The Connecticut Valley Symphony Orchestra, now in its 88th season, is the Capital Region’s oldest community orchestra. It was founded in 1930, during the Depression, as the String Orchestra of the Hartford School of Music. Harold Berkley led the orchestra until 1960 when Vytautas Marijosius, chairman of the conducting department at the Hartt College of Music, began a six-year stint as music director.
In 1968, due to declining membership, the orchestra reorganized, dispensed with its token board of directors and changed its name to the Connecticut String Orchestra (CSO). The charismatic Renato Bonacini, newly appointed concertmaster of the Hartford Symphony, took over as conductor, infusing new energy and excitement into each performance. During the Bonacini years the orchestra attracted soloists of national renown, sponsored an annual student Concerto Competition, commissioned new works for string and chamber orchestra by prominent local composers, and went on four European tours.
Following Bonacini’s retirement, early music specialist Thomas Crawford took the helm for four seasons, from 1989-1992. His appearance onstage in a wolf’s costume during a children’s concert that included Carnival of the Animals and Peter and the Wolf, brought down the house. He was followed in 1993 by Tibor Pusztai, former assistant conductor and composer in residence of the Hartford Symphony, who remained until 2005. By this time, the orchestra had expanded its repertory to include woodwinds and brass on a regular basis. Once again, the group voted an identity change, and in 1995 became the Connecticut Valley Chamber Orchestra (CVCO). Pusztai, a highly regarded composer himself, continued to emphasize the performance of new works. Participation in community events, such as First Night, and collaboration with other organizations, especially vocal ensembles, were a regular feature of each concert season.
In 2006, Christopher Hisey was appointed and he led the orchestra through the 2009-2010 season with youthful
enthusiasm, musicianship, new ideas, and a gregarious sense of humor.
In April, 2012, Joseph Hodge was appointed as Music Director. Praised for his “musicianship and energy on stage” (Journal Inquirer), Joseph served as the orchestra’s Music Director until April 2018. Joseph graduated from the Hartt School of Music in 2012, where he studied conducting with Edward Cumming and was the Assistant Conductor of the Hartt Symphony Orchestra. He brought a high level of musicianship and energy not only to the stage but to weekly rehearsals. Under his direction, the orchestra drew in new members, showcased a variety of local and regional soloists and expanded its audience base.
And, as reflects the ever-evolving nature of the orchestra, our name was changed in April 2014 to The Connecticut Valley Symphony Orchestra (CVSO).