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Our History

In the autumn of 1952, a group of Twin Cities’ musicians organized the Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis under the baton of Henry Denecke, timpanist with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. The fledgling orchestra had its first concert that following spring on Tuesday, May 5, 1953. 

In its early years, Civic rehearsed in the auditorium of Schmitt Music. Tom Nee,  Assistant Professor of Music at Hamline University, assumed leadership of the Civic in 1954 and helped to build the ensemble into a leading community orchestra. Under his direction, Civic established a commissioning fund to support the composition of new music, commissioning its first work in 1957.

Long noted for its innovative programming, the Orchestra has received eleven awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), a prestigious number for a community orchestra of its size. This tradition is ongoing, with new compositions currently in the works.

The Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis continues today as the oldest community orchestra in Minneapolis. Just as it was in 1952, our members come together to perform music to the delight of both players and audiences. Nearly 70 years after its founding, it continues its legacy of exhilarating performances and creation of new music under the direction of Cary John Franklin, Music Director since 1994.

The Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis has been sustained for nearly seventy seasons in no small part due to the talent of its music directors. These leaders have passed the baton through the decades with a common vision of bringing beautiful and innovative music to the community.

Shown left to right, top row:

1952-54 Henry Denecke, Founder and Timpanist, MN Orchestra
1954-67 Thomas Nee
1968-70 James MacInnes
1970-72 Lea Foli, Concertmaster of the MN Orchestra

1972-73 Thomas Nee

Shown left to right, bottom row:
1973-74 Henry Charles Smith, Assoc. Conductor, the MN Orchestra
1974-75 Clynn Dee Barrus, Principal Violist of the MN Orchestra.
1975-92 Robert Bobzin
1993-94 Myles Hernandez
1994-present Cary John Franklin

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