Formerly the Beaumont Symphony Orchestra, the SOST was founded by the Beaumont Symphony Society in 1953. The first performance, held on May 12th of that year, was the start of the Beaumont Symphony Society’s mission to advance and promote a further appreciation of symphonic music and to present student concerts to further the musical education of the region.
The orchestra has enjoyed the fine musical leadership of conductors Edvard Findler (1957-1970), Dr. Joseph Carlucci (1971-1990), Diane Wittry (1991-2000), Christopher Zimmerman (2001-2007) and Chelsea Tipton II (2009-present). Each of these conductors has helped to shape the Symphony into the great musical engine that it is today. Dr. Carlucci, who was also a faculty member at Lamar University, leads the orchestra and Lamar to create an ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship, which recruits students and faculty to play in the orchestra. He also dramatically increased attendance at concerts by broadening the programming to include not only classical music but other genres, such as jazz, and introduced the popular outdoor Pops concerts. Dr. Carlucci also initiated the orchestra’s annual Youth Education Concerts, which continue to serve nearly 5,000 students each season. Wittry had a strong commitment to arts education that greatly expanded the Symphony’s educational programming. Under her guidance in the mid-1990s, the Symphony initiated the Side-By-Side program, which gives talented middle and high school musicians the chance to perform in concert next to their professional symphony counterparts. The Adopt-A-Musician sessions sent an orchestra member to elementary school classrooms throughout Southeast Texas to perform and talk with students.
In 2009, after a two-year search and many auditions, Chelsea Tipton II was appointed the new Music Director. Tipton earned a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from Northern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Music in Clarinet Performance from the Eastman School of Music. Maestro Tipton came to the SOST after serving seven seasons as resident conductor with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. He has generated a contagious enthusiasm in the community for the Symphony.
The orchestra is currently made up of approximately 70 musicians from communities throughout Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana who audition for their positions and are paid for all season rehearsals and performances. Many of the orchestra’s principal musicians are on the faculty of Lamar University and several Lamar University students who perform in the orchestra receive Symphony scholarships. The Symphony of Southeast Texas Chorus made its debut with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Ode to Joy, at Maestra Diane Wittry’s farewell performance October 26, 2000. The Symphony of Southeast Texas Chorus also performs at our Holiday concert and in our Classics Series Finale.
The Symphony’s 70-member Board of Directors is comprised of civic and business leaders from the Golden Triangle region. The Symphony’s administrative staff includes an Executive Director, an Administrative Assistant, a Director of Operations and a Director of Communications.
The standard symphony season includes four Classics Series Concerts plus a Pops Concert, a Holiday concert, four free Youth Concerts for area students, two free Side-by-Side Education Concerts and a free Fourth of July concert in conjunction with the City of Beaumont’s activities.
The SOST is supported by the state and national award-winning Symphony League of Beaumont, which was originally organized as the Beaumont Symphony Women’s League in 1955. The League provides generous financial support and essential services to the orchestra. Their annual String Competition, Youth Guild, Symphony Belle and Junior Escort programs encourage future generations of musicians, music lovers, and Symphony supporters. The Debutante program, a mainstay since 1962, introduces high school senior girls to the activities of the League and the SOST. The League’s annual Symphony Ball is a major fundraising project and a highlight of the social season.
The Symphony of Southeast Texas is also generously supported by hundreds of individuals and businesses from throughout the Southeast Texas region as well as the Southeast Texas Arts Council and the Texas Commission on the Arts. Their generosity allows the citizens of our community to enjoy the world-class performances of the Symphony at a reasonably priced admission.
The Symphony of Southeast Texas looks forward to continuing its mission of presenting educational, entertaining, and culturally enriching programs of the highest artistic quality for many more years and promises to be “Good to the last note!”