South Carolina Philharmonic


Founded 51 years ago, the South Carolina Philharmonic has become one of the leading orchestras in the Southeast.

Through the efforts of Dr. and Mrs. Darrell Richardson, Dr. John Bauer, Lester Bates, Guthrie Darr and Robert Ochs, on April 29, 1963, the newly formed Columbia Festival Orchestra, under the parent name of the Columbia Music Festival Association, performed its first concert.  The event was a great success, and on October 21, 1964, a group of organizers met to plan a season of two concerts.

Dr. Arthur M. Fraser, head of the University of South Carolina Music Department, led the Columbia Festival Orchestra in its season premier concert on November 24, 1964. The following season, the Columbia Festival Orchestra presented three subscription concerts, including a pops concert. Subscriptions for adults were $5.00 and $2.00 for children.

Over the next several years, the Columbia Festival Orchestra began to increase its performances in the Columbia area, as well as surrounding areas in South Carolina. In its fifth season, the Columbia Festival Orchestra was renamed the Columbia Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1971, after seven seasons with the Columbia Philharmonic Orchestra, Fraser resigned as Conductor due to failing health. Perhaps one of his most important and lasting contributions to the Orchestra was the establishment of a collaboration where the the USC Music Department hired professors who could also play in the orchestra. This policy led the way for many excellent players to join the orchestra.

After a year of guest conductors, the internationally acclaimed choral conductor Arpad Darazs was chosen to lead the Philharmonic. Darazs, a graduate of the Royal Franz Liszt Conservatory of Music in Budapest, Hungary, joined the the USC Music Department faculty in 1966.  Under the direction of Darazs and Bauer, who served as associate conductor, the Columbia Philharmonic Orchestra developed and expanded its four regular subscription concerts to include a series of Youth Concerts for children in Richland and Lexington Counties, several concerts in neighboring areas, and established the Columbia Youth Orchestra and the Junior String Ensemble, which was started by Bauer.

After eight successful seasons as music director of the Columbia Philharmonic Orchestra, Darazs decided to return to his full time position as choral director at the USC, and Bauer assumed the responsibilities of acting music director during the 1980/1981 season.

In 1982, Dr. Einar W. Anderson was appointed music director of the Columbia Philharmonic Orchestra.  He was educated at Stanford University, Harvard School of Medicine, Vienna Music Academy, Duke University and the University of Southern California. Anderson took the orchestra from a community level to one of the most important professional orchestras in the state.  During this time, the Columbia Philharmonic Orchestra and the South Carolina Chamber Orchestra merged to become the South Carolina Philharmonic.

After ten years as music director, Anderson stepped down and Nicholas Smith began as music director in July 1993. A native of Great Britain, Smith conducted the Kupjo Philharmonic for seven years and more recently, the Performing Arts Symphony in England. 2006/2007 was Smith's final season with the Philharmonic.

In 2008/2009, the South Carolina Philharmonic entered both its 45th year and a New Era of Artistic Excellence. A six-continent, nearly three-year search resulted in Morihiko Nakahara being named the orchestra’s fifth music director.

In addition to our signature, six-concert Masterworks Series at the Koger Center for the Arts, we offer concerts and lectures in the community, educational programs in schools and out, and our “Music for a Cause” program to partner with other area charities who share our desire to heighten the strong quality of life here. Our orchestra’s roots proudly intertwine with the Midlands.

Everything we do is planned and presented to entertain, educate, enrich, and excite – you.