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About the Charlotte Civic Orchestra

Charlotte Civic Orchestra

Mission:  The Charlotte Civic Orchestra is a civic orchestra of and for the citizens of the Charlotte region. Through an educational entertainment approach, the CCO is able to break down the traditional barriers that can limit exploration of symphony music by new listeners. While other orchestras tend to be guided by established precedents and higher overhead costs, the Civic is more flexible in adapting to the needs and moods of its potential audiences. The CCO creates an approachable environment of exploring and learning about music, for its audience with enjoyable and informative concert discussions along with partnerships with other nonprofit organizations. Collaborative educational events encourage students to participate in the process of creating and learning about music through our Composers in Schools and other like initiatives.  All of these factors provide the Charlotte Civic Orchestra phenomenal potential to reach new and diverse listeners who, in turn, may become new attendees for other arts organizations in the area.

History: The Charlotte Civic Orchestra began in 1986 as a course in symphonic music at Central Piedmont Community College under the direction of Melvin Sipe, legendary founding conductor of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. (The group’s name at the time was the Charlotte Repertory Orchestra, but was changed in 2002 to more accurately reflect the orchestra’s mission). In March  1990, the group incorporated as a not-for-profit organization with a preliminary annual budget of approximately $1,500. Later that year Maestro Sipe retired, and in the spring of 1991, the CCO hired Dr. Stephen Plate as part-time music director. The orchestra’s first full season was 1987-88, and since then has dedicated itself to performing a diverse and challenging repertoire with an emphasis on American composers. The orchestra has also focused on dispelling the stereotypes that separate much of the general population from classical symphonic music. Ticket prices have remained low, performances have continued to feature a friendly, family oriented atmosphere, and outreach concerts are offered in various venues throughout the community. The first such performance was at West Charlotte High School in 1993, the year that the CCO received its first basic operating grant from the Arts and Science Council. At that time, the budget was approximately $35,000, and has since grown to over $100,000.  Alexander Kordzaia served as music director from 2002 through 2005 as the CCO continued to grow musically and gain a larger audience.  In 2004, the orchestra added an Education and Outreach Program through a grant from Arts Teach. In 2007, Geoffrey Whitehead joined the CCO as our new music director.  We were awarded an additional grant to work with High School age children in 2007.

Today:  For more than 20 years, the Charlotte Civic Orchestra has continued to serve three distinct yet complimentary roles in the Charlotte Region: (1) providing an opportunity for accomplished vocational musicians to perform together:   (2) delivering high-quality, affordable, and accessible cultural experiences to diverse audiences and (3) an educational program that involves school children that may never have had the chance to work with an orchestra.  The orchestra and programs continue to evolve under the direction of our Music Director, Geoffrey Whitehead.  In 2004, the orchestra added an Education and Outreach Program through a grant from Arts Teach. When the first grant was awarded the orchestra started working with just middle schools.  For the 2007-2008 season, the orchestra was awarded a second grant to work with high school students. 

The Orchestra:  The CCO is a fully functioning, volunteer based 75-piece orchestra made up of local musicians, many of whom are professionally trained. Players are selected through competitive auditions that take place throughout the year. Approximately one-fourth of the active musicians are charter members; that is, they have played with CCO since the organization's inception. The CCO is performing four concerts this season, which begins in early fall and ends in May. Watch for us also at the Festival in the Park in September.

Funding: The Charlotte Civic Orchestra is a not-for–profit organization. Funding is received from the ASC as wells as corporations such as Target, Duke Energy and Microsoft Corporation.  Other contributions come from private donors and smaller business owners.