The Abilene Philharmonic is one of Abilene’s most established performing arts organizations. Its history traces back to September 1950, when community supporters organized a musical group called the Abilene Symphony Orchestra with Jay Dietzer as its first conductor. Concerts were held in the old Abilene High School, now Lincoln Middle School.
The first program was presented December 2, 1950 with works by Beethoven, Schubert, Grieg and Wagner. Mr. Dietzer remained with the orchestra through three seasons. A Women’s committee, a forerunner to the Abilene Philharmonic Guild, appeared in the second season to assist with fundraising efforts. Julius Hegyi conducted the next two seasons (1953-54 and 1954-55).
Walter Charles was named Musical Director/Conductor of the orchestra during the 1955-56 season. Five concerts, a community “Messiah” and youth concerts were part of the schedule. The Student Concert lecture program to better prepare the students for concert listening was started by Mrs. Scott Taliaferro.
At the beginning of the 1960-61 season, the Abilene Symphony Orchestra and the Abilene Civic Music Association merged to form the Abilene Philharmonic Association. This same year, Leo Scheer became conductor.
George Yaeger took the helm as the fifth conductor of the Abilene Philharmonic in 1966. He continued to expand orchestra operations by instituting the well-received Pops Concert Series and by tailoring the Student Concert program to younger audiences. In 1970, the orchestra, under Conductor Yaeger, moved into the Civic Center. In 1988, Mr. Yaeger ensured the future of the orchestra by helping establish the Abilene Philharmonic Foundation. Mr. Yaeger retired after the 1992-1993 season, and was honored with the title “Conductor Laureate.”
Shinik Hahm served as Music Director beginning in 1993-94 season and, during his ten-year tenure, converted the organization from a community orchestra to a professional orchestra.
Music Director David Itkin began thrilling Abilene audiences in 2004-05 building on the orchestra’s history and presenting the highest quality artistry, inspiring repertoire, and innovative production.