A History

Thoughts and dreams of a symphony orchestra began when string players were accompanying the Austin Oratorio Society in productions of "Messiah" and "Elijah" in 1946. During the next eleven years, a group of musicians would occasionally get together to play for fun, perhaps putting on small concerts in the high school orchestra room. After one of these concerts, violist John Madura asked "Why can't we have our own symphony orchestra?" And so it began. Incorporation papers were filed on October 17, 1957 and a twenty-one member board was chosen to oversee the organization. Paul Heltne, music coordinator of the Austin High School, was appointed symphony conductor with John Madura as its first manager.

On November 25, 1957, Mr Heltne gave the downbeat to "Fledermaus Overture". And thus began the Austin Symphony Orchestra. Mr Heltne's strong leadership caused the symphony to grow and mature during his tenure, which lasted until his retirement in 1972. Selection of a new conductor followed, while guest conductors Donaldson Lawhead and Richard Larson each took their turn directing concerts, with Larson chosen to succeed Mr Heltne. Under his direction the symphony expanded the scope of works performed to include opera, ballet and great choral works, as well as to serve as the accompanying group for internationally famous artists.

In 1982, following the 25th anniversary of the symphony, Mr. Larson moved to a new position in Colorado, and David Jordhal began a six year tenure as symphony conductor. His expertise as a violinist was instrumental in improving the tone quality of the orchestra strings, and his concerts were described as "assured and skilled". Resigning to pursue other interests, Philip Burkhart became the fourth conductor. He continued to lead the orchestra in exciting rehearsals and great choral and symphonic works, introducing a unique chorus of Elementary School Students in 1992.

In 1994 Mr. Burkhart resigned to devote more time to his regular job as high school orchestra director. The search began for a replacement, which was found in Stephen Ramsey of Minneapolis. Under his guidance, the orchestra has striven for artistic excellence in every composition it performs, and has also reinstated the Monday morning Young People’s Concerts for students in grades 4 – 6.


Stephen J Ramsey  |  Conductor

Stephen Ramsey, well-known conductor in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, is beginning his 26th year as music director/conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra. He is the founding music director and conductor of the Dakota Valley Symphony and Chorus, and also directs the Dakota Valley Summer Pops Orchestra and Chorale and the Health Sciences Orchestra of the University of Minnesota. Ramsey earned his Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Missouri--Kansas City Conservatory of Music, and has studied with Leonard Slatkin, Max Rudolph and Maurice Jones.


The Orchestra

Violin I

*Sue Radloff
Joe Anderson
Gerry Casper
Anne Judisch
Jenny Kittleson
Anna Lippert
Deb Linnes
Millie Masse
Jill Thompson
Victoria Torkelson

Violin II

*Kimberlee Souhrada
Austere Apolo
Emily Beaver
Rebekah Crissinger
Jane Hanson
Austin Hodnefield
Laura Larson
Anna Hall Reese

Viola

*Deb Cooper
Beth Becker
Kathy Brittain
Jacob Crosby
Ellen Gerber
Mel Miland
Brian Vo

Cello

*Haley Rafferty
Diane Dammen
Sue Franklin
Tedd Lund
Bobbie Mistretta
Tim Rietz
Brenna Routhe
Thomas Walker
Noah Zimmerman

Bass

*Brenda Radloff
Joseph Walker
Chase Witiak

Flute

*Gayle Heimer
Aimee Chalmers

Piccolo

Erleen Nelson

Oboe

*Holly Dalager
Pat Hulet

English Horn

Lori Griffin

Clarinet

*Ann Flisrand
Mike Hanson

Bass Clarinet

Amy Wightkin

Bassoon

*Gayle Brownlow
Colin Zidlicky

French Horn

*Jenny Steele
Suzette Kuklok
Amalie Niethammer
Andrea Sivertson

Trumpet

*Tim Davis
Susan Fell Johnson
Ethan Wightkin

Trombone

*Mike Postma
William Colicott
Scott Kruse

Timpani

Martha Chancellor

Percussion

*Phil Burkhart
Malachi Oman
Amy Wightkin

Harp

Rachel Christensen

Keyboard

Katherine Shapinsky

*Principal. Other personnel listed alphabetically.