HISTORY OF THE
BURLINGTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Our odyssey began as the McMaster Symphony Orchestra in September 1973. Under the visionary leadership of Dr. Lee Hepner, the orchestra’s debut concert resonated through the halls of Mohawk College Theatre on 29th November 1973. By 1979, our concerts at the Great Hall of Hamilton Place were drawing crowds of up to 1200. The orchestra was granted charitable status in 1981. Dr Hepner’s visionary programming was on full display on 7th February 1982, as we were graced by soloist Valerie Tryon.
Navigating through transitions, we departed from McMaster University in 1988, evolving into the Greater Hamilton Symphony Association. Known then as Symphony Hamilton, we rebranded in 2011 to ‘Symphony on the Bay’, symbolising our deep roots in the Hamilton-Burlington landscape. Our new moniker also marked our move to the Burlington Performing Arts Centre – a venue echoing with acoustic splendour.
Come 2019, we further strengthened our commitment to Burlington’s musical culture by rechristening ourselves as the Burlington Symphony Orchestra, while preserving our ties with Hamilton and its surroundings.
Our core objectives remain:
The passing of Lee Hepner in 1986 was a turning point. Matthew Airhart then helmed the orchestra, followed by a series of renowned guest conductors. The baton passed to Clyde Mitchell in 1990, succeeded by James R. McKay in 1995. As a tribute to his 19-year tenure, McKay was bestowed the title of Music Director Emeritus. Various guest conductors led the orchestra until Denis Mastromonaco was appointed Music Director in March 2019.
The Burlington Symphony Orchestra continues to illuminate the Hamilton and Burlington musical landscapes. Over 700 talented musicians have graced our ensemble, many achieving illustrious careers both in Canada and internationally. Partnerships with local ensembles have enriched our concerts and the Young Artists Competition, active since 1991, continually highlights the wealth of budding talent in our regions.
Our journey has been championed by granting bodies including the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Burlington, the Burlington Foundation, and many more. The Burlington Symphony Orchestra and its predecessors have performed with the Hamilton Suzuki School of Music, the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Mohawk College Singers, the Guelph Chamber Choir, the Brampton Festival Singers, the choir of First-St Andrews United Church of London, Ontario, Masterworks of Oakville, Koogle Theatre Company, Burlington Civic Chorale, Laura Secord Secondary School Choir, and other regional ensembles.