Founded in 1903, when violinist-conductor Harry West assembled twenty-four musicians to perform in Christiansen Hall (site of the current Seattle Art Museum), the Seattle Symphony is now the oldest and largest cultural institution in the Pacific Northwest. Recognized for its bold and innovative programming, with the inclusion of much new music, it is also one of the world’s most recorded orchestras, with more than seventy-five discs—many of them featuring American repertoire—and ten Grammy nominations to its credit. In addition to its regular concerts, the Seattle Symphony presents a broad spectrum of other series, including Basically Baroque, Light Classics, Seattle Pops, Discover Music!, Tiny Tots, Distinguished Artists, and Music of Our Time. Seattle Symphony musicians began their association with the Seattle Opera in 1973. In 1981, led by Rainer Miedél, the orchestra made its first European tour, which included thirteen cities throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Its previous music directors have included Henry Hadley, Basil Cameron, Nikolai Sokoloff, Sir Thomas Beecham, and Milton Katims. Gerard Schwarz, holding the position since 1985, has brought the orchestra to new international acclaim. It now makes its home in Benaroya Hall, which was inaugurated in 1998 and has been praised for its architectural and acoustical beauty.
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