Mission: The mission of the Fort Collins Symphony is to inspire, engage, serve, and enrich the Northern Colorado community through exceptional music performance and innovative outreach programs that resonate with audiences in meaningful, inclusive, and accessible ways.
Vision: The Fort Collins Symphony will continue to be a source of community pride as the leading regional orchestra with an expanding audience while achieving a national level of artistic excellence.
The Fort Collins Symphony (FCS) is the oldest performing arts organization and the only professional symphony in Larimer County, Colorado. Editha Todd Leonard founded the all-volunteer orchestra in 1923. Wilfred Schwartz revitalized the orchestra in 1949 when he was hired as a music professor at Colorado State University (CSU). The Fort Collins Symphony Association was formed to provide operational support in 1952. By the 1980s, the FCS was paying its musicians and today employs over 50 professional musicians.
Maestro Schwartz stepped down as conductor in 1999, having served for 50 years. In 2003, the FCS and CSU Music Department hired current Music Director Wes Kenney. Maestro Kenney serves as Music Director of the Fort Collins Symphony, CSU Symphony Orchestra, and the Denver Young Artists Orchestra. He is also a guest conductor with orchestras around the world. Maestro Kenney was recognized by The American Prize as the 2020 Honored Artist. In 2022, CSU named Kenney a University Distinguished Professor.
Since its founding, the FCS has performed live music to generations of audiences. The organization is resilient, surviving economic depressions, wars, and most recently a pandemic. The FCS is now entering its 99th Season, a feat indicating the community's long-standing support. In 2021, the FCS was the first-place winner of The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, Professional Division.
Recent (2022) Patron comments:
"So community-based and professional. Nice variation of music and guest artists. I always appreciate the 'education' provided with each concert." Another audience member said, "We are impressed with the quality musicianship shown in concerts. We also appreciate the wide variety of music performed. We like the way the Symphony reaches out to the community to become an integral part of the town."
"I brought my entire family, all of whom had not attended a Fort Collins Symphony concert ever before. They were a little hesitant to think they were actually going to like a symphony concert. They loved it! All four of them were so impressed and excited and 'inspired' as my 8-year old granddaughter put it!"
"I truly appreciate everything you folks have done to bring music to us at such a sad and lonely time in our lives. Music is my salvation. I could not make it from day to day without it. So very thankful that you are making the concerts available virtually!"
"One can definitely tell that the musicians in the symphony love to perform and the conductor truly is a showman. Between the two, it is very uplifting and exciting to attend concerts."
From a FCS musician:
"I just want to tell you all, thank you. Everything you have all done means a great deal to me, and I know pretty much all of us. Ever since this all began, you have all been one of the most supporting organizations that I belong to, and it has made my living situation sustainable. Without the work you have done, I have no idea where I, or my family would be. So, I just want to say how amazing it has felt to play music again with you all, and thank you, wholeheartedly for everything you are and do. You have my respect forever."
From a patron:
"I have been thinking about that beautiful concert Friday evening. Everything was perfect, the beautiful music, safe environment, cool evening with nice breeze, and beautiful setting. As I was listening to the music and looking at the surroundings, I realized that I actually felt normal." The world of the virus disappeared for me, and I was transported to a place of joy. That is worth so much, and I thank you for the evening."
Why Mary Pat McCurdie supports the Fort Collins Symphony: "Having a professional symphony in town raises the level of sophistication in Fort Collins. In addition to providing excellent classical programing, the presence of an Arts group that is exemplary in giving back to the community leads the way for other arts organizations. I see the Fort Collins Symphony as the arts group that all others look to for guidance."
According to Susan Greer: "The FCS means a lifetime of music to me. While attending my first FCS concert in 1952, I fell in love with the flute and played it for 42 years. Without that first concert, I would not have had the opportunities to be directly involved with music in the United States and Abroad, in bands, orchestras, ensembles and solos, and as a flute student and teacher. Although playing the flute was not my career or a hobby, it was a passion; it has been a part of my identity since 1952. Although I stopped playing the flute in 1994, it is only natural and rewarding for me to volunteer to help today's FCS in any way that I can now that I am retired. My life of music has come full circle: Back to where it started with the Fort Collins Symphony which is still contributing to my lifetime of music. That means the world (or a lifetime) to me."
A B Sharp participant said the following about the Fort Collins Symphony's B Sharp program for people living with dementia and their care providers: "I was blown away because my husband enjoyed it so much and didn't need to use his walker for assistance on his way out of the building. He just walked right out! The music energized him. His voice carries more life in it... I absolutely think he remembers the concert longer than other events and things we do. He can remember when the concert was and knows when concerts will be. That is something that is ingrained in his mind. These concerts are very fundamental and foundational for him.
My husband was really good at music and when we first started playing [after his diagnosis], he would get so lost. After attending B Sharp, I've noticed that he has improved so much. B Sharp is by far the best activity that we get to participate in. It is different from all of the others in the sense that I can really see how much this impacts my husband."
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) participant
"Our last outing to the Symphony in Fort Collins was the best thing that ever happened to me! (My CASA) has shown and told me a lot of fascinating things, this show was one of those, and it got my mind on the things that were happening in the real world. Thank you for making this world a better place."