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The mission of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra is to celebrate the tradition of live orchestral music and enrich the lives of people throughout our region.
As the state’s preeminent arts organization, the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra is nationally recognized as a driver for how an orchestra engages with its community. Founded in 1922 at Augustana University, the SDSO is now a fully professional 75-member orchestra with a history of performing in towns throughout South Dakota. The SDSO’s 10 subscription concerts feature a diverse mix of classical and pops programming. The SDSO’s home is the beautiful and acoustically superb Mary W. Sommervold Concert Hall at the Washington Pavilion. The orchestra’s nine full-time musicians make up the Dakota String Quartet and the Dakota Wind Quintet. These two ensembles perform over 100 times annually in schools, hospitals, senior living communities, behavioral health and community centers throughout the region.
SDSO performances are heard by over 50,000 people including 18,000 children annually. To reach as many people as possible, orchestra concerts are livestreamed and available free of charge through a partnership with South Dakota Public Broadcasting. A robust digital library includes virtual recitals, music education videos, and podcasts.
The SDSO’s award-winning Lakota Music Project has been recognized by the League of American Orchestras as a national model of cultural understanding and is the flagship community engagement program of the SDSO. With the Lakota Music Project as a foundation, the SDSO has fostered additional programs with the intention of celebrating cultural similarities and embracing classical music as a medium for collaboration. These programs are part of the larger Bridging Cultures initiative which have featured music from diverse cultures and backgrounds including Arab, Iranian, Indian, Filipino, Mexican, and Chinese composers.
Educating future audiences is a fundamental priority for the SDSO. Music education programs include the long-standing annual Young People’s Concerts for over 3,000 third and fourth graders, the South Dakota Symphony Youth Orchestra, Young Musician Concerto Competition, Music Composition Academies, and regular engagements throughout the academic year by the Dakota String Quartet and Dakota Wind Quintet in Sioux Falls Public Schools.
Known for engaging a community through classical music, Music Director Delta David Gier is also a champion of living composers. He is the 2022 recipient of the Ditson Conductor’s Award for his championship of works by American composers. Underscoring the SDSO’s innovative programming and community impact, a recent review in The New Yorker of the world premiere of John Luther Adams “An Atlas of Deep Time,” describes the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra as “one of America’s boldest orchestras.”