The first SobelCo Nonprofit Spotlight of 2019 will feature our long time client and New Jersey icon, the NJSO! The NJ Symphony Orchestra is truly a world-class organization that has been rooted in the rich history of the state for nearly a century.  

Historic background

Founded in 1922, the predecessor to NJSO opened with its first concert at the Montclair Art Museum, offering music by Purcell, Saint-Saens and Veracini along with the world premiere of US composer Cecil Forsyth’s ‘The Dark Road.’

For the next 20 years, through 1947, the orchestra’s repertoire grew quickly to include composers of great stature such as Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Tchaikovsky and Wagner, while impressive guest soloists appeared on stage.

1947 was a milestone year, marking the beginning of Samuel Antek’s role as music director.  Under his direction, the orchestra’s commitment to the community expanded to include music education programs, children’s concerts, outdoor pops concerts, a youth orchestra and additional statewide services as it took its rightful place as a key influencer in the world of New Jersey arts. His death just eleven years later was a blow to all.

Change is critical to success

The NJSO has been evolving throughout its history. From 1958 until today, each music director has made a significant impression of their own, from Kenneth Schermerhorn to Henry Lewis and then to Thomas Michalak, Hugh Wolff, Zdenek Macal, Neeme Jarvi, and Jacques Lacombe. A new era of high-profile music activity, electrifying programs, live broadcasts on PBS, Carnegie Hall performances, international tours, and the introduction of Slavic as well as Scandinavian works, were all deeply influenced by the personalities of the music directors as they advocated for the diversity of musical works that were presented over the years.

With each change in leadership came renewed creativity, adoption of a fresh and bold approach, cultivation of emerging composers, and an increasing number of commissions and premiere performances, along with stronger ties to the New Jersey community.        

What the future holds

Today, under the guidance of President & CEO Gabriel van Aalst, renowned Chinese-American conductor Xian Zhang, and a distinguished Board of Directors led by Co-Chairs Linda Bowden and David Huber, the NJSO continues to flourish, forging a strong combination of inspiring performances, outstanding artists, a genuine commitment to music educational programs, and community engagement which enables them to deliver musical magic across New Jersey to a wide variety of audiences including the autistic community.