Symphony Orchestra Augusta debuted on May 23, 1954, under the baton of its founding director, Harry M. Jacobs. Setting the foundation for what would become a leading regional orchestra, three support groups followed: the Guild in 1957, the League in 1961 and Friends in 1981. With the addition of the Aiken Symphony Guild in 1986, the strong foundation was in place to allow SOA to fulfill its mission: to share the joy of great musical performance with our audience.
SOA has had three music directors in its history, Harry M. Jacobs from 1954 to 1991, Donald Portnoy from 1991 to 2009 and Maestro Shizuo Z Kuwahara from 2009-2016. Under their leadership, SOA has expanded from a small community symphony orchestra into a regional symphony orchestra, offering services in two states and 17 counties throughout Georgia and South Carolina. With a new music director, SOA ventured into A New Era in the 2009-2010 season, changing its name from Augusta Symphony to Symphony Orchestra Augusta (SOA). Upon the resignation of Maestro Kuwahara, a music director search was launched in 2016.
Continuing to focus on excellence in live music performance, SOA shares its love through a variety of concert series. Symphony Series, formerly Masterworks, moved from Augusta State University’s Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre to First Baptist of Augusta in 2005-2006, following its 50th Anniversary Celebration Season.Patrons are provided impressive evenings filled with the sound of the full orchestra sharing familiar classics and thrilling contemporary works.
University Health Care System Pops! at the Bell offers fan favorites from icons such as Olivia Newton John, Matthew Morrison, and LeAnn Rimes, to the music of the stage and screen. Columbia County Music Series, SOA’s chamber series, features ensembles and guest artists from around the world in an intimate setting. To cap off the end of each season, SOA invites all of the CSRA to Pops! Under the Stars, a free outdoor community concert.
In 2008, SOA was donated the historic Miller Theater in downtown Augusta. A capital campaign was launched and over $17 million has been raised to restore the 1940 Art Moderne beauty. Construction began in 2016 and will be complete by late 2017. The Miller will be the home of all Symphony Series and Pops! performances, and will feature a multitude of varied programming throughout the year. Learn more about the Miller at millerllc.org.