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OUR HISTORY

HISTORY OF THE SBSO

In the Fall of 1929, conductor James “Jimmy” K. Guthrie posited that communities with access to the arts were stronger and more vibrant places than those which lacked this vital access. Reaching out to musician friends in San Bernardino and Los Angeles, he established The Inland Empire Philharmonic Orchestra which would later become the San Bernardino Symphony.  Their first concert was held the following March and included Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

 

The Symphony performed several concerts each year until 1961 when our first partnership with the local Adult School was established. This set the foundation for future partnerships with the local education community. To manage the expanding reach of the organization, two years later, the San Bernardino Symphony Association was formed.
 

In 1980, the Symphony hired its first paid staff member, coordinated with Local 47 for professional musicians, and changed its name to the Inland Empire Symphony. All went well until the Recession hit the region causing a mid-season cancellation of the two remaining concerts. Shortly thereafter, the Symphony engaged its first Executive Director and hired a musician’s personnel manager. Under this leadership, the organization began to blossom again and, based on recognition of the growing local ethnic diversity, in 1985, the Symphony founded Sinfonia Mexicana bringing Latin American orchestras into San Bernardino.
 

Throughout the 80s, the Symphony broadened the scope of its concerts to include non-classical fare, held concerts at the California Theatre, at Secombe Lake Park, and in various venues throughout the region. Chamber music groups performed throughout the city and the Symphony added two annual performances at the country’s longest-running free concert venue, the Redlands Bowl. Their Fourth of July concerts brought thousands into the city each year. Toward the end of the decade, the Symphony incorporated, the first student volunteer program was established (still on-going as the Symphony Debs and Red Tie Guys), and the Association became the Symphony Board of Directors.
 

In 1991, Symphony docents began the in-schools program which would eventually introduce orchestral instruments to over 160,000 students. By the late 1990s, the Civic Light Opera had closed and the City of San Bernardino Economic Development Agency took over operations of the Symphony’s primary performance venue, the California Theatre of the Performing Arts. The 1990s also saw Symphony concerts at Cal State San Bernardino starring Vicki Carr and Maya Angelou.
 

In 2000, Carlo Ponti, son of actress Sophia Loren, took the helm as conductor. Also, that year the Symphony opened a music rental library named in memory of its donor, James K. Guthrie. In 2003, the Symphony volunteer Guild was formed with an annual fundraising goal of $25,000.

In 2006, an Irvine Foundation Capacity Building Grant allowed the Symphony to establish donor and volunteer management systems, set up on-line ticket sales, and provide training to the Board and Executive Director.

 

In 2013, the current Executive Director, Dr, Anne Viricel, was hired and shortly thereafter, the Symphony began the sponsored student ticket program, Classroom to Concert Hall, which has created a pathway for thousands of families to attend concerts. The Symphony also added a second annual free student concert each February thereby doubling the number of students attending to over 3,400.
 

In 2019, following a two year long international search, Maestro Anthony Parnther was hired bringing his outstanding talent and energy to the organization. Today's San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra provides a world class arts experience for many thousands each year.


CHRONICLE OF CONDUCTORS

Jay Plowe 1929–1933
James K. Guthrie 1935-1961
Joseph Pearlman 1962-Sept.1965
Michael Perriere Jul 1968-May 1976
Rudolph Picardi Sept. 1965-Jun 1968
Meredith Wilson Mar/Apr 1976 (Guest conductor)
Alberto Bolet Oct 1976-1980
Thomas Nee Feb 1981
Gregory Millar Jun 1981-Aug 1982
Dr. Ben Eby Mar 1983, Jul 1983-Feb 1984
Don Th. Jaeger Jan 1983, Fall 1984-1989
Donald Ambroson May 1983
Stewart Robinson 1989-2001
Carlo Ponti, Jr. 2001-2012
Frank Fetta 2013-2017
Conductor Search 2017-2019
Anthony Parnther 2019- Present


CHRONICLE OF BOARD PRESIDENTS

TBA 1929-1962
Dr. John M. Pfau 1963 -1965
Leslie I Harris 1965 -1967
Dr. John M. Pfau 1967 -1970
Allen Gresham 1970 -1971
Maj. Gen. Clyde Mitchell 1971- 1972
Dr. Arthur Jensen 1972- 1974
Mrs. Ted Eichelberger 1974- 1976
Dr. Robert Sprague 1976- 1976
Mrs. William Howard 1976- 1977
Dr. Joseph Thomas 1977- 1978
Hollis Hartley 1978- 1979
Glenn Rymer 1979 -1980 
Cloy Francis 1980 -1981
Evelyn Kravetz 1981- 1983
Jan Mordy 1983 -1984
Gerald Bean 1984 -1989
Allen Gresham 1989 -1993
Dr Irvin Root 1994 -1995
Edward G. Hill 1995 - 2001
Mark Edwards 2001 - 2003
Ann Harris 2003 - 2005
Mary Schnepp 2005 – 2013
Dr. Judith Valles 2013-2017
Dean McVay 2017-present