YSO History

Incorporated in March of 1971, the Yakima Symphony Orchestra is in its fourth decade of service to the Yakima Valley community. Under the batons of founding Music Director Brooke Creswell and current Music Director Lawrence Golan, the YSO has grown into a fully professional ensemble recognized nationally as one of the finest regional orchestras in the country.

The roots of the YSO, however, lie in much humbler beginnings during the distant days of the 1880’s. Mr. Charles Carpenter was a farmer by trade whose family farm west of Union Gap raised much more than hops- he raised the artistic level of the Valley by playing violin and forming a small orchestra which played public concerts! Through the decades that followed musical pioneers such as “Chief” Freimuth and many other individuals, as well as our orchestra’s direct predecessor, the Yakima Civic Symphony, laid the groundwork for the YSO.  

After the closing of the Yakima Civic Symphony, in 1967 a chamber orchestra was organized by a dozen musicians with Brooke Creswell as conductor. They operated under the auspices of Yakima Valley Community College and performed in the small, acoustically dry College Theater with occasional run-outs to the Capitol Theatre or Davis High School. During those nascent years a group of dedicated volunteers determined that the chamber orchestra needed the support that an autonomous nonprofit organization could provide, and in March 1971 they incorporated as the “Patrons of Music.”

The Patrons of Music presented the Yakima Symphony Orchestra for its first season in 1971-1972, no longer a chamber organization but now a fully-fledged symphony orchestra. After two years the young corporation began the formation of a staff by retaining a manager and putting its music director on payroll. Due to the steadily growing audiences during those early years, the YSO had to move its concerts to the larger Perry Tech auditorium. After the devastating fire and restoration of the Capitol Theatre, the Yakima Symphony moved in to The Capitol as its principal tenant, our home to the present day.

The years after the YSO’s move to The Capitol Theatre proved to be pivotal ones for the future of the organization- the Board of Directors decided to put all musicians on the payroll. The seasons since have been ones of spectacular growth for the YSO. Artistically, the orchestra now employs not only the finest musicians from the Yakima Valley, but from throughout the Pacific Northwest, and is generally considered among the premiere regional orchestras in the country. The YSO has two youth orchestras, the Yakima Youth Symphony Orchestra (YYSO) and Yakima Ensemble for Strings (YES!) and the 100+ voice Yakima Symphony Chorus. The orchestra has garnered two ASCAP awards for adventurous programming, including a number of world and local premieres. And recent seasons have seen all-time highs in the number of subscriptions as well as record funding and sponsorship levels.

Undoubtedly, the key to the myriad successes of our orchestra is the incredible dedication and love for the YSO shown by all the organization’s constituencies- patrons and audience members, volunteers and staff. With more than 50 years of proud history to build upon, the YSO stands for poised for decades of future growth and ever-expanding support to the Yakima Valley community.