Elmira Symphony Orchestra
The Elmira Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1903. At the time, there were only 6 metropolitan orchestras in the country, and none were in a city as small as Elmira. Unlike in the big cities, the musicians and conductor were all volunteer. The group grew steadily in size and popularity until its golden age in the 1920s when it often attracted crowds of 1,000 or more and boasted a number of wealthy sponsors. Once the Great Depression hit, however, their conductor was reduced to begging for funds during intermissions. They eventually recovered their membership and popularity following World War II. In 1957, they merged with the Elmira Civic Chorus to form the Elmira Symphony and Choral Society.
Frederick H. Cheeswright served as the first conductor of the Elmira Symphony Orchestra from its founding in 1903 until he left to open a studio in New York City in 1914.
Frederick H. Cheeswright and the Elmira Symphony Orchestra, 1903
By 1941, the orchestra only had 25 members and the conductor renamed the group the Elmira Little Symphony Orchestra. The group’s number swelled following the war and, by June 1951, they were able to drop the “little” from their name once more.