The Central Kentucky Philharmonic Society was created in 1961 to provide background music for a film produced by the Department of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky. The orchestra was made up of about 65 volunteer musicians, many of whom were faculty and students at surrounding colleges and universities, including the University of Kentucky, Morehead State University, Eastern Kentucky University and graduates of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra. The Philharmonic’s first season consisted of three concerts, all performed at Henry Clay High School; the cost of a full season subscription was just $5 per adult, $2.50 per student and $12.50 per family!
In July 1961, Robert King was named first Music Director and Conductor of the Central Kentucky Philharmonic Society, which was later named the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra Society in 1965. During his tenure, King helped develop the group of 65 musicians into a cohesive orchestra, which soon became the largest arts organization in central Kentucky.
Leo Scheer joined LexPhil in 1965 as Music Director and Conductor. Scheer, a native of Jersey City, NJ, was the first conductor of LexPhil to implement a policy of paying all musicians, who had previously been members of the orchestra on a volunteer basis. Scheer was Music Director for six seasons before he resigned in 1971.
In 1972, Dr. George Zack joined LexPhil as Music Director and Conductor after a year-long search during the 71-72 season. Dr. Zack was chosen by a committee made up of sponsors, LexPhil Board Members, members of the LexPhil Guild and the principal musician of each section of the orchestra. Dr. Zack served as LexPhil’s Music Director for 37 years before his retirement in 2009. A native of Arkansas, Dr. Zack has been an incredible presence in not only the history of the LexPhil orchestra, but in the Lexington community. You can view Dr. Zack’s full biography here.
In April 2009, Scott Terrell was named Music Director and Conductor of LexPhil after a two-year search that drew from 278 applications. A native of Michigan, Terrell worked with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra for five years prior to joining LexPhil and was the Assistant Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1998-2003. For a complete biography of Maestro Terrell, click here. Visit his website here.
Today, LexPhil provides over 100 concerts, education and community programs every year, engaging communities across the region and reaching thousands of students in schools. With educational programs including the PB&J Series, Kicked Back Classics, instrument petting zoos, the New Music Experiment and Student Rehearsals, LexPhil is reaching beyond the traditional realms of orchestral music presentation to provide innovative and exciting opportunities in music across the Bluegrass.
The mission of the Lexington Philharmonic is to foster excellence and innovation in the performance and presentation of great music; to enrich the lives of our diverse citizenry; to educate current and future audiences and to bring distinction to our community through the orchestra’s presence and standing.