“For those who enjoy orchestral music, the MSO’s concerts are definitely a must-see: the MSO executes its pieces with great passion and attention that illustrate the hard work and time its performers put into their music. ” – The Harvard Crimson
The Mozart Society Orchestra (MSO), founded in 1984, is Harvard’s premier classical-sized orchestra, enjoying both the intimate music-making of a chamber orchestra and the power of masterpieces usually performed by symphony orchestras. Though musical excellence is its top concern, MSO also boasts one of the most friendly and collegial atmospheres among the musical ensembles on campus.
Founded in 1984 by Matthew Cohen ’88 and Phil Daly ’88 and named by the former Dean of Students Archie Epps whose favorite composer was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the MSO established itself under the baton of Alan Yamamoto and continued to grow with subsequent music directors Charles Peltz (1985-90), Eric Benjamin (1990-91), David Commanday ’76 (1991-97), Robert Lehmann (1997-2001), Iris Lan ’99 (2001-02), and Akiko Fujimoto (2002-2007), with Chris Kim serving as Resident Conductor during 2003-2004, and Edward Jones (2007-2011), with David H. Miller ’11 serving as assistant conductor (2008-2010). Max Phillips ’15 and Sasha Scolnik-Brower ’17 served as music directors from 2014 to 2016, followed by Benjamin Perry Wenzelberg ’21 and Ryan Zhang ’21 (2017-2021). During the 2021-2022 season, the ensemble was led by co-music directors Jasper Schoff ’22 and Clara Nguyen ’23, with Chinyere (CJ) Obasi ’24 serving as assistant music director.
In 1991, David Commanday and MSO began to host the annual Freshman Concerto Competition in order to recognize and highlight the talent of promising young Harvard musicians. The competition is now open to all undergraduates.
In recent years, MSO has added to its roster of collaborators, not only instrumental and vocal soloists but also actors, guest conductors and composers. In November 2005, the MSO performed Mozart’sPiano Concerto No. 21 in a first-time collaboration with pianist Robert Levin, and in December 2006, Beethoven’s Mass in Cwith the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus, only the second performance with a Harvard choral ensemble after the performance of Haydn’s Creation with the University Choir in 2001.
In March 2007, the Office for the Arts sponsored the MSO in an open rehearsal of Mendelssohn’sSymphony No. 4, “Italian,” led by conductor Larry Rachleff (Music Director, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Director of Orchestras, Rice University), as part of the Learning from Performers series.
Beyond all this musicality, however, what makes MSO special is a dedication to sharing music with everyone we can–whether within the orchestra, within Harvard, or beyond. This is the true spirit behind the concerto competition, the Dunster House Messiah Sing, and all our collaborations. This is also what drives us to explore chamber music with fellow MSO members, release complimentary tickets to groups of students and senior citizens, and most recently open up our membership to the entire Harvard community.
If you are interested in playing with the MSO or have questions about the orchestra, email email@example.com.