History of the SSO

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Even in the so’s and 6o’s Sudbury was a musical town. The city was swinging to the music of Con DiSalle and Pete Debris. Anita Perras and Bill Rivers took the “country” side.  Sudburian Karl Pukara, organized the Karl Pukara Accordion Orchestra in 1957 and then, in 1964 he established the Regional Conservatory of Music, also known as the Karl Pukara Music Studio.The Sudbury High School Concert Band, under Earl Simard (himself an accomplished pianist), spawned many professional musicians, who contributed musically in Sudbury and worldwide. Joan (Noble) Mantle, began the music program at Lo-Ellen and Lasalle high schools. Frank and Jack Musico, Richard Toivonen, Dick Perras, Eleanor Connors and Victor Comisso ( eventually the conductor of the Canadian Youth Orchestra) all became prominent musicians.

Emil First, the music director for the Sudbury Board of Education, founded the original Symphony, the Sudbury Philharmonic Society, in the fall of 1953. The first public performance was held on January 13, 1954. Emil held this position until his retirement in 1957. Eric Woodward took over the Sudbury Philharmonic Society and in 1962 he merged it with First’s orchestra. For the next seventeen years, Eric Woodward served as the conductor of the combined orchestra and choir.

Following Woodward’s departure in 1974, the orchestra and the choir became separate entities. The choir became The Bel Canto Chorus, leaving room for a new symphony.

In 1975, Dr. Metro Kozak, a Cambrian College professor, met with John Stefura, Mitch Speigel and Betty Webster, the founding director of Orchestras Canada to establish the Sudbury Symphony. Other board members that were added included Anthony Wilkins, who wrote the new by-laws, Nigel Robbins, orchestra representative, Arthur Tombalaltian, a Laurentian professor and Dr. Roberto Grosso, who followed John Stefura as president. Dr. Kozalc, the new conductor, was charged with creating an entity, which would reflect the Symphony’s two-fold commitment to music education and to public performance. Dr. Kozak held this position until his retirement in 1997. Many of Canada’s finest musicians received their initial training, under Dr. Kozak.

In 1997, Maestro Dr. Victor Sawa took over the podium and conducted the orchestra until the fall of 2015. Victor enjoyed interacting with the audience during the concerts as he provided keen insights and background to the pieces in that evening’s program.  The 2016.17 season saw Mélanie Léonard over as Music Director, the first female Music Director and the youngest, passing the baton to a new generation of conductors.

The Sudbury Symphony Orchestra is committed to providing access to music education for all students in the City of Greater Sudbury. Thus, the Outreach and Education Program is central to the Symphony’s education and community work.

The Symphony’s core musicians have a strong commitment to bringing musical outreach and education to area schools through a dynamic in-class performance program. To further this commitment, the SSO Conservatory of Music was founded in 2001 and we are expanding our outreach efforts to include other members of our community.