The mission of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra is to engage and inspire the East Texas community with exceptional music education and performance.
From the concert hall to the classroom to the community, the East Texas Symphony Orchestra has played a vital role in the cultural life of Tyler and the surrounding region since 1936.
The vision of Mrs. W. C. Windsor and of members of the Music Committee of the Tyler Women’s Forum, the Tyler Symphony Orchestra – as it was then known – gave its first performance on March 16, 1936. It was in 1954 that the orchestra was renamed the East Texas Symphony Orchestra to reflect the region from which it drew both musicians and audience.
ETSO – Wise Auditorium, 1965-66
Throughout its history, the orchestra has had several musical homes. The early years saw performances at Tyler Commercial College. Later seasons would be spent at Caldwell Auditorium in Downtown Tyler. For the past twenty-one years, the orchestra has offered its main subscription series at the R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center at The University of Texas at Tyler. Along with the central subscription concerts, the orchestra has offered programs at such locations as Bergfeld Park, Liberty Hall, Caldwell Auditorium, and on The Square in Downtown Tyler.
Along with these concerts, the orchestra engages with the community a variety of ways, presenting family programming, intimate chamber performances, masterclasses, multi-media presentations, lectures, and casual gatherings at various venues around town.
Education has been an important part of the ETSO mission from its inception. Annual school programs, which began in the mid-1950’s, have grown to involve schools from throughout Tyler and beyond. In 2012, ETSO became a partner orchestra in the Link Up program from Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute. This curriculum-based instrumental music education program brings much needed music to classrooms and culminates with interactive performances at Tyler Independent School District’s performing arts center at Tyler High School. The East Texas Symphony Orchestra proudly serves nearly 4,000 elementary students, including every 4th and 5th grade student in TISD each year via Link Up.
The ETSO is a non-profit organization, relying on community support to fund its operation. Since 1955, the Women’s Symphony League of Tyler, Inc. has remained the most significant contributor to the annual operating budget. Additional funding comes from individual and corporate community support, grant funding through public and private foundations, and endowment support from the East Texas Symphony Orchestra Foundation.