It all began in 1988. A group of players joined French conductor and early Irving Symphony Orchestra director Yves L’Helgoual’ch, a cellist and former member of the Dallas Symphony, and began rehearsing together. In 1990, when the new Irving Arts Center opened, the “New Philharmonic Orchestra of Irving” became one of its founding performing groups.
As a community orchestra, most players performed without pay over these years for the love of the music. But funds were needed for conductor and principals, music, rental of rehearsal and performance spaces. Highly trained musicians – teachers, professionals, others – formed the orchestra.
It was ambitious. Large symphonies and opera were difficult, even when the Irving Arts Center opened and the orchestra began using the new Carpenter Hall. Finances for the new group had been “nip and tuck,” remembers first treasurer Otto Crumroy. “When I became treasurer,” he says, “we had $5.28 in the bank.”
Thanks to annual grants from the Irving Arts Board and other grants agencies and energetic annual fund campaigns, the orchestra has finished each season since without debt and today has a growing endowment – our “Tomorrow Fund” – of more than $73,000 at The Dallas Foundation.
Working with students. When the Dallas Symphony’s Richard Giangiulio became conductor in 1993– he continued as conductor for 13 years, then as “conductor emeritus” – he suggested a concerto competition for Irving high school musicians, providing a $500 scholarship and the opportunity to perform with the orchestra. Annual “side by side” concerts were initiated with qualified Irving ISD high school musicians sharing a stand with an NPOI member, mentoring the younger players.
In 2007 Dr. Sergio Espinosa was named conductor and music director, continuing the orchestra’s founding purpose: to present the best in symphonic music at affordable prices.
He initiated annual Latino Connections! concerts– introducing audiences to the wealth of music from Latin and Hispanic cultures, less often performed here, and began premiering new music by area composers.
And in 2013 the orchestra, with Irving schools, began First Tickets, introducing new orchestra students in the sixth grade and their whole families to an orchestra, first at a working rehearsal and then at a Sunday performance.
Today, that program has expanded, with a special grant from the Granville C. and Gladys H. Morton Fund at Communities Foundation of Texas, to include all orchestra students in the eight Irving middle schools. It helps meet two top IISD priorities: student retention through high school years, and involving families more closely in their children’s education, and we hope will encourage students to stay involved in something they’ll enjoy for a lifetime.
Our Sundays at the Symphony afternoon concerts have become a tradition for families at the Irving Arts Center. On Sunday afternoons from October through May, we perform the great classics for symphony orchestra, bringing in guest soloists, commissioning new works and using media and art forms – AV’s, vocal soloists and choruses, opera, dance, mariachi – to explore what music can communicate, offering a fresh experience at each concert.