The UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra is one of the premier university ensembles in the nation. Now in its 27th season under Music Director David Milnes, the UCBSO has solidified its reputation as a major force among Bay Area cultural institutions. Established in 1923, the UCBSO performs 15-18 concerts each season, covering the full repertory from the Baroque to the present with a special emphasis on music since the 20th century.
The orchestra is a proven breeding ground for future generations of musicians, composers and scholars; its members have gone on to receive graduate degrees at such conservatories as the Juilliard School, the Eastman School of Music, the Peabody Institute, and the Manhattan School of Music, and have subsequently performed with such luminary orchestras as the Concertgebouw, the National Symphony, and the Philharmonia Orchestra, as well as the nation’s top new music ensembles such as Alarm Will Sound, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Yarn/Wire. Among the orchestra’s highly trained musicians are English majors, biologists, engineers, historians, and computer scientists who go onto top careers in their fields.
The UCBSO’s remarkably high musical standards have been further bolstered in recent years through its collaboration with Cal Performances, which has led to masterclasses and workshops with Valery Gergiev, Gustavo Dudamel, Marin Alsop, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Musicians of the orchestra are also regularly coached by members of the San Francisco Symphony and Opera orchestras, as well as by visiting artists such as the Vienna Philharmonic and Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, who will be returning to Berkeley this season.
The orchestra prides itself on its performances of new music, and regularly premieres new works by UC Berkeley’s internationally renowned faculty and other prominent composers. A special relationship with UC Berkeley’s Center for New Music and Technologies has led to ground-breaking performances of new works with technology by Mason Bates, John MacCallum, Philippe Leroux, and Edmund Campion.
Also known for compelling interpretations of orchestral masterpieces, the UCBSO has performed symphonic cycles by Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Shostakovich, Sibelius and Prokofiev. We invite you to join us at our concerts, usually held on Friday and Saturday evenings over one weekend each month.
An annual concerto competition highlights especially talented soloists from among the orchestra’s ranks. Past winners have performed the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Prokofiev, Mendelssohn and Mozart Violin Concertos, the Tchaikovsky, Beethoven Emperor, Grieg, and Ravel Left Hand Piano Concertos, the Copland and Mozart Clarinet Concertos, and the Schumann, Elgar, and Shostakovich Cello Concertos, as well as Bloch’s “Schelomo.” Orchestra members also regularly perform chamber music in concerts in the music department’s Noon Concert Series and at the Women’s Faculty Club, as well as throughout the East Bay. A student-conducted chamber orchestra and summer symphony provide additional opportunities for Berkeley musicians.