About the Symphony

A community orchestra

Building on a venerable history and unique spirit of the town and gown cooperation, the Millikin-Decatur Symphony looks forward to a distinguished future of artistic achievement and community pride.

Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra

MDSO – Our Story

The Orchestra was created by the convergence of an established community orchestra with the Millikin University Orchestra in the early 1920s. The scope of the Symphony’s services and activities were expanded in 1975 with the formation of the Symphony Guild of Decatur, a non-profit support organization representing the wider community.

This partnership has allowed the MDSO to provide an ever-expanding galaxy of cultural benefits to central Illinois in the last quarter-century, including:

  • Symphony concerts
  • The co-sponsorship of the Decatur Youth Orchestra
  • Youth scholarships for private lessons and summer music camps
  • In-school programs
  • Competition for University soloists
  • Clinics, workshops, master classes with guest artists
  • Partnerships with the music programs at area schools

For the first two decades of this period, the orchestra was conducted by the successive Deans of the Millikin University School of Music, Ronald Gregory and Wesley Tower.

An important new stage of growth began in 1996 with the creation of a full-time position for a professional Music Director and Conductor, a position that was filled with the appointment of Dr. Michael Luxner. Since that time, the orchestra has converted from a college-community model to a fully auditioned professional model.

Working conditions, pay scale, rehearsal schedules, travel allowances, and repertoire are now on a par with other professional ensembles in the region, and the orchestra’s student members are trained in a professional environment and standard of performance.

The MDSO is also intensely engaged in efforts to build new audiences and to raise the Orchestra’s profile in the wider community. Initiatives in this area include:

  • Outreach concerts
  • Media appearances
  • Contract services
  • Publications
  • Speaking engagements
  • New partnerships with underserved constituencies

Building on a venerable history and unique spirit of the town and gown cooperation, the Millikin-Decatur Symphony looks forward to a distinguished future of artistic achievement and community pride.

 

A Timeline of MDSO History

Early 1920s

The Orchestra was created by the convergence of an established community orchestra with the Millikin University Orchestra.

1975

The scope of the Symphony’s services and activities were expanded in 1975 with the formation of the Symphony Guild of Decatur, a non-profit support organization representing the wider community.

1980s and 90s

In the first two decades after the Symphony Guild was formed, the orchestra was conducted by the successive Deans of the Millikin University School of Music, Ronald Gregory and Wesley Tower.

1996

An important new stage of growth began in 1996 with the creation of a full-time position for a professional Music Director and Conductor, a position that was filled with the appointment of Dr. Michael Luxner. Since that time, the orchestra has converted from a college-community model to a fully auditioned professional model.

Early 2000s

Working conditions, pay scale, rehearsal schedules, travel allowances, and repertoire are now on a par with other professional ensembles in the region, and the orchestra’s student members are trained in a professional environment and standard of performance.

2020

Dr. William McClain joins the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra as the conductor.

Looking to support the Guild?

A donation to the Symphony Orchestra Guild of Decatur puts instruments in the hands of children, makes live symphonic music accessible to all Illinoisans, and makes it possible for world-class musicians to call Illinois home. 

Every dollar counts, and each donation helps ensure a sustainable, thriving future for the Guild.

David Cook