The Mobile Symphony Orchestra, currently under the direction of Scott Speck, has been a fixture of Mobile, AL since 1997. The mission of the orchestra is to enhance lives through music education and live performance. The orchestra offers ever-changing concert programming one weekend per month. Performances take place Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
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Classic performances include the works of Beethoven, Gershwin, Vivaldi, Haydn, Mahler, Mozart and others. Each December, the orchestra offers Mobile’s Magical Christmas, which includes performances by Mobile’s Singing Children. The Mobile Symphony Youth Orchestra offers public performances free of charge at several venues throughout town. The Symphony also performs for the Mobile Opera, which offers public performances monthly in October, February and March.
Scott Speck is the relatively young orchestra’s first musical director. Under his guidance, the orchestra has grown to become the premier classical music experience on the Gulf Coast. Outside of Mobile, Speck has toured with the orchestras of Paris, London, San Francisco and Beijing and has participated in gala performances with world-class conductors Itzhak Perlman, Midori, and Yo-Yo Ma among others.
The historic Saenger Theatre has been the symphony’s home since it’s inception in 1997. The theater, built in 1927, is modeled after the great European opera houses, with décor inspired by Greek mythology and the oceanic theme of the Gulf Coast. The theater has changed management many times since its founding, and in the interim, over $6 million in renovations have been completed. Today, the Saenger Theatre is operated by SMG World, a global venue management company. In 2014, the Symphony Orchestra donated a new acoustical shell to the theater, exponentially improving the quality of sound and the detail of sound that is able to reach even the furthest seat.
History: Mobile has a long history of Symphony Orchestras, which have thrived then faltered over the years. The first Mobile Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1908, lived a brief life, then disassembled. Attempts at a Mobile Orchestra began again in 1924. The orchestra did not survive through the Great Depression and World War II, yet formed again in 1966. In 1970, Symphony Concerts of Mobile was established in lieu of a home-based orchestra to bring first class orchestras from across the United States to Alabama for performances. By 1996, the Board of Directors decided that to truly serve the citizens of Mobile, the city needed an orchestra with a home base in Mobile that would employ local professional musicians. Thus, in 1997, the organization changed its name to the Mobile Symphony Orchestra, and a new era began, with Jerome Shannon as the orchestra’s interim conductor. Between 1998 and 2000, the orchestra expanded its educational programming for youth, and became the home of the Mobile Opera as well. In 2000, Scott Speck was hired as the organization’s first director and has ushered in a new era for the Mobile Symphony Orchestra enhanced by the construction of a new acoustical shell over the symphony’s performance space, along with the purchase of a rehearsal building on Dauphin Street. The building additional hosts youth programming and administrative offices.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The Symphony has spearheaded efforts to bring music education to Mobile’s youth. Symphony members teach music classes to students in pre-K through 8th grade at local schools, once weekly, for a period of 25 weeks. The Mobile Symphony Youth Orchestra allows students across the Gulf Coast who have achieved proficiency with their instruments to practice, study and perform with an orchestra. The symphony introduces youth to music in a variety of ways, by offering free weekday performances to youth groups, by inviting youth to attend Sunday matinees for free, and with the Instrument Petting Zoo and the Instrument Exchange. The ‘Petting Zoo’ brings a variety of instruments to public schools and lets children touch, play with and hear the sound of each instrument. The Exchange offers community members who have unused instruments at home to donate the instruments to children who otherwise would not be able to afford musical education. Adult education includes the Bay Area Strings Community Orchestra. No audition is required to join, only a basic knowledge of one’s instrument is required, and rehearsals are held weekly. A program called Take Note! is a public talk that offers classical concert attendees more background and history prior to each of the orchestra’s public performances.
257 Dauphin St. Mobile, AL 36602, Phone: 251-432-2010