History of the LSO

Since 1968, the Longview Symphony has provided live orchestral performances of classical music to audiences in Longview, TX.

Starting as an amateur group with a few conservatory-trained musicians volunteering their time, today the orchestra is composed entirely of professional musicians from Longview, the greater East Texas area, Shreveport and the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Fourteen members are on staff at area universities and colleges, others are music educators in primary and secondary schools and many teach lessons privately. Dr. Isidor Saslav, the concertmaster from 1999-2012, served as concertmaster under the batons of Pablo Casals, Aaron Copland and Sir Neville Marriner.

Tonu Kalam joined the Longview Symphony as Music Director/Conductor in 1988. This talented director commuted from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he is a tenured professor of music and Conductor of the University of North Carolina Symphony. Also trained as a composer and pianist at Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley, Kalam appears as Guest Conductor throughout the United States and Europe. He is a past President of the Conductors Guild, an international organization devoted to the art of conducting. In 2005, Kalam was officially declared an Honorary Texan by the Texas Legislature. Maestro Kalam follows early directors, James Snowden, the Longview High School band director and Dr. Frank Carrol, dean of music at Centenary College.

The Longview Symphony takes pride in sponsoring the Longview Area Youth Symphony Orchestra (LAYSO) and the Longview Area Preparatory Strings (LAPS) for school-age children. In 2003, the Guest Artist Master Classes were introduced and funded by Eastman Company. Each year, guest artists provide a teaching forum for area high school and college music students. Selected students play for the guest artist and receive instruction.

A search for a new Music Director started in early 2014. Résumés were reviewed by the Longview Symphony League’s Executive Board and Artistic Committee and interviews were conducted by two renowned industry experts. The top four candidates from this intensive process conducted one concert each during the 2015-16 season. After careful discussion and with resounding support, the Longview Symphony League was proud to announce Maestro Gene Moon as the new music director and conductor of the Longview Symphony Orchestra beginning in the 2016-2017 season.

In summer 2018, following Gene Moon’s resignation, Maestro Jerry Steichen joined the Longview Symphony. He previously served 10 years as the music and artistic director for Opera East Texas. His philosophy for the symphony follows the board’s desire to move the ensemble in a direction that makes it more approachable. His vision is for a symphony whose concerts children are welcome to attend — or come to a dress rehearsal, instead. It’s one in which the symphony can be found at events downtown or at the new arboretum after it opens. It’s one that embraces different genres of music, where the symphony might perform a concert focused on video games or movies or of a specific composer.

It’s not your grandparents’ symphony. It’s your symphony no matter who you are and what age you are and what kind of music you like,” he said.