The Florida State University Orchestras have enjoyed a long and illustrious history dating back to 1924 when the then Florida State College for Women Symphony was formed under the direction of Ethel M. Tripp. In 2000, Alexander Jiménez joined the faculty to begin serving as associate conductor and the first music director of the newly formed University Philharmonia, the College of Music’s undergraduate orchestra. In 2004, Dr. Jiménez became the director of orchestral activities upon the retirement of Phillip Spurgeon, who served in that position for over thirty years and presided over a period of unprecedented growth in the size and quality of the program.
Throughout the years, the USO has been under the batons of such luminary conductors as Ernst von Dohnanyi, Aaron Copland, Richard Burgin, Michael Stern, Robert Spano,and Matthias Bammert. Among the many guest artists who have performed with the USO over the years include Dohnanyi, Lauritz Melchoir, Joshua Bell, Denyce Graves, Lynn Harrell, Dr. Billy Taylor, the Canadian Brass, Nexus, and André Watts, among others. Music of our time has always represented a critical component of the orchestra program’s repertoire. Among the many composers who have worked with the university orchestras are Aaron Copland, Krysztof Penderecki, Martin Bresnick, Christopher Theofanidis, Ladislav Kubik, John Harbison, Michael Torke, and Chen Yi. The USO enjoys a special working relationship with FSU Eppes scholar Ellen Taafe Zwilich. In 2001 the USO recorded works of Ms. Zwilich on the Koch label with the Kalechstein/Laredo/Robinson Trio, and in 2007 the orchestra was featured on the PBS broadcast of Zwilich’s Peanuts Gallery, a production that was awarded Best Performance of 2007 by the National Educational Television Association. In 2010 Naxos released Millenium Fantasy, a compact disc featuring works of Zwilich performed by the USO under the direction of Dr. Jiménez. In 2002 the University Philharmonia performed the world premiere of Jeff Beal’s score to accompany the silent film, The General, a score commissioned for the Philharmonia.
The university orchestras serve the College of Music, the students of FSU, and our community in a variety of ways. In addition to orchestral concerts, the orchestras work with the FSU opera and choral programs, host two different concerto competitions yearly, read student compositions and orchestration projects, and accompany faculty and guest soloists. The guiding philosophy of our program is to provide a dynamic musical experience characterized by high standards, collegiality, and a sense of purpose and service to the community. The program also seeks to redefine the relationship between conductor and orchestra musician that is based on mutual trust, respect, and shared ideals. Technique is seen not as an end, but as a means to human expression through music. The FSU Orchestras enjoy a strong following in our university community, as well as the local and regional community.