This year marks the 70th anniversary of the orchestra. It is certainly a milestone. It takes a lot of work, initiative, excitement and most of all, passion to continue growing an organization with a progressive vision. The Michigan Philharmonic has grown from a small ensemble, to a community orchestra to a regional musical powerhouse, always innovating and creating classical music experience in our community.
The orchestra started in 1945 when local residents of Plymouth, Evelyn and Carl Groschke gathered a group of friends in their house to play and enjoy instrumental music. At the same time, the director of the Plymouth High School music program, Paul Wagner wanted to organize an orchestra. They joined forces and the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra was born, giving its first public performance on April 20, 1947. Thanks to the Groschke’s vision, the orchestra started to take shape and by the 1950’s it was already established and performing at Plymouth High School (where Central Middle School used to be and where the Orchestra recently moved back to!) and on the school lawn. The Plymouth Symphony Orchestra performed at Plymouth-Salem High School Auditorium for many years.
The orchestra has grown from a dedicated nucleus of a dozen volunteer community players to over 60 professional musicians and performs a wide range of chamber, jazz, popular, and standard symphonic repertoire, ranging from the 16th century to the present. A review of past programs shows that the orchestra has performed approximately 1,500 symphonic works. Hundreds of guest artists and several thousand singers have performed with the orchestra. In all, there have been seven conductors:
Paul Wagner (1945-1950),
Wayne Dunlap (1951-1979),
Johan van der Merwe (1980-1985),
Charles Greenwell (1985-1986),
Leon Gregorian (1986-1987),
Russell Reed (1987-1999)
and Nan Washburn (1999-present).
and Nan Washburn (1999-present).
With the vision of our present Music Director and Conductor, Nan Washburn in 2003 the PSO established a youth orchestra program, the Celebration Youth Orchestras. It now boasts three tiers, 65 students, a flute choir, and an annual Vivaldi Concerto competition. In 2004, PSO expanded further by creating a second, highly acclaimed professional performing ensemble, Orchestra Canton (OC).
As an organic organization that reflects the wants and needs of the audience and reflecting on the growth and expansion into more regional communities, the name of the Plymouth Canton Symphony Orchestras (PCSO) was adopted as the "umbrella" for all our ensembles and activities. In 2008, PCSO produced its first commercial CD, "Magical Tunes & Marvelous Tales".
The Orchestra Today
Following a 5-year strategic plan and to truly reflect the tremendous growth in scope and stature, in 2011, the organization adopted the new names of the Michigan Philharmonic and the Michigan Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.
The orchestra has become in one of the most innovative and dynamic orchestras in the region. With many awards, Nan Washburn, Music Director & Conductor, has won 19 ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music from the League of American Orchestras and was awarded First Place in The American Prize for Conducting with the Michigan Philharmonic receiving 2nd place for Professional Orchestras last year.
The Michigan Philharmonic is reaching out and expanding throughout our communities including Plymouth, Canton, Northville, Livonia, Farmington, Brighton, Downtown Detroit, and the downriver areas. The orchestra is committed to enrich our audience with a diverse programming, enjoyable cultural and social experiences. Music Education is a very important component of the Michigan Philharmonic organization and through varies collaborations with composers, musicians and community schools it has taken music to many children in our area. Music is fundamental for the integral development of any person. “Children are very excited when they see the instruments and our musicians visiting the schools” says Jane Libbing, our manager for the Youth Orchestra. It is an invaluable experience and indeed makes a difference in anyone’s life. Music is a universal language that knows no frontiers.
For this 70th Anniversary, the mission is to celebrate our traditions, embrace our diversity and enrich our experience. The scope is to broaden our own frontiers and reach to a more varied audience. The Michigan Philharmonic will expands its programming and will feature more innovative work this year by featuring works by new composers such as Kharim Roustom, Clarice Assad, Christopher Cerrone, Max Simoncic, and Laura Karpman.
Michigan Philharmonic: Orchestrating the Extraordinary!
Up Next: Philharmonic Phright Night
Come and join us for a Spooktacular Concert this Saturday October 24, 7:30 pm at Steppingstone School in Farmington Hills. Gues how Nan Washburn will enter the stage!