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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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DUBUQUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA. The Dubuque Symphony, the oldest symphony in Iowa, began in 1902 when by November eight rehearsals had been held. (1) Edward J. SCHROEDER, a musician who had performed with the Chicago Symphony and conducted a violin conservatory on the third floor of his home at 1450 Iowa Street, was the leader. By 1915 the orchestra was composed of forty-two musicians including a violin section of twenty-six. In February of that year a schedule of local concerts and bookings in nearby cities was announced. (2)

The annual spring concert of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra in 1928 was a special occasion as it marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the organization. Unfortunately the stage space available at the COLUMBIA COLLEGE auditorium only allowed fifty of the musicians to perform. (3)

Photo courtesy: Paul Hemmer and the Telegraph Herald
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

By 1937 with students from the Dubuque high schools and the colleges, this became the (Catholic Youth Organization) CYO-Civic Symphony Orchestra at the suggestion of Archbishop Francis J.L. BECKMAN. With additional musicians from outside the city and within the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE, the group led by Edward Wendell SCHROEDER performed at CLARKE COLLEGE and LORAS COLLEGE.

As it is organized in 2018, the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1957. With Dr. Parvis Mahmoud, a University of Dubuque associate professor of music, serving as the conductor, the University of Dubuque Symphonic Orchestra performed its first concert in Peters Commons on the university campus on December 11, 1957. (4)

That same year University of Dubuque President Dr. Gaylord M. COUCHMAN, Music Chair Dr. Doy Baker, and supporters of the Arts, Drs. Paul Laube and Clark Stevens, began efforts to change the name of the orchestra to the University Civic Orchestra to recognize that members came from both the university and Dubuque community. (5)

The change in name occurred in the 1959-1960 season and Dr. Stevens was elected the first President of the Board of Directors. The orchestra would provide three to four programs a year with outside soloists. They would also schedule their performances in locations larger than Peters Commons, and the cost of the performances would be covered by the selling of tickets. By the 1961-1962 season they performed each of their four concerts in the auditorium of DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. (6)

The board chose to change the name again in 1963. The Dubuque Symphony Orchestra (DSO) reflected the fact that the University of Dubuque chose to give up all governing rights. On October 20, 1963 the first performance of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra was held at Terrence Donahue Hall at CLARKE COLLEGE. (7)

Under Mahmoud’s directorship, the DSO grew in size and prestige. After 26 years as conductor he retired in 1985. Nicholas PALMER was named the DSO’s second Music Director and Conductor in 1986. Under Maestro Palmer’s direction, the orchestra continued to grow steadily in size, ticket sales and public support. The number of concerts performed increased from five in the 1985-1986 season to 27 in the 1991-1992 season. Maestro Palmer was named Conductor Emeritus of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra in 1999 in recognition of his service to the orchestra. (8)

During the 1999-2000 season, the DSO conducted a nationwide search to fill Maestro Palmer’s position. The Board of Directors together with the patrons of the DSO, overwhelmingly chose William INTRILIGATOR to be the third Music Director and Conductor of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra. Under Maestro Intriligator’s leadership the Symphony added opera productions to the season, doubling the number of education concerts and forming new partnerships in the community. (9)

In 2013 the public was invited to a free performance of the orchestra as part of a public television special filmed in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The concert "Ethan Bortnick--Live in Concert," featured the twelve-year-old pianist who was raising money for Parkinson's research. (10)

In 2015 with twenty-five concerts and performances, the symphony recorded 19,000 people in attendance. This included 2,500 at the Music in the Gardens concert in June at the DUBUQUE ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL GARDENS, the ensemble's best-attended event of the year. In the same year, 106 young musicians participated in the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra's youth orchestra program--one student short of a record. (11)

In the spring of 2011 Dubuque Symphony Orchestra and the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT began the Adopt a Musician program. Three musicians were "adopted" by the 4th grade classes at Bryant, Marshall and Prescott elementary schools. Their purpose of was to enhance the music education of the children by serving as musical ambassadors and teaching artists in the schools. (12)

Adopt a Musician was been expanded to 14 schools and 10 musicians. In addition to Bryant, Marshall and Prescott, other elementary schools including Audubon, Carver, Eisenhower, Fulton, Irving, Kennedy, Table Mound, Holy Ghost, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Anthony, Resurrection and St. Columbkille Catholic Elementary joined in the program. The musicians and teachers work together to plan lessons that will help the students reach the 4th grade standards and expectations in music. The DSO musicians demonstrate their musical instruments, engage the students in music making and discussion, encourage the students to play a musical instrument and answer questions. Each school is able to adopt their DSO musician at no cost. (13)

In addition to the Dubuque Symphony Youth Orchestra which in 2018 had been in existence for more than 45 years, the DSO’s youth education programs included the Dubuque Youth String Ensemble, the Dubuque Youth Philharmonia, an annual concerto competition, master-classes, side-by-side concerts, coaching sessions, a summer string camp and chamber music camp, and Arts Trek, which included seven free, full symphony concerts for thousands of third and fifth graders each year. Additionally, the youth orchestras completed an intensive residency with world-class violinist Midori and hosted its first Symphony Day for area middle school string players. (14)

The 1942 Dubuque Classified Business Directory through 1962 Dubuque City Directory listed 1450 Iowa.

VIDEO HISTORY OF THE SYMPHONY:http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFE5B00105072B400



1. "Society Column," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, November 23, 1902, p. 3

2. "Orchestra to Give Concerts," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, February 9, 1915, p. 12

3. "Local Symphony Orchestra Planning Spring Concert May 21," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, May 8, 1928, p. 5

4. Dubuque Symphony Orchestra. "Orchestra History," Online: http://www.dubuquesymphony.org/about-us/orchestra-history

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. "Dubuque Symphony Orchestra to Perform for TV Special," Telegraph Herald, July 10, 2013, p. 3

11. "2015: A By-The-Numbers Review of the Year in the Tri-States," Telegraph Herald, January 3, 2016, p. 2

12. Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, "Adopt a Musician," Online: http://www.dubuquesymphony.org/education-outreach/adopt-a-musician

13. Ibid.

14. Dubuque Symphony Orchestra,"New Youth Orchestra Conductor," Online: http://www.dubuquesymphony.org/media-gallery/press-room/dubuque-symphony-hires-new-youth-orchestra-conductor