This year The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra celebrates forty-one years of providing symphonic music to the community. Its success is due to the talent and commitment of the early conductors and musicians who provided its foundation. In the beginning, a collection of talented men and women in Southwest Washington belonged to and performed with several musical groups who loved to play for people who appreciated music.

In 1972 several musicians came together under the leadership of Larry Hirtzel. The first concert they played was at Clark College in a combined program with the college band under the direction of Dale Beacock. After that, Hirtzel's group became a standalone, twenty-member ensemble which came to be known as the Vancouver Chamber Orchestra and later the Vancouver Community Orchestra. Recordings made in 1977 of concerts in tandem with the Brahms Singers (now “Vancouver U.S.A. Singers”) have preserved the final performances of the VCO. To name all of the early period musicians who first performed under the mantle of the Vancouver Chamber Orchestra is impossible, but Larry Hirtzel, their music director and conductor, was instrumental in growing the popularity of chamber music in the area. He and the musicians in the group combined their considerable musical abilities and their innate skills in ways that allowed the chamber platform to eventually become a symphony organization called the Vancouver Community Orchestra.

In 1978, Walt Cleland began meeting with a group of five string musicians who later combined with musicians from the Vancouver Community Orchestra and came together as the Vancouver Symphonette – later renamed The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Cleland served as conductor from 1978 to 1990.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra first performed at the Columbia Arts Center, then the First Presbyterian Church and Shumway School (now the Royal Durst Theatre). Since 1999 they have performed in the concert hall at Skyview High School.

We applaud Cleland's passion for music, his dedication and mission to keep symphonic music alive in Southwest Washington. He was the driving force that sustained our symphony.

In 1990 Mr. Cleland retired, and after a season of several guest conductors, Maestro Salvador Brotons was chosen to lead The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He has built it into a highly regarded, professional orchestra with over 75 musicians and an ever-increasing audience.