Classical Music in Austin

Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, has a long history of independent spirited classical music. From the founding of the Austin Symphony in 1911 to One Ounce Opera in 2012, and everything in between, few cities across the country can boast a professional symphony, opera and ballet under the roof of a state-of-the-art performing arts center, a university with a renowned music school and a presenting arm that hosts acclaimed artists, and a lively scene of choral music, chamber music, and amateur groups.

Here are the organizations that make it all possible (alphabetically).


 

Artisan String Quartet

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The Artisan Quartet played its first concert in the late 1980s. Originally known as the Austin String Quartet, and later as the Camilli Quartet, before changing to the Artisan Quartet, founding members Richard Kilmer, violin, and Bruce Williams, viola, were joined by cellist Douglas Harvey in the 2000s. Its present configuration was born in 2009 with the addition of violinist Paula E. Bird.

Austin Chamber Music Center

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Founded by Felicity Coltman in 1981 to offer a summer chamber music workshop to junior and senior high school musicians, the center added a regular concert season in 1988. The Intimate Concerts series, with performances in private homes, was complemented with a sister series in public venues in 2003. The center’s annual summer Austin Chamber Music Festival was created in 1997. Dr. Michelle Schumann was appointed the artistic/executive director of the center in 2006.

Austin Children’s Choir

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Austin Children’s Choir was founded in 1986 by the late Dr. Bernard Gastler of Concordia University. His vision was to provide children from diverse backgrounds in the Austin area with an excellent choral music experience provided by highly trained professionals. Today, the choir continues to offer refined choral instruction and introduces its members—ages 6 to 18—to a broad range of performance venues and opportunities to showcase their talent.

Austin Civic Orchestra

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The Austin Civic Orchestra was founded in 1977 by Mac Payne with a small group of string players that has since evolved into the full symphonic orchestra it is today. The orchestra’s first public performance was on September 14, 1978 in the ballroom of the University of Texas Student Union. The ACO’s first music director was James Johnson, a graduate student at the University of Texas. Current music director Lois Ferrari has been with the orchestra for the past 10 seasons.

Austin Classical Guitar Society

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Founded in 1990 and led by Dr. Matthew Hinsley since 1996, the Austin Classical Guitar Society has grown to one of the largest classical guitar organizations worldwide. Programming includes annual concert series and free community concerts and its education partnerships with artists, educators, Central Texas schools, and community organizations are respected around the country.

Austin Lyric Opera

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Founded in 1986 by Joseph McClain and the late Dr. Walter Ducloux as Austin’s first professional opera company, Austin Lyric Opera debuted in January 1987 with a sold out inaugural production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. In 2007, the ALO presented the American premiere of Philip Glass’ Waiting for the Barbarians. Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Richard Buckley has been a part of Austin Lyric Opera since opening season 18 with Puccini’s Tosca.

Austin Symphonic Band

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In 1981, The New River City Wind Ensemble, which will later become the Austin
Symphonic Band, is founded by a group of Austin Civic Orchestra musicians. Currently under the baton of music director Richard Floyd, the group has become one of this nation’s premier volunteer concert bands. The band presents annual free concerts at the Zilker Park Hillside Theatre, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day concerts.

Ballet Austin

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Founded in 1956, Ballet Austin has emerged as on of America’s premier ballet companies with productions in Austin and across the nation. Its rich history spans five decades and includes one of the nation’s largest classical ballet academies, as well as the 2007 Butler Community School, which serves people of all ages and skill level. Artistic Director Stephen Mills was appointed in 2000.  Ballet Austin’s apprentice company, Ballet Austin II, was established in 1999 by associate artistic director Michelle Martin.

Capital City Men’s Chorus

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The Capital City Men’s Chorus (CCMC) was founded in 1989 by sixteen volunteer members. The all-male chorus is the longest, continually running men’s chorus in the city. The CCMC is an active member of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA). Dr. Jeffrey Jones-Ragona has been the artistic director since 1995.

Chorus Austin

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Under the Chorus Austin umbrella are its two ensembles: the Austin Civic Chorus and the Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble.  Each group is under the direction of Artistic Director and Conductor Ryan Heller. Founded in 1965, The Austin Civic Chorus is a symphonic 150-member ensemble specializing in large-scale masterworks with professional orchestras and soloists. The Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble is a 32-member chamber chorus specializing in smaller choral works. Founded in 1985 as the Austin Handel-Haydn Society, the group joined with Austin Civic Chorus under the umbrella of Chorus Austin in 1999.

Conspirare

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Established in 1991 by founder and artistic director Craig Hella Johnson as the New Texas Festival to present a summer classical music festival in Austin, Conspirare has evolved into an internationally-acclaimed ensemble. Conspirare’s professional core is its chamber choir, The Company of Voices. Its members are choral and solo artists who come to Austin from all over the country for its annual concert season. The volunteer Symphonic Choir and Conspirare Youth Choirs also perform throughout the year in collaboration with other Austin cultural organizations.

Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin

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Formed in 1976, The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Austin was founded with the purpose of educating the public and preserving the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. The group now boasts about 250 members and entertains and educates thousands of Central Texas residents every year. Artistic Director is Ralph MacPhail, Jr and Music Director and Conductor is Jeffrey Jones-Ragona.

KMFA 89.5FM Classically Austin

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Launched in 1967, KMFA is Austin’s classical music radio station. Its broadcast schedule consists of locally produced programs including Classical Austin and Ancient Voices, as well as nationally syndicated broadcasts, including those from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera during its season, and the Radio Netherlands Live! at the Concertgebouw series.

La Follia Austin Baroque

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Founded in 1980, La Follia celebrates more than 30 years as part of Austin’s lively and diverse musical scene. Focusing on music of the 17th and 18th centuries, the ensemble uses instruments and performing styles appropriate to that period. La Follia has appeared throughout Texas, and its members have recorded and performed throughout the world as soloists and with other ensembles. La Follia’s name comes from folia (meaning folly), the name of a 16th-century Spanish dance.

line upon line percussion

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Established in 2009, line upon line percussion is Adam Bedell, Matthew Teodori and Cullen Faulk. The ensemble is committed to seeking new ways for percussion instruments to advance contemporary music. In 2011, the Austin-based trio released a disc of commissioned, home-grown music and premiered their award-winning project, seeing times are not hidden, a site-specific work for custom chimes. In May 2012, the group organized Perspective:Xenakis, a two-day festival focused on the chamber works of Iannis Xenakis. line upon line maintains educational and outreach roles with the Austin Chamber Music Center and has performed and taught at numerous academic institutions around the country.

One Ounce Opera

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Started in 2012 by Julie Fiore, One Ounce Opera was born from the spirit of the internationally-celebrated Austin music scene and the eclectic nature of the capital city. One Ounce Opera fuses love for being out with friends and passion to perform for the sheer love of performing.

REVEL

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REVEL was formed in 2008 by pianist Carla McElhaney and cellist Joel Becktell to re-introduce informal, music-and-conviviality-focused events (they call them “revels”), like those in which the historic musicians they admired most would have participated. In 2010 they were joined by violinist Cármelo de los Santos, and they began to collaborate in concert with other favorite musicians.

Round Rock Symphony Orchestra

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Founded in 2008, the Round Rock Symphony Orchestra performs programs of traditional orchestral repertoire, new music, pops repertoire, chamber music, and concerts for schools and special occasions. The Round Rock Symphony Orchestra is under the direction of Silas Nathaniel Huff.

Texas Choral Consort

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First known as the Texas Chamber Consort, Texas Choral Consort was founded in 1997 by Dr. Barry Scott Williamson, who continued to serve as Artistic Director until 2007. Brent Baldwin currently holds this position. The consort provides choral music through auditioned groups, with regular fall and spring concerts, and symposiums, where a group of non-auditioned singers are taught a major choral works including Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s Magnificat.

Texas Early Music Project

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Founded in 1987 by Daniel Johnson, the Texas Early Music Project is dedicated to preserving and advancing the art of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical music through performance, recordings, and educational outreach. The project started as a unique venue in which student members of The University of Texas at Austin Early Music Ensemble could work and perform with professionals, allowing students to explore repertoire normally out of their reach.

Texas Performing Arts

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The history of Texas Performing Arts began on March 6, 1981 as The Performing Arts Center at The University of Texas at Austin, with a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in the newly constructed Bass Concert Hall. Later joined by four other venues − including Bates Recital Hall, and the McCullough, Payne, and Brockett Theatres − Texas Performing Arts now offers a diverse season of music, theatre, dance, and conversation.

The Austin Symphony

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Founded in 1911, the Austin Symphony Orchestra is Austin’s oldest performing arts group. The ASO offers a complete season of musical and educational programming. Music Director and Conductor Peter Bay has been with the orchestra since 1997. Jessica Mathaes was appointed concertmaster of the Austin Symphony in 2005. The iconic Symphony Square, a complex of four historical limestone buildings and a 350-seat amphitheater, hosts Children’s Day Art Park every Wednesday morning in June and July.

The Long Center for the Performing Arts

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The grand opening of the Long Center took place on March 28, 2008. It provides a permanent home for the Austin Symphony Orchestra, Austin Lyric Opera, and Ballet Austin, and provides performing artists and organizations in the Greater Austin region with facilities and services that foster excellence, encourage originality and promote collaboration. The Long Center Presents series brings more than 30 performances of acclaimed artists and groups to Austin.