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History of the National Symphony Orchestra

The National Symphony Orchestra’s 83rd season is its fourth under the leadership of Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, who is also the Music Director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The NSO made its first two international tours under Maestro Eschenbach’s direction in 2012 and 2013, visiting nine countries and garnering great acclaim. The National Symphony Orchestra regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including performances for state occasions, presidential inaugurations and official holiday celebrations.

Founded in 1931, the Orchestra has throughout its history been committed to artistic excellence and music education. In 1986 the National Symphony became an artistic affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where it has presented a concert season annually since the Center opened in 1971. The Orchestra itself numbers 96 musicians, presenting a 52-week season of approximately 150 concerts each year. These include classical subscription series, pops concerts, summer performances at Wolf Trap and on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, chamber music performances in the Terrace Theater and on the Millennium Stage, and one of the country’s most extensive educational programs. Additionally the NSO’s community engagement projects are nationally recognized, including NSO In Your Neighborhood (comprised of a week of approximately 30 performances in schools, churches, community centers, and other neighborhood venues) and NSO Sound Health, begun this year, with performances at the National Institutes of Health.

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. In addition, through its American Residencies, the NSO visited 21 states, performing, training, and teaching, with all proceeds from concerts remaining in the state to benefit local arts organizations.

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