MUSO History

Long and Distinguished

by Mary Rebekah Ward Dicken

(Click here for an partial list of the group's repertoire since 1915.)

The First Years

The Miami University Orchestra dates back as far as 1890 to the Miami Stringed Orchestra, which consisted entirely of banjos, mandolin, guitars, and piccolo-banjos.

It was not until 1903, however, that the Miami University Symphony Orchestra was officially founded. At its inception, this twelve-member ensemble, under the direction of Dr. S. S. Meyers, served to play each morning in the university chapel service and at most university functions. An article in the December 1904 edition of The Miami Student reads in part, "...since its organization a year ago, [the Miami orchestra] has perhaps contributed more to the pleasure of the college life of Miami than any other organization..." An editorial in the January 1905 Miami Student later boasts, "Both students and faculties can feel justly proud of our Orchestra. It is a living exemplification of the precept, that whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well...it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is the flower of the music department." Soon after 1905, however, the orchestra was forced to disband as the number of instrumentalists at the university dwindled. Ten years later, in 1915, plans to revive the orchestra were undertaken. The Miami Student announced on November 25, 1915, "The development of the university orchestra is well under way, for the most difficult part of the process -- that of securing the talent, was easily accomplished." The premiere of this new ensemble took place on December 15, 1916, in the First Concert of the Miami University Orchestra with a 44-member ensemble held in Hall Auditorium under the direction of noted composer and conductor Joseph W. Clokey.

Growing Up


Over the next several decades, the orchestra's leadership included conductors Donald Kissane, Roy A. Williams, Dr. Theodore Kratt, Gordon Sutherland, Joseph Bein, and Adon Foster. In 1957, the university secured conductor and composer Otto Frohlich, a native of Czechoslovakia, to direct the orchestra and the newly organized student opera program. Frohlich's twelve year tenure with the orchestra contributed a great deal to the success of both the ensemble and the music department.


Into the Present

After Frohlich's retirement, the ensemble was directed by George Seltzer and, later, Paul Nadler. Carmon DeLeone, current director of the acclaimed Cincinnati Ballet, served as director of the orchestra from 1980-1992. Following DeLeone were conductors Gary A. Speck, Jacob Chi, and Jose Luis-Novo, who, in 1998, founded the Oxford Chamber Orchestra, out of a collaboration between music faculty and select students. According to Novo, "The main goal of this orchestra is to provide real-life performance situations for students with the sort of musical interaction with their teachers that cannot be duplicated in the studio setting." Following Novo was interim conductor Jaime Morales-Matos. In the fall of 2002, Ricardo Averbach, a native of Brazil, was appointed as conductor of the Miami University Symphony Orchestra, a position that he occupies until today.

International Stars

Both the Miami University Symphony Orchestra and the Oxford Chamber Orchestra have been privileged to host numerous world-class performing artists and composers in addition to talented faculty soloists.

Internationally recognized composer George Rochberg visited Miami's campus in 1981 for the Symphony Orchestra's performance of his Symphony No. 4. That same year, the orchestra hosted guest percussionist Michael Colgrass , who returned to campus nineteen years later as a visiting composer. In February 1999, William Preucil, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, performed Bruch's Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 46 with the Symphony Orchestra. Most recently, Constantine Orbelian, conductor of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, conducted the Symphony Orchestra in their March 2004 performance of the music of Aram Kachaturian.

In February 2006 for the first time the symphony orchestra participated in a regular concert as part of the Performing Arts Series. The soloist was Haik Kazazyan , a young violin player laureate in several international competitions and a soloist of the Moscow Philharmonic. Others soloists followed, such as David Kim (concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra), Efe Baltacigil (principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra), Gleb Ivanov and Arnaldo Cohen (renowned pianists) and others.

Similarly, the Oxford Chamber Orchestra has benefited from collaborations with renowned guest artists. In October 2000, many of the university ensembles presented a millennium concert of award-winning composer Michael Colgrass's music. In this concert, the Oxford Chamber Orchestra premiered Colgrass's commissioned work Ghosts of Pangea. Earlier that year, the Chamber Orchestra accompanied clarinet virtuoso Richard Stoltzman, who performed the Clarinet Concerto by Mozart. In 2002, Yoon Lee, conductor of the Salzburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted the ensemble in its spring semester concert. In the Fall of 2004 The Oxford Chamber Orchestra participated in an acclaimed joint concert with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. Other soloists appearing with the Oxford Chamber Orchestra were Zara Gulyeva (violin), James Strauss (flute), Lilia Donkova (violin) and several members of the Miami faculty.

Notable Concerts - International, National, and Local

During the 30 years, the Miami University Symphony Orchestra has performed in many notable concerts including:

  • 1980 Festival of Russian Music
  • the 1981 inauguration of University President Paul G. Pearson
  • performances at the 1984 and 1992 Ohio Music Educators Association conferences, and
  • the inauguration of University President James Garland in 1997.

Opera. Every year, the orchestra participates in the opera production of the Music Department, in works like Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro and Cosi Fan Tutte, Britten's Albert Herring, Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, Offenbach's La Perichole and many others.

Russia Under the direction of Ricardo Averbach, the Miami University Symphony Orchestra has been taken to a new level of artistic performance. During the summer of 2005 the orchestra went abroad for the first time, participating in the Russian-American Orchestra Institute. During the trip, Miami students performed side-by-side with students from the St. Petersburg State Conservatory Chamber Orchestra, receiving outstanding reviews. The performances took place in Symphony Hall in Novgorod and Glazunov Hall in St. Petersburg. The soloist was trombone professor Jaime Morales-Matos.

Invitations The following year, the orchestra was accepted into all the conferences that include college orchestras in the United States, selected by competitive audition:

  • ASTA (American String Teachers Association) with NSOE (National School Orchestra Association) 2006 National Conference (the MUSO was the only college level orchestra invited)
  • 2006 OMEA North Coast Professional Conference (the MUSO was one out of two college orchestras accepted), and
  • the MENC National Conference in Salt Lake City (we were one out of two college level orchestras accepted).

In the same year, the orchestra was invited to be the official Ohio representative in the Mozart Orchestra Festival Celebration in Salzburg, Vienna and Prague, celebrating the 250 th anniversary of the composer.

Starting in 2009, there was a change in the Oxford Chamber Orchestra. During the fall semester, this ensemble started to perform the yearly opera production at Miami, being constituted only by students. In the second semester, the Oxford Chamber Orchestra continues to perform as it was originally conceived - an ensemble that combines faculty members performing side by side with the most talented students in the Department.

In 2010 the Miami University Symphony Orchestra was one of the eight finalists for the American Prize, while the Oxford Chamber Orchestra received the 2nd Prize in the Collegiate Category throughout the country. Miami University was the only high education institution with two orchestras as finalists for the American Prize.

In the spring of 2011 the Miami University Symphony Orchestra hosted the CODA Multi-Regional Conference, which brought to Miami over 30 conductors from different parts of the country. Dr. Anthony Holland, National President of CODA stated:

"I really think that was the best regional conference CODA ever had.... you did an absolutely terrific job! marvelous work my friend.... I saw just what a college orchestra is capable of.... My good friend and mentor Dwight Oltman said it was the best concert at a CODA convention yet! Congratulations!"

Dr. Anthony Holland, National President CODA, 2/25/11


In 2011-12 MUSO was selected to perform in the American String Teachers Association National Conference, the OMEA Professional Conference and was first runner-up for the CODA National Conference at Northwestern University. In the same year, the Oxford Chamber Orchestra was a key element in the opera production that received the 2nd prize at the National Opera Production Competition (Division IV ) for the opera Cendrillon by Massenet.

Both groups continue their trajectory of excellence of performance throughout their history.