the history of Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra
The Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Music Director and Conductor Dr. Lonnie Klein until his retirement in May 2021, is a unique arrangement of faculty members, community members, and student musicians performing with world-class visiting guest artists. This select professional ensemble performs a wide variety of literature from classical orchestral repertoire. Each year the 70-member orchestra presents four pairs of Classical Concerts and a POPS concert.
The story of the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra (LCSO) began 62 years ago in 1958 when Oscar Butler, a vocal music professor at NMSU, gathered Las Cruces resident-musicians to perform Brahms’s Requiem. It was a rousing success in the community. In 1961, Dr. John Glowacki, the new head of the Department of Fine Arts at NMSU, merged the fledgling community orchestra with the university orchestra, forming the University-Civic Symphony.
In 1975, Dr. Marianna Gabbi became conductor of the Orchestra and furthered its development in numerous ways. Under her leadership, the Las Cruces Symphony Society (now the Las Cruces Symphony Association or LCSA) was formed. The board’s initial goal was to raise money to fund student scholarships for university string players. Their task broadened to solicit financial support to bring in renowned guest artists and facilitate establishment of the Symphony subscription series.
After Dr. Gabbi’s retirement in 1999, the board worked closely with the NMSU Music Department in seeking a successor. Dr. Lonnie Klein was the overwhelming choice. With over 20 years under the dynamic leadership of Maestro Klein, the LCSO continues to grow in professional strength and quality, as well as in creative and innovative concert production. Today, the Las Cruces Symphony Association, under the leadership of its board of directors, staff, and many dedicated volunteers, endeavors to present and promote music of the highest artistic quality for the region’s enrichment and serve our community as a musical, cultural, and educational resource. In addition to concerts, a key component of the LCSA’s mission is educational outreach. Many visiting guest artists offer master classes to NMSU music majors. By offering area school children and non-music majors a reduced “student rush” ticket price of $10 and inviting NMSU music majors to watch the Sunday afternoon concerts free of charge, the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra touches many thousands of local students each year.
The 2021 – 2022 season features four guest conductors as the LCSO searches for its next music director.
Las Cruces has proven to be a very special place for the symphony to grow and “Bloom in the Desert.”