The Kennedy Center

National Symphony Orchestra


Led by Music Director Gianandrea Noseda, the National Symphony Orchestra regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including performances for state occasions, presidential inaugurations and official holiday celebrations. Through its tours of four continents and performances for heads of state, the National Symphony also fills an important international role.

Officially founded in 1931, throughout its history the Orchestra has been committed to both artistic excellence and music education. In 1986 the National Symphony became the artistic affiliate of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the nation's center for the performing arts, where it has presented a concert season annually since the Center opened in 1971. The Orchestra itself numbers 100 musicians, presenting a 52-week season of approximately 175 concerts each year. These include classical subscription series, pops concerts, and one of the country's most extensive educational programs.

The National Symphony Orchestra has a strong commitment to the development of America's artistic resources. Through the John and June Hechinger Commissioning Fund for New Orchestral Works, the Orchestra has commissioned more than 60 works, including cycles of fanfares and encores, which, taken as a whole, are representative of the diverse influences in American composition today. The National Symphony has long been distinguished for its nurturing of young American conductors; that commitment was reinforced between 2000 and 2008, with the National Conducting Institute. Former Music Director Leonard Slatkin served as founder and director of the Institute throughout its duration.

Another important project is the National Symphony Orchestra American Residencies for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which has so far taken the NSO to 18 states. This venture encompasses sharing all elements of classical symphonic music with a specific state, exploring its diversity of musical influences, and giving the state a musical voice in the nation's center for the performing arts through exchanges, training programs, and commissions.

Throughout its history, the National Symphony Orchestra has served the nation through tours, broadcasts, and other special projects.

Watch Past Performances

Video 3/23/2018: NSO Prelude

Members of the National Symphony Orchestra play chamber works.

Video 1/27/2018: NSO Prelude

NSO Prelude: Members of the National Symphony Orchestra—Jamie Roberts (oboe), Mahoko Eguchi (viola), and Jamila Tekalli (piano)—play chamber works by Loeffler and others.

Video 11/18/2017: NSO Prelude

NSO Prelude: Members of the National Symphony Orchestra play chamber works.

Video 11/21/2015: National Symphony Orchestra Prelude

Members of the National Symphony Orchestra perform chamber works, including Beethoven’s Sextet and Schubert’s String Quartet No.13 “Rosamunde.” The program features violinists Alexandra Osborne and Joel Fuller; violist Mahoko Eguchi; cellist Rachel Young; and horn players James Nickel and Abel Pereira.

Video 9/18/2015: NSO Season Preview

The National Symphony Orchestra previews its 2015–2016 Season with selections by Mozart, Brahms, Copland, Ravel, Prokofiev, Debussy, Beethoven, and Dvorák. Roderick Cox conducts.

Video 4/4/2015: Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

In Trombonists of the Kennedy Center, eight highly skilled players from the KCOHO and NSO perform arrangements of works by Handel, Brahms, and Bourgeois.

Video 6/19/2014: NSO Guest Stars Young Soloists

The NSO presents winners from their Young Soloists’ Competition—violinist Rhea Chung, cellist Daniel Tavani, pianist Nicholas Biniaz-Harris—and cellist Peter Eom, a National YoungArts winner, in works by Sibelius, Elgar, Barber, and Dvorák. Part of the National YoungArts Foundation’s performance series, YoungArts@KennedyCenter.

Video 3/24/2012: National Symphony Orchestra

Kennedy Center and NSO Music Director Christoph Eschenbach leads members of the NSO in a program showcasing Dvorák's Piano Quintet. Part of The Music of Budapest, Prague, and Vienna.

Video 3/11/2012: Citibank® Classical Night: Three Cities Chamber Music Marathon

The Kennedy Center presents an evening of music from each of the three cities: The third Conservatory Project Chamber Ensemble made up of a musician from each Conservatory Project school performs contemporary work as selected and directed by composer Johannes Maria Staud (2:30–4:15 p.m.); members of the NSO perform early works (6–7:45 p.m.); and Quatuor Thymos performs early 20th century works (8–9:30 p.m.). Part of The Music of Budapest, Prague, and Vienna.

Photo of Christoph Eschenbach