The Seattle Symphony is an American orchestra based in Seattle, Washington. Since 1998, the orchestra is resident at Benaroya Hall. Its season runs from September through July. In addition to its own concerts, the Seattle Symphony serves as the pit orchestra for most productions of the Seattle Opera, including that company's annual Richard Wagner presentations each summer.
The orchestra gave its first performance on December 29, 1903, with Harry West conducting. Known from its founding as the Seattle Symphony, it was renamed in 1911 as the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1919, the orchestra was reorganized with new bylaws under the name Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Even so, for most of its 100-year history, and especially today, the ensemble is known by the two-word name "Seattle Symphony."
The current music director, Gerard Schwarz, became music advisor of the orchestra in 1983 and principal conductor in 1984, before being named music director since 1985. Under Gerard Schwarz's leadership, the orchestra has become particularly known for performing works of twentieth century composers, especially of neglected American composers. Together, Gerard Schwarz and the orchestra have made over 100 commercial recordings, including the major orchestral works of Howard Hanson and David Diamond, and received a number of Emmy and Grammy nominations. The orchestra also recorded a musical score to the SeaWorld, Orlando stage show A'lure, The Call of the Ocean.
Gerard Schwarz has received praise for his championing of American composers and his skills in fund-raising. However, his tenure has also been marked by public controversies between him and several symphony musicians, which included several legal disputes. In September 2008, the orchestra announced the conclusion of Gerard Schwarz's music directorship after the 2010-2011 season, at which time Gerard Schwarz is scheduled to become the orchestra's conductor laureate. In June 2010, the Seattle Symphony announced the appointment of Ludovic Morlot as its 15th music director, effective with the 2011-2012 season, with an initial contract of six years. Morlot is to hold the title of music director designate during the 2010-2011 season.