Cover Stories

Musical Minds: St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Art is not just putting paint to canvas or ink to paper. It can adopt numerous translations beyond what is seen with our eyes. Music is one powerful example, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) holds the creation and enjoyment of it to be a fundamental part of the local community. The organization has much to celebrate this year. Along with its 140th season (it’s the second oldest orchestra in the country), it welcomes internationally renowned conductor Stéphane Denève as music director.

“Stéphane is passionate about music, the audience and the community,” says Marie-Hélène Bernard, SLSO president and CEO. “His history of risk taking and dedication make him the perfect fit for the orchestra, and he will elevate our already extraordinary ensemble.” Denève has worked with musical organizations around the world, including appearances with Orchestre National de France, the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Even before stepping into the role of music director designate last season, he had a long history of collaboration with SLSO, appearing as a guest conductor eight times since 2003.

He will kick off the 140th season with the symphony’s annual free concert on Art Hill in Forest Park, followed by performances celebrating the music of legendary film composer John Williams and others that reflect on the relationship between France and America. One special program, which welcomes Denève to his new position, playfully imagines his partnership with SLSO as a wedding of sorts, featuring pieces that are old, new, borrowed and blue. “Stéphane has put together a very stimulating and vibrant season,” Bernard says. “He wanted to create something powerful that highlights the connection we all share through music.”

Denève planned the season to honor the symphony’s dedication to improving access to the arts. Along with free concerts, student tickets for performances at Powell Hall are $10. For classical concerts, $15 seats will be available. But the orchestra’s reach extends well beyond its home stage. Members regularly perform for cancer and dementia patients at area hospitals and even bring music to the inmates of prisons nearby. The Music Without Boundaries program provides access to symphony performances for immigrants and refugees. SLSO also is dedicated to musical education, offering programs for students and training opportunities for teachers. “We have more than 75 outreach programs,” Bernard says. “We are dedicated to fostering strong ties with the community and bringing music to all of St. Louis.”

To welcome Denève and raise important funds for its education and community programs, SLSO is hosting its annual Gala Celebration Sept. 20 at The Ritz-Carlton. The evening includes a black-tie dinner and jazz performance by trumpeter Byron Stripling, his quartet and members of the orchestra. Guests are invited to end the evening with dessert and dancing at the Gala Nightcap at 9 p.m. Separate tickets are available for the late-night festivities for those unable to attend the entire event.

“We’re entering an important and exciting time in our history,” Bernard notes. “We have gathered together amazing talent and will continue to grow under our new leader. We hope everyone celebrates our excitement and looks forward to world-class musical performances.”

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is entering its 140th season. The Gala Celebration Sept. 20 at The Ritz-Carlton supports its education and community programs. Pictured on the cover: new music director Stéphane Denève. For more information, call 314.533.2500 or visit
Cover design by Cydney Moore | Cover photo courtesy of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Pictured at top: SLSO music director Stéphane Denève (center front) with St. Louis Symphony Orchestra musicians
Photo courtesy of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra