The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO), currently celebrating its 72nd year, is a gem of an orchestra tucked into the geographic centre of North America. Music critic Norman Lebrecht describes it as “an orchestra with a sound all its own,” and that is no surprise. From its debut 1948 performance to over 3,000 audience members, the WSO has become a powerhouse orchestra, regularly surprising guest conductors and artists with the exceptional musicianship and flexibility of its members.
Performance highlights of the last few decades include working Maureen Forrester, Kathleen Battle, Janina Fialkowska, Angela Hewitt, Buffy St. Marie, Wu Man, Randy Bachman, Dame Evelyn Glennie, and Tanya Tagaq, to name a few.
Each year, the WSO’s much-lauded Winnipeg New Music Festival features four full orchestral programs plus numerous additional concerts, regularly drawing crowds in the thousands. The 2018 edition had over 11,000 attendees. Headliners of the Winnipeg New Music Festival range from Philip Glass to Meredith Monk to David Lang to Joan Tower to R. Murray Schafer to Arvo Pärt to Christos Hatzis to Samy Moussa to Kelly Marie Murphy to Stephen O’Malley to Caroline Shaw, to name a few.
The WSO’s activity regularly extends beyond its home stage at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg. It has produced concerts everywhere from Olympic size diving boards to cottage country harbours. The orchestra has toured twice to Carnegie Hall and regularly performed across Manitoba and Canada.
The WSO has served as a launching point for many illustrious careers including Victor Feldbrill, Kazuhiro Koizumi, Bramwell Tovey, and Andrey Boreyko. It has also worked hard to foster and support Manitoba and Canadian talent working closely with the likes of James Ehnes, Tracy Dahl, Andriana Chuchman, Karen Sunabacka, and Lara Ciekiewicz.
From it’s founding, the orchestra has been a pillar in the Canadian music scene, commissioning and premiering hundreds of new works. The Canadian Music Centre recently recognized the WSO with its Award of Excellence for its work promoting the Canadian voice. This work has also been recognized by a 2017 JUNO win and 2018 nomination for best classical recording of the year.
In 2011, the WSO founded Sistema Winnipeg (based on the famous Venezuelan El Sistema), in partnership with two Winnipeg school divisions, to deliver daily, intensive music education that focuses on children with the fewest resources and greatest need in Winnipeg’s urban core.
Over 40,000 students attend orchestra concerts presented by the WSO each season and its innovative pops and film programs introduce a rapidly growing audience to symphonic music.
Starting in 1954, the orchestra has worked closely with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, released numerous recordings on the CBC label, and has given thousands of national radio broadcasts. In addition to its own extensive season of concerts and educational activities, the WSO functions as the official orchestra of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Manitoba Opera Association.
Walter Kaufmann was the orchestra’s first music director (1948-1957), followed by Victor Feldbrill (1958-1968), George Cleve (1968-1970), Piero Gamba (1971-1983), Kazuhiro Koizumi (1983-1987), Bramwell Tovey (1987-2002), Andrey Boreyko (2002-2005), Alexander Mickelthwate (2005-2018), and current Music Director Daniel Raiskin (2018-). Under their guidance, the orchestra has both earned a place among the ranks of major Canadian symphony orchestras and has come to be regarded as one of Canada’s most innovative. Some of the eminent soloists who have appeared with the WSO in the past include conductors Pierre Monteux, John Barbirolli and Arthur Fiedler; violinists David Oistrakh and Itzhak Perlman; pianists Glenn Gould, Byron Janis, Gary Graffman, and Leon Fleisher; singers Marilyn Horne and Maureen Forrester; cellists Zara Nelsova and Jacqueline du Pré and many others.
To provide exceptional musical experiences for Manitobans.
The WSO will be thriving artistically and organizationally, and it will have enhanced its
position as a dynamic, pivotal musical institution in Manitoba. It will be an internationally
recognized model of artistic excellence and community relevance with structural pillars that
include excellent musicians, innovative programs, strong leadership, and a well-diversified
and solid financial foundation.
Strategies for 2014-2020
• Consolidating the WSO’s national and international artistic identity.
• Celebrating the Canadian Symphonic Voice.
• Engaging the community and engaging with the community through education and outreach initiatives.
• Improving the range and quality of facilities in which the WSO performs and works.
• Establishing a WSO brand in the local, national, and international market.
• Artistic Excellence
• Operational Excellence
• Governance Excellence
• Community Engagement
• Innovation and Opportunity