The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is an American symphony orchestra based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The orchestra performs primarily in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, in Uihlein Hall. The orchestra also serves as the orchestra for Florentine Opera productions.
The precursor ensemble to the orchestra was the Milwaukee Pops Orchestra, a part-time ensemble which had been founded 10 years earlier. In 1959, the orchestra formally changed its name to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, with Harry John Brown as its first music director. During his nine-year tenure, Brown led the orchestra’s transition from a semi-professional pops group to a fully professional, full-time symphony orchestra.
During the tenure of Kenneth Schermerhorn, the orchestra’s second music director, from 1968 to 1980, the orchestra had begun its ‘State Tour’ programme of concerts around Wisconsin, to such cities as Fish Creek, Fond du Lac, Marinette, Ripon, Rhinelander, Three Lakes, West Bend, and Whitewater, Wisconsin, as well as Naperville, Illinois. The orchestra also initiated its concerts for students, as well as giving its first performance at Carnegie Hall. The Milwaukee Symphony Chorus was also established during this time. Lukas Foss served as the orchestra’s third music director, from 1981 to 1986, which saw a notable increase in performances of contemporary music and American compositions, along with the orchestra’s first European tour in 1986.