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About Us

Mission & History


Celebrating Shared Experience Through the Power of Symphonic Music.


The Saint Joseph Symphony is committed to providing the best possible symphonic music by professional musicians for the people of St. Joseph and the surrounding region.  We play a leadership role in the arts community to foster a healthy cultural climate and make our region an attractive area in which to live. We provide musical opportunities to educate and motivate area residents of all ages to actively participate in music as a musician or concert-goer. We encourage volunteerism and broad-based financial support to involve the widest possible audience in the creation and enjoyment of symphonic music.


It is clear that from its beginning, the people calling St Joseph "home" have been very interested in high-quality music. The earliest records list Henry Rosenblatt's Band as the first true "band" in St Joe, being formed in 1854. Professor Otto Behr was invited to St Joseph to lead the band to a higher level of excellence, then in 1866, Behr organized St Joseph's first philharmonic orchestra. In succeeding years, a number of orchestras came and went. The current St Joseph Symphony (SJS) was organized in 1959 as a community orchestra with Maestro Richard Cormier as the first music director. The symphony evolved into a professional orchestra by the mid-1980s and is comprised of players from Maryville, Atchison, Kansas City, Lawrence and Leavenworth as well as St Joseph. 

The "home" of the SJS is the historic Missouri Theater, one of the last “movie palaces” built in 1927 by Paramount Studios. For many years, the orchestra was led by conductors affiliated with Park College (Parkville, MO) and Benedictine College (Atchison, KS). A partnership began in 1982 with SJS and Missouri Western State University (MWSU) in St Joseph whereby the musical conductor also served as a college music instructor and the two organizations shared salary expenses. This partnership ceased March 10, 2020 due to program cuts at MWSU. The St Joseph Symphony Orchestra currently performs under the direction of music director/conductor, Dr. Christopher Kelts. He also serves as the conductor of Kinnor Philharmonic (KC) and Kansas City Civic Orchestra.

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