Between 1947 and 1979 the Utah Symphony Orchestra was transformed from an obscure, part-time, amateur orchestra into one of the major symphony orchestras in America. By 1947 the orchestra, which had begun as a Works Progress Administration organization, was barely hanging on. The symphony struggled to remain financially solvent, performing only a few concerts per year. Thirty-two years later the Utah Symphony Orchestra was one of the most prestigious musical ensembles in the country— receiving rave reviews from critics around the world, touring extensively, and with more than a hundred albums to its credit. The remarkable growth of the Utah Symphony Orchestra during this period is largely attributable to the efforts of one man—Maurice Abravanel.
Abravanel's unwaveiing commitment to furthering classical music was responsible for the changes that altered the symphony as an organization. His drive to further cultural education throughout the world, and specifically in the American West provides a remarkable story of dedication and commitment. To place Abravanel's ideologies and organizational successes in the context of American classical music, this thesis examines the history of the symphony, as an institution, in America, before turning to a study of Abravanel's personal efforts and the Utah Symphony Orchestra's consequent growth.
This thesis argues that the Utah Symphony Orchestra, specifically while under the direction of Maurice Abravanel, provides an example of positive growth in community education and classical music promotion. The particular programs that Abravanel implemented were generally successful, and ultimately responsible for the symphony's unprecedented growth. Further, by examining the challenges and solutions that Abravanel confronted in his work to build the symphony, it is possible to understand better the ingredients necessary to the development of professional classical music organizations.
This study uses Abravanel's work with the Utah Symphony as a model for successful community music programs, with the intent to communicate insight into successful methods for the promotion of classical music. Such an examination provides a new and imminently practical method for the historical study of musical institutions.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Smith, Alex D., "The Symphony in America: Maurice Abravanel, and the Utah Symphony Orchestra: The Battle for Classical Music" (2002). Theses and Dissertations. 5125.
Maurice Abravanel, 1903-1993, Utah Symphony Orchestra, Music, Utah, History, Symphony orchestras