History – Old

Celebrating 30 Years!

The Charlotte Civic Orchestra (CCO)

The CCO is a volunteer-based 75-piece full symphony orchestra made up of local musicians, many of whom are professionals, semi-professionals, and hobbyists. The CCO rehearses weekly in order to perform 4-6 concerts annually, including classical masterpieces, symphonies, and pops favorites as well.
We are located in Charlotte, NC, USA, a suburban city of about 2.5 million people, where we perform around town at various public auditoriums and churches and synagogues, and also at uptown Charlotte in the Halton Theater of Central Piedmont Community College.


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 CCO 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 by providing enjoyable and informative concert discussions along with partnerships in conjunction 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.
Conductor 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).

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In March 1990, the group incorporated as a non-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 in which the CCO received its first basic operating grant from the Arts and Science Council.

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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, Dr. Geoffrey Whitehead joined the CCO as its Music Director and continues his dedication through today. Geoffrey has taken the musicality of the organization to new heights. Just within the past few years alone, the CCO has performed 16 full symphonies including Beethoven, Dvorak, Mahler, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Vaughn Williams, 22 major classical works, 8 overtures, 14 concertos featuring CCO musicians as soloists, 7 new compositions, 5 Charlotte premier new compositions, and numerous orchestral arrangements of popular tunes and movie themes.
CCO 2005

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In the 2012-2013 season, the CCO expanded on its three year tradition of prior successful Holiday concerts, and began a Christmas Spectacular tradition, featuring 300 singers, vocal soloists, ballet dancers, jazz style dancers, and a master of ceremonies. The event sold out to a crowd of 1,400 patrons, the largest in CCO history. We hope to continue the tradition in years to come and expand the idea further to other programming concepts and entertainment events. In the 2012-2013 season the CCO had three at-capacity sell-out concerts, another first for the CCO, our most attended season ever.
 Read more from the Charlotte Observer here 

Charlotte Civic Orchestra, photo copyright Paul Purses CityOfCharlotteProclamation

For more than 30 years now, 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 strives to involve school children that may never have the chance to interact with an orchestra.