Founded in 1922 by Chester Kitzinger, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra is the oldest symphony orchestra in the state of Indiana. After graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory in 1917, Mr. Kitzinger returned to his hometown of Columbus and established himself as a violin teacher in Columbus. He put together a Sunday school orchestra at the Tabernacle Christian Church, which eventually became the Columbus Symphony. Many of the violinists were his students while members of the City Band provided the wind and percussion instruments. The premiere performance of the CSO was May 17, 1923 at the Crump Theater.
The orchestra continued through World War II even though many musicians were away in the armed forces. During the 60s, Mr. Kitzinger formed the Singing Strings, a smaller group that performed for art shows, fundraisers, weddings, and receptions. The full orchestra was reorganized as Columbus Pro Musica in 1970 while the Columbus Symphony Orchestra retained its identity and continued as a volunteer orchestra. Shortly after the reorganization, Mr. Kitzinger was named Conductor Emeritus and Dale Spurlock became Music Director. During this time, more than half of the musicians were high school students. Mr. Spurlock retired at the end of the 1991-92 season.
Arkady Orlovsky became Music Director during the 1992-93 season. In 1997, celebrating its 75th season, the CSO returned to the Crump Theater where its inaugural concert was held. After eighteen years as Music Director, Arkady Orlovsky retired.
In 2010, Roger Kalia was named the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s fourth music director, serving through the 2013-2014 season. During his tenure, Mr. Kalia partnered with the CSO to bring many firsts to the orchestra and the Columbus community, including national and local premieres of orchestral works and collaboration with noteworthy local artists such as Andrew Lunsford, Mary-Claire King, and Emma Peters. At the end of the 2012-2013 season, Mr. Kalia was appointed to be Associate Music Director for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. This promising opportunity for career advancement would require Kalia to be away for much of the 2013-2014 season. Kalia and The Columbus Symphony Orchestra were able to continue our partnership as his career continued to evolve. Kalia currently serves as Associate Music Director for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Music Director for the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra, and is a finalist Music Director candidate for the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. The 2013-2014 provided an exciting season of programming, increased volunteer musician engagement, audience numbers, and presence in the community. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s close relationship to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music provided the orchestra with an extremely capable conductor, musician, and valued partner in Hao-An Henry Cheng.
In 2015, the CSO appointed Josh Aerie as its music director.