Now in its 92nd season, the Amarillo Symphony is under the direction of Jacomo Rafael Bairos as the organization’s 17th music director and conductor. The appointment of Bairos marks the conclusion of an extensive two year search that amassed 213 applicants from 15 countries. Bairos, an impressive conductor who is elegantly demanding, was selected to lead the organization into an era of exciting and inspiring orchestral music.
The Amarillo Symphony was founded in 1924 as a 12-piece ensemble led by Miss Grace Hamilton. The ensemble quickly grew from a small volunteer organization to a symphony of 56 musicians. By the end of the 1940s, the symphony suffered financial hardship. New music director A. Clyde Roller and violinist Eddie Melin stepped forward to work with president Lee Bivins to devise a plan to eliminate the deficit and improve the orchestra.
Dr. Roller became a pivotal figure in the dramatic artistic growth of this era, instituting musician auditions and raising the artistic level. Mr. Melin became the Symphony’s manager, implementing sound financial procedures and facilitating community programs that focused on fundraising and education. Aiding them was the Symphony Guild, founded in 1955, as a vital means of community support.
In 2006, the Symphony made its debut in a world-class venue, the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, and Kimbo Ishii-Eto was named as music director and conductor. The 2011-12 season marked Ishii-Eto’s final season in Amarillo. A committee composed of 14 members of the community, and chaired by Laura Street, was formed and would ultimately select Bairos as the 17th music director and conductor.
The Amarillo Symphony employs 85 professional musicians with an annual budget of $1.3 million. In addition to its seven concert series, the Symphony performs educational concerts, sponsors the Amarillo Youth Orchestra and partners with the Lone Star Ballet to present The Nutcracker. A volunteer Board of Directors of governs the organization. The Symphony is supported by nearly 1,600 subscribers and an active Guild of over 400 members.
Do you have a piece of the Amarillo Symphony’s history? We would love for you to share that with us. Historical publicity, programs, photographs, oral history- we have a growing archive of our rich history and welcome additions. Call us or drop by our office!