Boise Symphony Orchestra 1906

Mary Abercrombie
In memory of her mother
Mary Jane Kinney

Boise pioneers in 1863 rounded up their collaborative talents to plat a city, create an irrigation network, build businesses, finance education, recruit the railroad . . . and make music.

By the 1880s, the musical energy in the city had progressed from providing ballroom waltzes for couples dancing the night away to assembling an orchestra with aspirations to play symphonies. In 1890, local violin maker Adolph Ballot established the Boise Philharmonic Society in concert with Mr. Pasmore and M.A. Swift.

Orchestra leaders created a conservatory to train young musicians, who then gave public recitals. They assisted the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who were teaching voice to girl students. By 1898, the talent pool in Boise was big enough to seat all the instruments needed for a full orchestra. Over the decades, the name of the orchestra changed from time to time, but the impulse to encourage and enlarge city-wide collaborations never did.

And the music played on. Renowned international soloists, composers and singers came to Boise to perform. Local musicians specialized: String quartets and opera attracted their interest. Music instruction in public schools became more professional. An alliance between the Boise Symphony Orchestra and the Boise Choral Society presented Handel's “Messiah” around 1916, commencing a tradition that thrives a century later. The first-ever “Music Week” in American history, which became an annual event in Boise, opened on May 12, 1919, to much popular enthusiasm.

In 1954, the orchestra initiated a program listing a complete concert "season." In 1960 the name of the Boise Civic Symphony was officially changed to the Boise Philharmonic Association, Inc.

Thanks to the enthusiastic patronage and appreciation of Boise citizens and the dedication of orchestra members, the place of "symphonies" as part of Boise's musical life is the enduring gift of many pioneers, including 21st century pioneers whose creative collaborations enrich Idaho life well beyond Boise. Now an 80+-member professional orchestra, the Boise Philharmonic performs for more than 50,000 people annually at the Morrison Center, NNU’s Brandt Center in Nampa, in schools around the state, and in smaller recital halls and venues.

Read more about the Boise Philharmonic.

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