About the OSAS
Few major American Symphony orchestras play a regular series in out-of-town venues, but Salem has been blessed with more than 300 concerts by the Oregon Symphony Orchestra over more than 55 years.
The history of the Oregon Symphony in Salem began when a committee of Salem music lovers asked the “Portland” Symphony to bring one of their concerts to Salem in 1955. It was a special concert featuring guest conductor Igor Stravinsky. On January 11, 1955, Igor Stravinsky raised his baton in the North Salem High School Auditorium. The concert was so successful that the Salem committee requested three more concerts the following year. Subsequently, articles of incorporation were filed in 1955 and the Salem Symphony Society was born. The concert venue was moved to Willamette University Fine Arts Auditorium (now known as Smith Auditorium), which has remained its home since.
In 1975, a Pops concert was added to the classical series that had stood alone for about 20 years. The first Pops concert was directed by Dr. Norman Leyden, whose amazing musical background grew the popularity of the Pops series over the years. Dr. Leyden retired in 2004, having charmed Salem audiences for more than 30 years. Leyden is considered the Founding Father of Oregon Symphony Pops. Since his retirement, OSAS has offered a wonderful selection of Pops concerts, many under the exciting baton of Jeff Tyzik, principal pops conductor, and a variety of outstanding special concerts with sought after soloists and ensembles.
Guest artists performing with the Oregon Symphony in our classical series over the years have included Richard Tucker (1972) considered to be one of the world’s greatest tenors; three world-famous violin virtuosos, Isaac Stern (1972) and Itzhak Perlman (1977), and Joshua Bell (most recently in 2012); 16 year old cellist Yo-Yo Ma (1971); and pianist Andre Watts, who has performed in Salem seven times.
Today the Oregon Symphony in Salem presents a season of eight to nine concerts a year, and numerous educational activities for children and adults. It employs one full time director and support staff, and is managed by a board of directors. The Oregon Symphony in Salem has developed into a remarkable contribution to the community’s cultural life.