About Us

Founded in 1937 by conductor Robert Whitney and civic leaders, the Louisville Orchestra has long been recognized as the cornerstone of the Louisville performing arts community.

Robert Whitney with First Edition Record

Only ten years after its formation, Maestro Whitney and Charles Farnsley, Mayor of Louisville (1948-1953), conceived an adventurous plan to make the commissioning, performance, and recording of new works for orchestra a centerpiece of the Orchestra’s global mission. The Louisville Orchestra, as a result, is the first orchestra to create its own record label – First Edition Records;  and with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Louisville commissioned up to 52 new compositions each year from established and student composers worldwide, ultimately creating nearly 150 vinyl recordings (LPs) of more than 450 works by living 20th Century composers that were released worldwide by subscription in more than 48 countries.

A full-length feature documentary film entitled, Music Makes A City, was released in 2010 documenting this extraordinary achievement.  Details about the film can be found at www.MusicMakesACity.com.

The attention garnered by the early releases placed the Louisville Orchestra on the international circuit and secured an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall. Other acclaimed performances followed: “A Festival of the Arts” at the White House, the Inter-American Music Festival at the Kennedy Center, “Great Orchestras of the World” at Carnegie in 2001, and a tour of Mexico City. In 1981, the ensemble officially augmented to full-time status and in 2001, the Louisville Orchestra received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming. Reflective of the Orchestra’s commitment to the music of the time, the Louisville Orchestra has earned 19 awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for adventurous programming of contemporary music. In 2013, for the first time in decades, the LO balanced its annual budget — emblematic of its current stable footing and strong leadership.

In 2014, the LO welcomed a new music director, Teddy Abrams, who is reviving and re-engaging the Orchestra’s commitment to celebrating contemporary composers. Teddy is strongly committed to providing a platform for young orchestral composers to launch their art in addition to keeping the classics alive. He views music as an integral component of a community’s fabric, as the great equalizer among people, and so considers community-based performances and collaborations as an integral component of the 21st Century orchestra.

To accomplish this mission, the ensemble offers a wide variety of concert series to the community, including classical programs featuring world-renowned guest artists, lighter classical and pops performances, concerts with engaging themes in neighborhood locations throughout the city, and education and family offerings. The LO is also the resident performing group for Louisville Ballet and Kentucky Opera.

The Louisville Orchestra also performs concerts and provides educational programming throughout both Kentucky and Southern Indiana.


Robert Whitney (1937 – 1967)

Jorge Mester (1967 – 1979)

Akira Endo (1980 – 1982

Lawrence Leighton Smith (1983 – 1994)

Max Bragado-Darman (1995 – 1997)

Uriel Segal (1998 –  2005)

Jorge Mester (2006 – 2013) * Music Director Emeritus (2013 – present)

Teddy Abrams (2014 – present)