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: History

The History of the Albany Symphony

The Albany Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1930 by Professor John F. Carabella. Mr. Carabella was born in Rome in 1885, and was a favorite pupil of Pietro Mascagni, composer of Cavalleria Rusticana. He came to America in 1915 to become organist and choirmaster at St. Bernard's Church in Cohoes.

What could have possessed Mr. Carabella, 77 years ago, early in the Great Depression, to found the "People's Orchestra of Albany" with 24 brave musical souls? What a seemingly inauspicious time to found an orchestra. And yet, what better source of comfort and hope during bleak times than the life-affirming music he and his orchestra played.

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Followin Carabella's tenure, the ochestra was led by music directors Rudolf Thomas, Ole Windingstad, Edgar Curtis, Julius Hegyi and Geoffrey Simon. In 1992, David Alan Miller, former Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was appointed Music Director. 

The last few years have been a time of dramatic growth and success for the orchestra. In 2011, the Albany Symphony was invited to participate in the inaugural season of Spring for Music, a festival celebrating innovative programming by American orchestras, at Carnegie Hall. In 2013, the Albany Symphony was the only orchestra to appear for a second year on the festival. In 2014, the orchestra's recording of John Corigliano's Conjurer won a GRAMMY Award. The Albany Symphony has received more ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming than any other orchestra in America, 26 to date, including the John S. Edwards Awards for Strongest Committment to New American Music in 2013 and 2014. 

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Music Directors, Past & Present


Maestro Carabella

John Carabella (1930-1938)

"I'm going to give this great city a first rate symphony orchestra whether they want it or not."

- John Carabella

Professor John Carabella founded the People's Symphony Orchestra of Albany which consisted of about 25 volunteer musicians. Born in Rome, Italy in 1885 Carabella studied music at the Conservatory of St. Claire. In 1915 Carabella journeyed to Albany, NY to be the organist and choirmaster in Cohoes. In 1934 the People's Symphony of Albany performed Carabella's work The Helderbergs, a symphonic poem dedicated to the citizens of Albany. The concert was held at Philip Livingston Junior High School with an orchestra of 75 musicians. This concert was well recieved by the public and the press, and did much to enhance the reputation of Carabella and the Symphony. On August 7, 1935 the People's Symphony Orchestra officially became the Albany Symphony Orchestra. This historic event occurred at an Executive Board meeting held at the Albany Institute of History and Art.

The Albany Symphony Orchestra fulfills its mission by performing, commissioning, and recording the work of established and emerging American composers while respecting and bringing new vision to time-honored classical music. This marriage of new and old attracts a variety of music lovers, from seasoned devotees to curious listeners discovering symphonic music for the first time.

The Albany Symphony continues to lead all other orchestras in the promotion, performance and recording of adventurous American repertoire for an audience of committed and open-minded listeners.

Read more in A Chronology of the Carabella Years, by Jim Rua


Rudolph Thomas (1939-1944)

"With a wide knowledge of symphonic music and his long experience in interpretation, music lovers enjoyed finely rendered programs combining both classical and modern compositions."    

- Knickerbocker Press, regarding Conductor Rudolph Thomas

Maestro Thomas



Maestro Windingstad

Ole Windingstad (1945-1947)

Born in Oslo, Norway Mr. Windingstad came to America in 1905. He conducted the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the N.B.C. Symphony and many other great musical ensembles. Mr. Windingstad came to the Albany Symphony from the New Orleans Symphony. As a leader with superior ability and broad experience he succeeded in drawing out the very best in each member of the orchestra. In two years with the Albany Symphony he molded a fine group of instrumentalists and raised the standards of the orchestra bringing it to rank with many of the major professional organizations in America.


Edgar Curtis (1948-1964)

"Mr. Curtis has accomplished wonders with his orchestra which he has brought to the highest state of perfection..."

- Edgar S. Van Olinda, Times Union

Under Mr. Curtis' baton, the orchestra achieved its greatest musical development. Added recognition was received with the appointment of Mr. Curtis as the head of Union College's music department. Curtis transformed the orchestra from a group of players into an orchestra which today has professional status and artistic stature.

maestro curtis


Julius Hegyi (1965-1988)

maestro hegyi



"Julius Hegyi certainly had an impact on this orchestra. He was wonderful in introducing the concept of the American composers."

- Sharon Walsh, retired Albany Symphony General Manager

A graduate of The Julliard School, Mr. Hegyi came to Albany from the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra. Hegyi was a major force in positive growth for the Albany Symphony Orchestra. In complete command of music from Baroque to contemporary, under his baton the orchestra grew into a well-polished ensemble with an ever-increasing audience throughout the Capital District. Under the direction of Maestro Hegyi the orchestra expanded from 5 concerts a year to 7 a year in both downtown Albany and Troy.



Geoffrey Simon (1987-1991)

Born in Australia and studying at Melborne University, The Juilliard School and Indiana University, Simon brought the Albany Symphony the distinctive conducting style and flair for programming which earned him an "enviable reputation as one of the major conducting talents of his generation." (Times Union)

Maestro Simon




George Lloyd (1990-1991)


"His music was him and would just envelop the orchestra. We just wanted to play and it was triumphant."
Nancy Winn, Cellist

Born in Cornwell, England, George wrote his first symphony at age 19. The Albany Symphony have the U.S. premiere of his Symphony No. 4 and the world premiere of Symphony No. 11, later recording both works. Lloyd's last performance was in May of '91 which included the U.S. premiere of his Symphony No. 6. After leaving the Albany Symphony Lloyd returned to England to compose.


David Alan Miller (1992-present)

David Alan Miller has established a reputation as one of the leading American conductors of his generation. Maestro Miller has proven himself a creative and compelling orchestra builder. Through exploration of unusual repertoire, educational programming, community outreach and recording initiatives, he has reaffirmed the Albany Symphony's reputation as the nation's leading champion of American symphonic music and one of its most innovative orchestras.  To read David's full biography, click here

Maestro Miller