A cornerstone of cultural arts in Southeast Minnesota.
The Rochester Symphony was founded in 1919 as a professional performing arts organization called the Rochester Orchestra. Its earliest ensemble — the Lawler-Dodge Orchestra — was founded in 1912 as a volunteer orchestra motivated by their passion to play, driven by Daisy Plummer, wife of world famous Mayo Clinic physician, Dr. Henry Plummer and directed by Harold Cooke. In early years, the Orchestra appeared in the former Chateau Theatre where they performed background music for silent movies.
The Symphony has a rich heritage and legacy connected to Drs. Will & Charlie Mayo, founders of the world famous Mayo Clinic. The Drs. Mayo recognized the need for quality of life amenities in order to attract the best and brightest physicians from around the world to come to Rochester to live and work. Among these important offerings is the need for vibrant cultural arts. To ensure the community had an orchestra with the highest artistic excellence, they invested $7,500 from their personal monies annually to attract the best professional musicians and conductors from around the region and country to perform. Each year they would challenge the community to match that investment dollar for dollar. That investment today is equal to $94,500.
In 1936, the City of Rochester started a music department and the orchestra was a part of civic music until 1995 when the orchestra and chorale separated to once again become an independent nonprofit organization called the Rochester Symphony Orchestra & Chorale (RSOC). The RSOC received its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service in 1996.
Today, the Symphony remains an independent nonprofit that does not receive any local government funding, committed to serving the needs of the community and region through educational programs and high quality performances accessible to all and enriching quality of life. The orchestra consists of 70 professional musicians, half coming from Rochester and the surrounding region, including Northern Iowa and Western Wisconsin. The remaining members come from the twin cities metro area. A volunteer chorale of 80 people performs with the orchestra multiple times a season. All are proud to advance the art of music and serve the region’s demand for high-quality musical performance.
The Rochester Symphony is distinguished to have the artistic and administrative leadership of President/CEO & Artistic Director Jere Lantz. For over three decades, Maestro Lantz has inspired the Symphony and our region with his passion for excellence and his boundless energy. With a doctorate in Musical Arts from Yale University, Maestro Lantz is regionally and nationally recognized and has conducted orchestras from around the world. He believes in the importance of making music accessible to a broad audience, supporting local talent, and communicating to his audiences the human stories behind the music.
The Rochester Symphony invites you to attend one of its events and consider supporting the rich heritage and legacy of this benchmark cultural arts organization.
Photo by Shawn Fagan, Fagan Studios, 2016.