concert of the 2010-2011 season on September 18, 2010.