Andrew Koehler, Music Director
The Western Michigan University Symphony Orchestra was named "Best Classical University Symphony Orchestra" in Downbeat magazine's 2005 nationally recognized student music awards competition. In 2003, the Kalamazoo Gazette's classical music reviewer picked the orchestra's WMU centennial celebration concert as the most memorable performance of the year. The orchestra performed the final movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 "Choral" to much acclaim at the opening concert of the 1999 Midwestern Music Conference in Ann Arbor's Hill Auditorium and presented a featured concert at the 2008 Michigan Music Conference. The WMU University Symphony Orchestra won the Third Place Award in the College/University category of the 2015 American Prize media-based competition, which celebrates American excellence in the arts.
Under conductor Andrew Koehler, the University Symphony performs orchestral masterworks, features internationally recognized and WMU faculty soloists, and collaborates with the WMU Grand Chorus and Department of Dance to present their season in Miller Auditorium and the Dalton Center Recital Hall. Orchestra members perform with WMU opera and musical theatre productions, and the orchestra has performed at high schools, colleges, and various performance venues throughout Michigan.
The University Symphony Orchestra is open by audition to all WMU students. It primarily comprises undergraduate and graduate music majors who take pride in the professional level of the ensemble's rehearsals and performances. Competitive auditions are held each semester, sectional rehearsals involve skilled coaches and teachers, and both individual practice and score study is expected outside of scheduled rehearsals.
The University Symphony Orchestra began in 1945 and has had eight conductors: Julius Stulberg (1945–68), Herbert Butler (1968–83), Anthony Elliott (1983–87), Richard Suddendorf (1987–90), Robert Whaley (1990–95), Eric Shumsky (1995–98), and Bruce Uchimura (1998–2019), and Andrew Koehler (2019–present).