The Asheville Symphony was established in 1960. At that time, all musicians performed on a volunteer basis and the Symphony was without a resident conductor or manager.
Between 1960 and 1970, the Symphony grew in size, a part time resident manager and conductor were hired, paid guest artists were introduced, choral and youth ensembles were formed, a Symphony Guild was formed, a regular season with subscription sales was developed, and the concerts were moved from school and church auditoriums to the 2,354 seat Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Funding for the Symphony was basically limited to ticket sales, contributions and Guild fund-raising efforts. In 1977, all musicians were paid for the first time, and the first meaningful foundation grant of $10,000 was received. The budget at that time was $40,000.
In 1978, the first full time manager was hired, and in 1980, the first resident, full-time conductor was brought to Asheville. With the new conductor, Robert Hart Baker, the orchestra grew dramatically both in size and quality. Dr. Baker left the orchestra in June of 2004. After a two year search and audition process, Daniel Meyer was hired as the new Music Director in December 2004.
Currently, the Asheville Symphony operates on a budget of approximately $1.2 million, employing an 80-100 member orchestra paid on a per-service basis and presents concerts featuring internationally renowned as well as local guest artists. Funding for the Symphony now is drawn from a wide variety of sources, most notability the North Carolina Arts Council, individual contributions, advertising, Guild fundraising projects, and local government, with about 40% of the budget provided by ticket revenue.
The Symphony presents seven full orchestra Masterworks concerts per year in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville’s US Cellular Center. Each concert features a performance by a guest artist. The Symphony’s programming reflects a desire to present both the “old favorites” as well as more recent works.