Mission & History
The purpose of the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra is to enrich the greater community we serve through quality symphonic performances and educational experiences.
The Lubbock Symphony Orchestra will be an integral part of the cultural fabric of the South Plains Region with strongly supported program offerings, educational experiences that appeal to diverse audiences, a strong professional community-based orchestra, and operational and financial stability.
The Lubbock Symphony Orchestra was organized and presented its first concert in October 1946, under the baton of founding Conductor William A. Harrod. At that time, and for many years thereafter, it was entirely a volunteer effort. The LSO became a professional organization, with paid musicians, in 1967. Mr. Harrod continued to conduct the orchestra through the spring of 1984. He has been followed by a number of dynamic, and talented conductors including Andrews Sill and Tomasz Golka. The current Music Director and Conductor is David Cho, who began his tenure with the LSO fall 2012.
The Lubbock Symphony Orchestra is now classified by the American Symphony Orchestra League as a group VI Orchestra. It boasts nationally-known guest conductors and soloists, a full-time professional administrative staff and dozens of talented professional musicians who represent the business community, public school staff and faculty, and the faculty and student body of Texas Tech University.
William A. Harrod was introduced to Lubbock while he was in the Air Force and a member of the Air Force Band. He formed a dance band for the enlisted men and women who also were stationed in Lubbock, and soon was "asked to form a community orchestra by the local preachers," he said. "The thing that kept us going early on was the Texas Tech Band and its wonderful musicians. The problem was the lack of strings," he said. "Lubbock only had school bands back then, not school orchestras, so I had to put together a scrub team of fiddle players."
Harrod gives credit to Nat Williams for turning things around musically in Lubbock. "When he came in as (Lubbock Independent School District) superintendent, he announced that he wanted schools to have an orchestra teacher as well as a band teacher. The orchestra teachers themselves were good players; so I recruited them," Harrod said.
"And then finally the orchestra received its biggest blessing: (violinist) Virginia Kellogg. And after she arrived is when, I believe, we really and truly started sounding like a real orchestra."
Other Lubbock citizens played major roles in the development of the orchestra, with Harrod more than once citing the contributions of Asher Thompson and Charley Pope.
The orchestra, while founded in 1946, did not become a professional, paid organization until 1967. That played havoc with Harrod's attempts to even hold rehearsals. "That was by far the toughest part," Harrod said. "You see, I could schedule a rehearsal for a concert, but never know for certain who all would be showing up. Musicians would come up to me and say, 'Mr. Harrod, I can play in Amarillo or Abilene or Roswell (N.M.) and all of them will pay me.' They deserved to be paid. That went on until Asher Thompson and Charley Pope made arrangements for the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra members to at least receive token payments," he continued.
"And then it grew from there." But there was always an audience for the orchestra. Harrod said, "The only thing I can attribute it to is that, after World War II, people just wanted something to do. Some of them played cards. The bowling alleys did well. And we played music."
Conducting an orchestra was not considered a profession at that point, so Harrod opened his own music store.
"I think I made $50 a week," he said. "But the thing is, people always were so good to us the whole time we lived in Lubbock. We had a very happy life, and our kids were happy growing up in Lubbock."
More than 20 years after he left Lubbock's orchestra [When Harrod returned to Lubbock in May of 2003 for a reception and concert in his honor], Harrod said, "I still feel a sense of pride. I do. I'm glad the orchestra still is in existence."
Excerpted from "Symphony founder remembers early hurdles to creating group" by William Kerns, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Entertainment Editor, printed in the Friday, May 16, 2003 edition of the A-J.