The Youngstown Symphony Orchestra has been in existence since 1926 when it was started by brothers and conductors Michael and Carmine Ficocelli.
Introduced as “The Little Youngstown Symphony,” it was comprised of 12 players, with an average age of 16. Their first program was broadcast on WKBN radio, and their first public concert was held in 1929.
In 1935 the Junior Chamber of Commerce became involved, and “little” was dropped from the organization’s name. Growing in size, the need for a permanent administrative body was realized. The “Jay-Cees” organized the Youngstown Symphony Society. Four concerts were presented that year, performing in the Concert Hall at Stambaugh Auditorium. By the 1937-1938 season, concert attendees reach 2,300 people.
A New Era
After 25 years of devoted service, the Ficocelli Brothers resigned.
The Youngstown Symphony Society was reorganized in the 1950-1951 season. Mr. John Krueger, a 29-year-old composer, and conductor, was hired in 1951. The name of the orchestra was changed to “The Youngstown Philharmonic Orchestra.” Growth under Mr. Krueger included the Youngstown Philharmonic Chorus and the Junior Orchestra.
After fifteen years, John Krueger resigned. Franz Bibo was selected to be the new conductor. The orchestra’s name was changed to “The Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.” During his tenure, Maestro Bibo began a very successful series of fully-staged, locally-produced operas. Maestro Bibo was the conductor of the orchestra for twelve seasons.
The Warner Theatre, built by Harry, Jack, and Albert Warner as a memorial to their late brother Sam, opened in 1931. The theatre flourished until the early 50s, but by 1968 the declining movie business forced its closing. The theatre was scheduled to be demolished on September 21, 1968, the dismantling of fixtures, art objects, and other priceless pieces began. The Youngstown Symphony Society had attempted to purchase the building, but sufficient funds were not forthcoming. On September 19, 1968, an anonymous donor guaranteed $250,000 to the Society to acquire the theatre. Shortly after the transfer of the title, it was announced that the benefactors were Mr. and Mrs. Edward W. Powers. Plans began for an intensive campaign to get public support for the renovation.
On September 20, 1969, the Symphony Center/Edward W. Powers Auditorium opened with a gala performance of “Die Fledermaus,” conducted by Maestro Franz Bibo.
Currently, the Youngstown Symphony Society has embarked on redevelopment efforts for the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. The preservation and advancement of this historic entity for the future is the focus and goal of the organization’s current work. As we continue to evolve, exciting new programs will be implemented, and a strong support structure for the future will be built all while maintaining a professional orchestra presenting quality performances.
The mission of the Youngstown Symphony Society is to increase the appreciation for and familiarity with fine music, to ensure the continued presentation of traditional symphonic repertoire by the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra while encouraging the establishment of American and contemporary music and addressing the needs of a varied community.