The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (= ISO) is a major American orchestra based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Annually, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performs 200 concerts for over 350,000 people. It is the largest performing arts organization in Indiana. The ISO is currently one of only 18 American orchestras that perform year round. It also has a discography of 36 recordings. Since 1982, a popular summer series is the Marsh Symphony on the Prairie, performed at Conner Prairie in Fishers. It has drawn a record 13,000 attendees for the Patriotic Pops night.
The ISO's home theatre is the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Downtown Indianapolis on Monument Circle. Previous locations included Clowes Hall on the campus of Butler University and Caleb Mills Hall. The Circle Theatre, a former "movie palace", was renovated and enlarged for the Symphony and re-opened October 12, 1984.
An annual holiday performance begun in December 1986 is the Duke Energy Yuletide Celebration, hosted in recent years by Sandi Patty and Daniel Rodriguez, among others. In 2009 the ISO announced its first-ever ensemble-in-residence Time for Three.
The Orchestra was founded in 1930 by Ferdinand Schaefer, a German conductor and local violin teacher Ferdinand Schaefer. At first comprised of volunteer musicians who split the revenue from ticket sales, the ISO became a professional orchestra with salaried musicians in 1937. In 1937, Fabien Sevitzky, Russian-born conductor and nephew of famed conductor Serge Koussevitzky, was hired as the Orchestra's first Music Director, as the musicians became fully professional, paid a weekly salary for a 20-week season. Fabien Sevitzky’s appointment was highlighted in an April 5, 1937 article in Time magazine, which began, “Of Midwestern orchestras, none has risen so rapidly or so recently as the Indianapolis Symphony.” Soon after, the ISO blossomed into one of the nation’s most renowned orchestras. Fabien Sevitzky worked to promote the ISO through a variety of national radio broadcasts, issuing a series of phonograph recordings on RCA Victor and Capitol Records in the 1940's and early 1950's.
In 1956, Izler Solomon was appointed to the post of Music Director. He ensured the creation of the Clowes Memorial Hall as a venue meant specifically for the ISO. (Until then, the ISO had been performing at the Murat Theater). Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, the ISO toured nationally and traveled around the world to perform “Salute” concerts in countries such as Finland, Korea, Japan, Formosa, Portugal, The Netherlands, Israel, Mexico, Austria, Venezuela, Thailand, Greece and Chile. This series won a US State Department Award, earned the Orchestra a Citation from the Voice of America and the United States Information Agency as well as a letter of commendation from John F. Kennedy - the first ever such commendation from a president to a symphony orchestra.
John Nelson became Music Director in 1976, and established the orchestra's present home at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis. He is also associated both with the founding of the Marsh Symphony on the Prairie Series in 1982. John Nelson brought the ISO back to the airwaves on NPR and PBS, as well as concerts in Carnegie Hall in 1989 and 1991 and at the Kennedy Center. He also took the orchestra on its first-ever foreign tour, to Germany in 1987, with concertmaster Hidetaro Suzuki.
John Nelson was followed by Raymond Leppard in 1987. Under Raymond Leppard's direction, the orchestra began a 52-week season, and made a series of recordings on the Koss Classics label. Raymond Leppard returned the orchestra to Europe for two more tours in 1993 and 1997, performing at world-famous concert halls such as the Barbican Centre in London and the Musikverein in Vienna. It was also during Raymond Leppard’s tenure that the ISO’s beloved Yuletide Celebration shows began to delight audiences during December. Indianapolis On The Air, a weekly radio series begun in 1994, is produced by WFYI in Indianapolis and is syndicated to over 250 radio stations in 38 states.
Today, the ISO is the largest performing arts organization in Indiana and performs hundreds of concerts every year. In September 2011, Krzysztof Urbanski began his tenure as the 7th Music Director of the ISO in the organization's eight-decade history. At the age of 29, is the youngest Music Director of any major American orchestra.
The symphony announced on October 19, 2010, that Krzysztof Urbanski would become the seventh music director, as well as the youngest musician to lead the orchestra.
Some of the orchestra's earliest recordings have re-appeared on the Historic Recordings.co.uk label in the UK.