The Louisville Orchestra was established in 1937, through the combined efforts of then Louisville mayor, Charles Farnsley and conductor, Robert Whitney, and has long since been hailed as the cornerstone of the Louisville arts community.
From its beginnings as a part-time ensemble known as the Louisville Philharmonic Society, the Louisville Orchestra has grown to become a major arts organization. Ten years after its origin, the Orchestra launched First Edition Recordings, becoming the first American orchestra to own a recording label. In 1953, the Orchestra received a Rockefeller grant of $500,000 to commission, record and premiere 20th century music by living composers, effectively placing the Louisville Orchestra on the international circuit and securing an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall.
Through the years, the Orchestra has performed for prestigious events, including “A Festival of the Arts” at the White House, the Inter-American Music Festival at the Kennedy Center, “Great Orchestras of the World” at Carnegie Hall and a tour of Mexico City.
In 1981, the ensemble officially augmented to full-time status. In 2001, the Louisville Orchestra received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, presented annually by ASCAP and the American Symphony Orchestra League (now known as the League of American Orchestras) to one orchestra in North America. Continuing its commitment to the music of our time, the Louisville Orchestra has earned nineteen ASCAP awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. Most recently, the Orchestra was awarded large grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the National Endowment for the Arts, both for the purpose of producing, manufacturing and marketing the Orchestra’s historic First Edition Recordings collections. Three compact discs of world premiere performances dating from the 1950s have been released, with seventeen more to follow.