History of the Imperial Symphony Orchestra
In 1965 a group of musicians, led by Florida Southern College professor Dr. Ken Anderson and Lakeland businessman Jay Erwin, decided they would organize an orchestra to provide classical music for their community. The group, with Erwin as conductor, called itself the Lakeland Civic Symphony and began with 30 musicians and an audience consisting of family members and a few friends. Their financial base consisted of a large glass jar, marked “donations,” which stood at the concert hall door.
Today, more than 50 years later, that small effort has grown into a highly polished, regional orchestra. In 1987, the organization changed its name to the Imperial Symphony Orchestra to better reflect its service to Polk County.
In addition to the ISO’s Masterworks subscription series in Youkey Theatre at the Lakeland Center, the ISO performs four free School Day Concerts, two free family concerts, a free Pops Concert in the Lake Mirror Amphitheater in Lakeland, a fully staged opera at Branscomb Auditorium in partnership with Florida Southern College, and regularly places ISO musicians in a variety of private functions.
Throughout its history, the ISO has been blessed with enthusiastic and forward-looking volunteer leaders, hard-working staff, and devoted musicians. In 1994, Governor Lawton Chiles publicly saluted this commitment when he presented the ISO with the prestigious Governor’s Award for Voluntarism in the Arts, recognizing its contribution of more than 22,500 volunteer hours in one year alone.
Truly, the Imperial Symphony Orchestra holds a unique place in the cultural life of Polk County by making high quality, live classical music performances available and accessible for all residents.
The Imperial Symphony Orchestra serves local, talented musicians by providing:
The ISO impacts our community by providing:
The ISO serves the business community by providing: