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Our History

Kansas City Symphony

The Kansas City Symphony (KCS) was founded by R. Crosby Kemper, Jr., in 1982, just months after the dissolution of the Kansas City Philharmonic. Under Kemper's leadership, the founding trustees of the Symphony created a sound structure for the Board and established the initial endowment. Today, the KCS is a major force in the cultural life of Kansas City and the region.

Now under the dynamic leadership of acclaimed Music Director Michael Stern, the Kansas City Symphony has experienced impressive artistic growth through its history and under the batons of Russell Patterson (1982-1986), William McGlaughlin (1986-1997), and Anne Manson (1998-2003). Aram Demirjian, Assistant Conductor, conducts the Family and Pops Series. Charles Bruffy is the Director of the Kansas City Symphony Chorus.

The Kansas City Symphony serves a metropolitan population of 1.8 million people. The orchestra's 80 full-time musicians are area residents and vital contributors to the artistic life of Kansas City.  During its 42-week season, the Symphony performs a wide variety of subscription, educational, touring and outreach concerts. In addition, the KCS performs with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet.


The Kansas City Symphony is governed by a Board of Directors under the leadership of Board President Shirley Bush Helzberg and is administered by a full-time professional staff. In addition, the KCS benefits from the dedicated efforts of its volunteer associations. The Symphony's six auxiliaries, with total membership of more than 700, raise over $1 million annually, making it one of the most successful orchestra volunteer forces in the nation.


The Kansas City Symphony has demonstrated a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility. From a budget of $1.5 million in its first season, the Symphony's annual operating budget has grown to more than $11 million. Major gifts from the Board, local foundations and individuals have created an endowment that is nearing $40 million. The Symphony's annual fund campaign and other fund-raising events are integral to our continued success, and we welcome your participation as a Business Partner or as a member of the Symphony Society or other donor groups.


The vision of the Symphony's Education Department is to enable persons of all ages in the Greater Kansas City area to learn, create and become inspired through orchestral music and educational programs. More than 25,000 people participate in KCS education programs annually.

Most popular are specially programmed school concerts - KinderKonzerts and Young People's Concerts - performed in front of a cumulative audience of 14,000 annually. Several thousand more are educationally involved with the Symphony through activities such as the Open Rehearsal Series, Instrument Petting Zoo program and Masterclass Series. Dozens of area student musicians participate in the Young Artist Competition, where the winner is awarded a cash prize and the opportunity to perform with the KCS. The Symphony's Support School Music program takes the orchestra into area high schools to perform a concert where all ticket sales directly benefit the school district's music department. Since the program's inception, more than $119,000 has been generated for school music education programs.

Recently, the Symphony has piloted new music education programs and partnerships with the Kansas City Missouri School District and Cristo Rey Kansas City, to further advance the Symphony's mission at schools within the urban core.


The Symphony’s concerts with internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato were featured on the national PBS Summer Arts Series in July 2012. The Symphony has released four recordings on the Reference Recording label — Shakespeare’s Tempest, the Grammy®-winning Britten’s Orchestra, an Elgar/Vaughan Williams project and most recently a 20th century project highlighting composers Hindemith, Prokofiev and Bartók. An additional Saint-Saëns album is slated for later release. The Symphony and Michael Stern also have recorded for the Naxos label.

The orchestra has taped two nationally broadcast PBS television specials and performed on National Public Radio, including the prestigious SymphonyCast series. Highlights of classical performances are broadcast Thursdays at 9 p.m. on KCUR-FM 89.3, Kansas City's National Public Radio affiliate.

Miraculous MetamorphosesMarch 2014 | Reference Recordings
Enigma Variations: The Wasps / Greensleeves January 2013 | Reference Recordings
Homecoming: Kansas City Symphony Presents Joyce DiDonato July 2012 | PBS
Britten’s Orchestra, November 2009 | Reference Recordings
Shakespeare’s Tempest, July 2008 | Reference Recordings