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The University of Kansas Symphony Orchestra (KUSO) is one of the outstanding collegiate orchestras in the country. It is the primary orchestral organization in the School of Music and the central ensemble for majors in the string area. Membership of KUSO is open to all qualified students at the university, regardless of major, by audition at the beginning of each semester.
Founded in 1904, the orchestra program at the University of Kansas is one of the oldest in the nation. Dean Skilton first assembled a group of music students to form a rudimentary ensemble and the KU Symphony Orchestra (KUSO) has grown during the ensuing 100 years. The KUSO serves the university community and the greater Lawrence area, while reaching out to audiences in nearby cities.
Read more about KUSO history.
References to an orchestral ensemble at the University of Kansas date back to the 1870s. Formally established in 1904, the orchestral program at the University of Kansas is one of the oldest in the nation. Dean Skilton first assembled a group of music students to form a small ensemble and the KU Symphony Orchestra has grown to national prominence during the ensuing years. KUSO serves the university community, the greater Lawrence and Kansas City areas, whilst reaching out to audiences in nearby cities.
Past Music Directors have included such internationally known figures as Karl Kuersteiner, George Lawner, and Brian Priestman. The current director of orchestral activities is Carolyn Watson, who succeeded David Neely.
The University of Kansas Symphony Orchestra provides performance majors the highest quality preparation for a professional career in orchestral playing. KUSO offers a comprehensive course of orchestral studies and performs repertoire spanning from the Baroque to the 21st century, including premieres of new works. In addition to large-scale symphonic programming, each season includes performances of major solo works featuring faculty, student, and leading international guest artists who recently have included Blake Pouliot, Joshua Roman and Simone Porter. The KU Symphony Orchestra also regularly collaborates with KU Theatre and KU Opera productions, for whom it is the resident ensemble. The orchestra combines with KU Choirs for the immensely popular annual Holiday Vespers concerts and other choral/orchestral literature throughout the year, and showcases the works of student composers in the KU Composition studio. KUSO's concert stage is the magnificent 2,000-seat Lied Center of Kansas and the orchestra also regularly performs at the nationally renowned Kauffman Center in Kansas City.
KU orchestral alumni have gone on to important teaching and performance careers and have appeared as soloists nationally as well as with orchestras throughout the region. They are members of professional orchestras including the Buffalo Philharmonic, Utah Symphony, New Zealand Symphony, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and the Kansas City Symphony. They currently serve on faculties at universities such as Penn State University, Mercer University (GA), Harrisburg University (PA), and the University of Utah (Logan).
How to Join
Membership in the KU Symphony is by blind audition and is open to all qualified students at the University.