The YSO Legacy - 1965-1970



The Yale Symphonic Society is formed

With the aid and advocacy of Prof. William G. Waite. Justin Conolly volunteers to stand in as acting as music director.

Link: May 1965 - The Founding of YSO

November 29, 1965 

is the first concert of the Yale Symphonic Society, featuring Ralph Kirschbaum as the cello soloist.

Link: November 29, 1965 - Woolsey Hall (Kirshbaum)


In the Summer of 1965,

Richmond Browne is hired as the first full-time Director of the Yale Symphonic Society. The name is changed to the Yale Symphony Orchestra, and their first concert is held on October 15th, 1966.

Link: October 15, 1966 - Sprague Hall (Beethoven 1)

In 1968, Assistant Conductor John Mauceri

is hired as the new Music Director to the YSO, ushering in a tenure that would define the orchestra for the next fifty years.

Spring of ’68, rehearsing for Scheherazade with John Mauceri for his first concert with the YSO, in the ratty old rehearsal room in Hendrie Hall. A crappy Wollensak tape recorder playing the full orchestra recording while I and two other budding composers, Lucky Mosko and Humprey Evans, tried to master the percussion parts. I was on bass drum and gong. Lucky was a pro on triangle. Humphrey’s tambourine kept sliding off the music stand it was perched on. At our first rehearsal with the YSO assembled in Woolsey I was so nervous getting the gong right that I walloped it. Suddenly the hall was silent with laughter roaring through all the orchestra members. And a huge gong reverberation bouncing back from the depths of the auditorium. John was very kind. I gave up the gong part and stuck with bass drum. Paul Severtson played the violin solo. Somehow at the actual performance pure magic happened. That’s when I fell in love with the YSO.

— Conrad Cummings ’70

November 22, 1969

The YSO sets the stage for a series of daring and ambitious programs with a performance of Alexandr Scriabin’s “Prometheus, Poem of Fire” that incorporates smoke, fog, lasers and lights to a packed audience in Woolsey Hall. The event was so popular, it was reprised in the following year, and taken on tour to France in the Spring of 1970.

Link: November 22, 1969 - Woolsey Hall (Scriabin “Prometheus, Poem of Fire,” Debussy - ‘Khamma’ Premiere)

As a student in the Yale School of Music I had the good fortune to play alto flute in rehearsals and performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (John Mauceri conducting). Spring, 1970, and Yale was rather shut down in anticipation of May Day demonstrations (the strike/close-down of Spring 1970 was about a lot more than the May Day demonstration and the trial of Bobby Seale). But I could exult in the many rehearsals of this college orchestra (unlike the few rehearsals allowed in the professional world). Ah, what joy. During one rehearsal in vast Woolsey Hall I saw a sliver of light come through a high window—I had a mystical experience. Which included awareness that Le Sacre was based on two notes! (Or so it seemed.)

— Jill Shires MMA ’70