Drawing from a widespread desire for there to be a premier and professional symphonic orchestra to complement the work being done by the Long Beach Municipal Band, prominent resident and opera singer, Florence Van Dyke partnered with conductor Robert Resta and the Long Beach Recreation Commission in 1934 to form what is now known as the Long Beach Symphony. In 1935, the Symphony, originally known as the Long Beach Philharmonic, held its first of many performances in the beautiful Municipal Auditorium where the Convention Center now stands.
Key to its long-term success was the Symphony’s proximity to the Hollywood studios making it ideal for attracting a high caliber of talent both in the orchestra and as guest soloists. Over the next few decades, it grew in prominence and offered full symphonic concerts, family concerts, and free summer Starlight Serenades in Bixby Park – the precursor to the now popular Pops series, which attracts over 4,000 to the Long Beach Arena.
The Long Beach Symphony has always been a leader in the arts community. In the 1950s several of its musicians were hired to help start LBUSD’s music education programs and in 1978, the Symphony moved into its new home, the Terrace Theater, and celebrated this new era with a sold-out performance with pianist, Van Cliburn.
Over the decades, Long Beach Symphony reached many artistic and cultural milestones, including being the first regional orchestra to appoint a female Music Director, JoAnn Falletta in 1989. Most recently, it was awarded the Long Beach Heritage Preservation Award, the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce Award for Outstanding Nonprofit Organization and was honored in 2017 by the NAACP for promoting civil rights and social justice through the arts. Currently offering 16 concerts and over 150 free music programs benefiting 60,000 people, the Symphony is a true Long Beach success story.