The Seattle Symphony, under the leadership of Music Director Ludovic Morlot, is a vital part of the Pacific Northwest cultural scene and is recognized for its extraordinary performances, programming, recordings and community engagement. With a dedicated subscriber base of more than 25,000 patrons, the Symphony performs or presents over 200 performances annually to an audience of more than 315,000 people. In 2014 the Symphony launched its in-house recording label, Seattle Symphony Media.
Since its first performance on December 29, 1903, the Seattle Symphony has held a unique place in the world of symphonic music. During its formative years, it was the charismatic Sir Thomas Beecham who most developed the orchestra's skill and reputation. In 1954 Milton Katims began his 22-year tenure as Music Director, greatly expanding the Symphony's education programs. Rainer Miedél, Music Director from 1976 until his death in 1983, led the orchestra on its first European tour in 1980. Gerard Schwarz was appointed Music Advisor in 1983, and Music Director in 1985. During his 26-year tenure, the Seattle Symphony made more than 140 recordings and garnered 12 Grammy nominations and two Emmy Awards.
The orchestra is now under the artistic leadership of Ludovic Morlot, one of the leading conductors of his generation. During 2011–2012, Morlot’s inaugural season, the Symphony enjoyed critical acclaim for its blockbuster performances of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, and Holst’s The Planets; the inaugural presentation of Sonic Evolution, a commissioning project designed by Morlot to feature new works honoring Seattle’s musical heritage; and a season-long exploration of the music of French composer Henri Dutilleux. Morlot’s second season, 2012–2013, was marked with further critical success, including sell-out performances of Britten’s War Requiem, RachFest, an immensely popular cycle of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos, and the Seattle Symphony’s first-ever performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla. Highlights of the 2013–2014 season included full Masterworks programs dedicated to the music of Ravel and Stravinsky, and Morlot’s first tour with the orchestra to Carnegie Hall in New York as part of Spring For Music, a festival designed to showcase the creativity of North American orchestras. The program, hailed by The New York Times as “a model of fresh artistic thinking,” featured works by Varèse and Debussy, as well as John Luther Adams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Become Ocean, which was commissioned and premiered by the Seattle Symphony and received a 2015 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.
In 1998 the Seattle Symphony inaugurated its new home, Benaroya Hall, noted for its architectural and acoustical splendor. Three years later, the orchestra opened Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center, where people of all ages explore the world of symphonic music through exhibits, classes and live music presentations. The Symphony’s education programs, alongside its nationally recognized community engagement programs, bring classical music to nearly 50,000 people of all ages each year.