Featured Partner: Kenosha Symphony Orchestra

12/3/2018 - Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

Arts & Culture, Featured Partner
Kenosha Symphony Orchestra, Music Director/Conductor is Dr. Robert G. Hasty
musicians on stage, Kenosha Symphony Orchestra
closeup of instrument, Kenosha Symphony Orchestra
Kenosha Symphony Orchestra, Music Director/Conductor Dr. Robert G. Hasty
Kenosha Symphony Orchestra
Kenosha Symphony Orchestra

The Kenosha Symphony Orchestra (KSO) was established in 1940, with the help of the City of Kenosha’s recreation department. At one time it would be part of the Kenosha school district’s recreation department before becoming an independent non-profit organization in the 1990s. The symphony performs four concerts a year - October, December, February, and April in the 2018-19 season - as well as two free youth concerts for all of the Kenosha area fifth-graders in the spring. Performances are typically held at Reuther Central High School, 913 57th Street. The Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (KACVB) interviewed Christa Hegland, the office assistant and a musician with Kenosha Symphony Orchestra, Inc., to learn more about this arts organization that’s deeply rooted in the community. Here’s an edited transcript of the interview:

KACVB: When did the symphony start in Kenosha?

KSO: The symphony started in 1940; this is our 79th season, which is impressive for a community our size (and we are already thinking about ways to celebrate our 80th season next year). It has always been important for the larger southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois community as well; one of our early music directors was also affiliated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

KACVB: Have concerts always been held at Reuther?

KSO: To my knowledge we have always had Reuther Auditorium as our home (soon to be named the Ralph J. Houghton Performance Center). But we have also played in other locations, notably at Carthage College in Siebert Chapel, for larger symphonic works which require an organ and/or larger chorus groups to perform with us.

KACVB: How many musicians are there?

KSO: The number of musicians varies from performance to performance, depending on the requirements of the musical repertoire chosen. Generally speaking, an orchestra has string, woodwind, brass, and percussion sections and for much of our repertoire, that means about 50 musicians. We could also have other instruments, like harp and piano, who join us for certain concerts, as well as groups of singers.

KACVB: Do the musicians get paid?

KSO: The Kenosha Symphony Orchestra is a professional orchestra, which means that all the musicians are paid - and that they audition for their place on the roster.

KACVB: Where are the musicians from?

KSO: We pull not only from our local musical talent, but from the whole region: north through Milwaukee and south throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Professional musicians tend to be an itinerant group.

KACVB: How do musicians “join” the symphony?

KSO: As I mentioned, one must audition for a place in our orchestra. Auditions are announced as needed to fill places within the orchestra, but we do keep a file of names of interested musicians so that we can let them know when we are holding auditions. Our musicians tend to stay with us; we're a great group and we enjoy making music together! And having an inspiring music director also helps keep most of the same musicians with us throughout the years.

KACVB: Who is the conductor?

KSO: Our Music Director and Conductor is Dr. Robert G. Hasty. You can read about him at, and on his website, which is linked on that page also.

KACVB: How are the show themes chosen each year?

KSO: Concert "themes" are really a product of the music, the particular artist/soloist, the events going on in the larger musical world (like composers' anniversary years), or events in the world at large (like this year's 100th anniversary of the end of World War I). The Music Director, along with the Kenosha Symphony Association Board, collaborate with the artists, musicians, community musical organizations, and others to set the repertoire for each season. And because this needs to be done in advance - sometimes years in advance for some of our soloist artists - our "themes" tend to be concert specific, once we have the repertoire confirmed. 

KACVB: How much group rehearsal time goes into each show?

KSO: You would probably be surprised to learn that the orchestra does not rehearse every week like many community orchestras do. Because we are comprised of professional musicians, we are responsible for knowing our music for each concert before we ever have a rehearsal together. We generally have two rehearsals and a dress rehearsal in the week before a concert, and sometimes fewer than that!

KACVB: Tell us about the annual school concerts.

KSO: The school concerts are a very important tool for outreach to the next generation of concert-goers and concert performers. Many of us in the orchestra tell stories of how we were inspired to pursue music because of a live concert experience! Also during the youth concerts, the fifth-graders get to hear and see the winner of our annual Youth Concerto Competition, a high school or college student who has not only won a scholarship, but also the chance to play their competition musical selection with the orchestra. 

KACVB: Do youths still attend the October, December, February, and April concerts for free?

KSO: The Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce has generously given us a grant to continue covering the cost of tickets for students 18 years old and under, with the purchase of an adult ticket. And college students who show their ID are eligible for a reduced price ticket ($10). Every patron needs a ticket, so if you already have your adult ticket, just go to the box office with your student(s) before the concert, show your student ID(s), and ask for the free student ticket(s).

Christa was also asked of her experiences as a musician with the Kenosha Symphony Orchestra. “We moved to Kenosha from the Chicago area in April of 1991. I joined the KSO that October for the 1991-92 season … It has been quite a wonderful experience, as you might have guessed, since I am lucky enough to continue playing with this group of fantastic musicians! I wanted to continue to play my cello even in a new community and with new responsibilities as a new mother.  I was given the opportunity, and it has taught me so much and given me so many memorable experiences, and continues to challenge me and form me into a better musician and a better concert-goer myself.”

Come see for yourself what beautiful music the Kenosha Symphony Orchestra performs!

(262) 220-7526,

December 2018

Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

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