Mission & History
The Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra is one of West Alabama's premiere arts organizations, serving the Tuscaloosa area by providing high-quality musical experiences for arts lovers of all ages. The TSO contributes to the area economy through arts events that support local businesses and tourism.
The mission of the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra is to foster and encourage the appreciation of music through live concert performances and educational programs that are diverse, enriching and of the highest quality.
At a comparatively youthful age, the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra has developed a history rich in community involvement and support. In fact, the TSO grew out of an assembly of volunteers consisting of both professional and amateur players. Formed in 1979 by Dr. Michael Gattozzi and Margaret McCain, the organization was first known as the Tuscaloosa Area Community Orchestra and referred to as "TACO." Membership was open to any interested person age fourteen and older who would commit to attending Thursday night rehearsals. Rehearsal space was provided by Calvary Baptist Church.
Due primarily to the hard work and organization of Margaret McCain, TACO was officially incorporated and given 501 (c) (3) non-profit status. Emmett Gribbin chaired the original Board of Directors. Other members included: Mrs. David Bahar, Mr. Norman Bassett, Mrs. James H. Black, Mr. Pete Cavert, Mrs. B.S. Chwe, Dr. Thomas J. Diener, Mrs. Wade Farris, Dr. James Hughey, Dr. Morris Mayer, Mrs. Margaret G. McCain, Mr. Clayton Rogers, Mrs. Hope Weston, Mr. Paul Wildes and Dr. James A. Williams.
The first ever public performance was on a Sunday afternoon on November 11, 1979, at the Bama Theatre. Dr. Michael Gattozzi was the conductor, and Emily Rogers was the "concertleader." The first concerts were free of charge, and concertgoers were urged to contribute at tables set up in the lobby during performances. For several seasons, TACO performed three to four times annually at the Bama Theatre. Children’s Concerts were later developed by Kay Mutert and were added as part of Saturday dress rehearsals. Admission was 50 cents. Eventually, concerts were moved from Sunday afternoons to Saturday evenings, and season ticket packages became available.
Members of the TACO Board and other prominent community members began to realize a professional Symphony would not only act as a cultural flagship for the community but also serve to aid economic development efforts in Tuscaloosa and surrounding West Alabama communities. Even though a professional Symphony would require additional administration and fundraising to pay professional musicians and staff, everyone agreed the benefits outweighed the costs. So, in 1984, under the direction of Board president Madeleine Hill, TACO became TSO: the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra. Musicians had to undergo a professional audition process in order to perform with the Symphony and were paid for their services.
The Tuscaloosa Symphony Guild was founded in 1984 by Elizabeth Hamner. The purpose was to enhance, promote and support the efforts of the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra by means of recruiting and organizing a team of passionate volunteers to host events and assist with season ticket sales.
In the winter of 1988, The University of Alabama opened the Concert Hall in the School of Music’s new Moody Music Building. The hall was created to be the home of UA’s performances and also the home of the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra. Today, most TSO season concerts are played in the acclaimed hall.
TODAY’S TSO HAS EARNED A REPUTATION AS ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S FINEST REGIONAL ORCHESTRAS.
The Symphony employs a professional staff, including a full-time executive director, and has employed many talented and sought-after music directors such as Ransom Wilson, Adrian Gnam, Louis Lane and Shinik Hahm, who have each left a unique and lasting musical imprint on our Symphony and our community. In 2011, after a two-year-long search process, the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, musicians and audience members unanimously voted to invite Adam Flatt to be the music director. Since then, Adam has led the orchestra in concerts and has been widely acclaimed as one of the best in the field. Read more about Adam here.
The Board of Directors is made up of more than 30 successful, hard-working members from diverse backgrounds and occupations. The Board is responsible for fundraising and keeping in accordance with association bylaws.
TSO musicians are faculty members and extraordinary students from The University of Alabama’s School of Music, members of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra (located in Birmingham) and professional musicians from across Alabama, Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis and other locations within a two hundred and fifty mile radius.