The Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra (GGFSO) is a community orchestra based in Grand Forks, North Dakota that began operation in 1908. One of only a handful of American orchestras to have surpassed their centennial year, the symphony employs local and regional musicians in performances of classical and modern symphonic music. It’s mission – “to put excellence on stage.”
Fourteen conductors have held the post of Music Director during the life of the symphony.
- George Stout – 1908-1910
- William Wellington Norton – 1911-1918
- E.H. Wilcox 1918
- Fred Biedelman
- Knute Fraysaa thru 1930
- John E. Howard – 1930 – 1933
- Leo M. Haesle – 1933 – 1965
- Bill Pond – 1965 – 1966
- Thomas Facey – 1966-1971
- Jack Miller – 1971-1983
- John Deal – 1983 – 1994
- Tim Rolek – 1995-2005
- James Hannon – 2006-2009
- Alexander Platt – 2010 – 2014
- Alejandro Drago – 2015 – Present
Famed composers brought their batons to Grand Forks: Ernst von Dohnanyi conducted in 1955 and Gunther Schuller in 1978. Yehudi Menuhin, the most notable soloist to appear in the symphony’s history, performed in 1962.
Recent events with the symphony have included a two year residency from 2003-2005 by the Chiara String Quartet; participation in 2009 with a consortium of American orchestras presenting the premier of Joseph Schwantner’s “Chasing Light” made possible through a grant from Ford Motor Company; Celebrating the 100th anniversary season (one of only 18 American orchestras to achieve that milepost) with a season opening Beethoven 9 under the baton of Music Director, James Hannon; presenting the North American premiere of the “Temporal Variations for Oboe and Strings” by Benjamin Britten, featuring Philip McKenzie as soloist, conducted by Music Director Alexander Platt; and another North American premiere of Britten, “Movements of a Clarinet Concerto” written for Benny Goodman but not completed by the composer. That performance on October 1, 2011 was performed by the orchestra’s then principal clarinetist, Douglas Monroe, conducted by Alexander Platt.
In the spring of 2012, the Symphony announced a four-year goal to explore the heritage of our region through the music of composers who came from the same areas where our grandparents and great grand parents came from. During the 2012-2013 season, the group is focusing much of its repertoire on the prevalent German heritage we share. Following years will highlight our Russian heritage, our Norwegian heritage, and our American heritage.
The Symphony is now also pursuing a goal to reach audiences that may not normally hear great live music; small groups from the Symphony will perform music in many types of venues from churches to homes to shops to municipal buildings. With a new program begun in September 2012, the Symphony expects to produce between 15 and 20 additional outreach performances each season under the program, “Random Acts of Music.”
The Symphony has long directed its unique capabilities toward opportunities for young people in the communities it serves. When you support the Symphony, you support the Symphony’s efforts to increase awareness, build understanding, and teach professional level skills required for the live performance of music.
- The Greater Grand Forks Symphony UND String Quartet Scholarship – The Association recognizes the donors who have committed to fund a UND String Quartet Scholarship for four years. 100% of their designated donation is forwarded to the UND Foundation from the Symphony for this purpose. The student recipient of the Symphony’s scholarship for the 2012-2013 season is cellist Austin Soderstrom. Patrons of this scholarship are Tamar Read, Margaret Bundlie, and Glen & Nancy Yoshida.
- First Exposure Concerts – Each spring the Symphony performs a special concert for the grade school children of the region. Music is selected just for them, demonstrating the elements of music and musical instruments to build excitement and knowledge in what, for many students, is their first concert experience. Young Artist Concerto Competition – Young people from within a 120-mile radius from Grand Forks up to 22 years of age can compete for a chance to perform a concerto movement with the Symphony in concert.
- Family Concerts – currently in the planning phase, the Symphony is designing programs for the entire family so that music can be experienced outside of school and among family where so much appreciation for music is nurtured.
- Master classes – many of our guest artists perform lessons, lectures, and/or master classes for students, sharing their expertise as professional performers. In the autumn of 2012 the Chiara Quartet worked with students in Grand Forks and Thief River Falls; the pianist, Stephen Hargreaves gave both piano and vocal master classes to students of the University of North Dakota.
- Ticket sponsorship – For many performances of the Symphony, musicians in the Northern Valley Youth Orchestras and others will receive free or nearly free tickets to hear live performances. Performing with the Symphony – the very best young performers in the region can audition to become regular or extra members of the orchestra for its subscription season Our concerts can include students from the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, Concordia Univeristy, Lincoln High School (Thief River Falls), Warroad High School, and Red River High School in Grand Forks.