The Peoria Symphony Orchestra lights up the theater at the Peoria Civic Center 8 times a year. The orchestra has been making music in Peoria for 120 years. It’s the 14th oldest orchestra in the United States.
Formed in 1897, the Peoria Symphony Orchestra began as the Bradley Symphony Orchestra with a few dozen musicians, directed by Harold Plowe. By 1916, it had become the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
At one point during the tough economic times, the symphony cash reserves stood less than 2 dollars, and only one concert was given. At that first concert back in 1897, the program said “financial help and moral support are necessary to further the aims of this institution”. That’s still true today.
“There are a lot of people who are volunteers who have committed their personal time to make sure the organization is there,” according to Peoria Symphony Orchestra Exec. Director Susan Hoffman.
Still, the symphony is reaching beyond the concert hall, sending visiting musicians to schools, TV shows, and even popular Peoria area hangouts.
Susan Hoffman is one of the few full time employees, while there’s many people who are volunteers. The musicians, who are paid, come from all around Illinois for a given concert, with rehearsal time being short.
“Ten hours of rehearsal time for a concert? Yes, I think that speaks to the quality of the musicians we are bringing in,” Hoffman says.
Marcia Henry Leibenow is one of those musicians. She has soloed in Russia, Germany, and Italy. Mostly, she teaches violin, viola, and chamber music at Bradley University as a member of the symphony for over 20 years, where she’s first chair violin and concertmaster. She’s the one the other strings watch.
Marcia is passionate about her music, and more-so about the experience of you hearing the Peoria Symphony Orchestra live in concert.
“Going to the hall and seeing what people do and hearing it live is a whole different experience that can’t be replicated at home,” says Concertmaster Marcia Henry Liebenow.
“You are in a hall and you’re all having the same experience at that same moment,” says Hoffman. “What I’d like to say to anyone who’s not sure about going is “GO!” Because it’s a very different experience to hear a live concert. It’s just not the same.”