SUMMIT SYMPHONY HISTORY

 

The Summit Recreation Commissioners (later called the Summit Board of Recreation, now the City of Summit Department of Community Programs) were the originators and sponsors of the Summit Symphony Orchestra.  The first concert was held March 17, 1938 under the direction of J. Fred Muller.  The soloist for the evening was Gregory McNab, billed as a concert and radio soloist, who performed 6 songs.  The orchestra numbered 60 members for that concert.  Some of those musicians were still performing with the orchestra in the 1970's.

Mr. Muller was Supervisor of Music in the Summit schools from 1934 to 1948 and was influential in persuading the Board of Recreation commissioners to sponsor the Summit Symphony.  He was director of the orchestra until 1948.  During the war years in the 1940's the Symphony did not perform.

In 1948 when Mr. Muller left for another post in Indiana, the orchestra was taken over by Harry S. Hannaford who conducted until his retirement from the public schools in 1974.

In 1968 a 30th anniversary concert was held on March 6.  J. Fred Muller attended as a guest conductor.  The soloist for the evening was Marjorie Slapin, cellist, who performed the Cello Concerto of Camille Saint-Saens.

In 1974 Francesco Ferruccio Giannini became conductor of the Summit Symphony. Other conductors have been Clarence J. Andrews, Anthony Ingram, Howard Vogel, Richard Vitzhum, Fedor Kabalin, Ira Kraemer and David Aurelius.  James Sadewhite became the conductor in the 1985-86 season.  Each of these musical directors has shaped and developed the symphony over the years to be the outstanding community orchestra it is today.

The orchestra has performed in a community service capacity on several occasions, including at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in March 1972, at Lyons Hospital and in CIBA-GEIGY's Family Day.  The orchestra has also participated in Summit's First Night celebration from its beginning in 1993 until its cessation in 2004.

The orchestra first sponsored a Young Artist Competition in 1983, and every other year since then.  This competition is open to all New Jersey high school students as an opportunity to play a major concert piece with a symphony orchestra.  In addition to this event, the Summit Symphony has featured many young players as soloists over the years.

A children's concert was held in February 1985 with funding from the Junior League of Summit, and again from 1987 to 1994 with funding from Ciba Pharmaceuticals Division.  We revived this tradition in 2006 with hopes of continuing it.