Symphony of the Southwest has been a part of the cultural life in the Valley of the Sun for 60 years. In 1956, a group of Mesa Public Schools music educators joined forces to form a small community orchestra in the East Valley. From this nucleus the Sun Valley Orchestra and its sponsoring group, the Mesa Fine Arts Association, were formed. The opening concert was conducted by Albert Shepherd of the Boston String Quartet. Floyd Denton, who was the Music Coordinator of Mesa Public Schools and a member of the Phoenix Symphony, served as conductor from 1958–1968. Dr. Frank Spinosa, violin professor at ASU, conducted the orchestra from 1968-1973. The personnel and soloists listed during this time included many ASU faculty and students in addition the area music teachers and members of the community.
The 1974-1975 season brought a new name, Mesa Symphony, to the orchestra. Conductors for the next several years included William Engelsman, Ralston Pitts and Wayne Roederer. In 1981, the Symphony hired Maurice Dubonnet as it’s first full-time conductor, a position he held for 7 years. Eric Black assumed the Musical Director/Conductor in September 1989 and was succeeded in 1995 by Gordon Johnson.
Under the baton of Music Director and conductor Cal Stewart Kellogg since 2006, the Symphony continues to maintain and develop its commitment to artistic growth and tradition of being a part of the East Valley. In 2007, the name was changed to Symphony of the Southwest in order to reflect broader outreach to the East Valley communities.
Youth Symphony of the Southwest was founded in 2006 to further the musical growth of talented young musicians ages 15-20. Under the direction of Maestro Kellogg, YSSW members are offered an opportunity to join their peers for a season of intensive practical orchestra training and music performances, including a side-by-side concert with Symphony of the Southwest.
Symphony of the Southwest has a history of rich cultural growth through community support and educational outreach. With the assistance of grant money from the Neely Foundation, ACES, Act One and Joanie Flatt Family Foundation, the orchestra performs “Peter and the Wolf” each year for 7,000 to 10,000 third-grade children free of charge. The outreach to these concerts span from the Mesa School District to home schooled families, private schools and elementary schools outside of the East Valley.
Performing primarily in the stunning Mesa Arts Center, the Symphony of the Southwest enjoys bringing classical and pop music to all the East Valley communities.
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind,
flight to the imagination and life to everything.”