The Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra (NFSO) is the Emerald Coast's premier, fully-professional orchestra - since 1987! The NFSO performs in residence at the magnificent $30 million Mattie Kelly Fine & Performing Arts Center, located at 100 College Boulevard East, Niceville, Florida. NFSO concerts are held in the center's 1,650 mainstage theater where a custom orchestra shell provides the optimum in acoustics for symphony patrons.
The NFSO is a non-profit organization operated under the auspices of Northwest Florida State College. The NFSO relies on tax-deductible donations, corporate underwriting, and season subscriptions to continue the orchestra's musical excellence and the symphony's numerous long-standing educational endeavors for youth. Tax-deductible donations are administered through the Northwest Florida State College Foundation, a 501 © (3) organization. The NFSO offers the highest quality of standard and new orchestral repertoire to the growing and diverse population of Northwest Florida. The NFSO is committed to making artistically interpretive performances widely available to both arts patrons and those new to the orchestral experience. Through the artistry of its professional musicians, dynamic performance venues, and exhilarating performances, the NFSO, in its 29-year history, has become one of the most important musical/arts organizations along the Gulf Coast region.
In April 1987, John Leatherwood, a music instructor at Okaloosa-Walton Junior College, announced plans to establish the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and his desire for the orchestra to be sponsored by OWJC. On August 17, 1987, the first day that Dr. James R. Richburg assumed the presidency of OWJC, Leatherwood met with Richburg to ask permission to organize the local orchestra under the auspices of the college. When OWJC became OWCC in the spring of 1988, the orchestra's name was officially changed to the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra at Okaloosa-Walton Community College. The NFSO name subsequently changed again when OWCC became OWC in 2004. The orchestra has operated and performed as an entity of the college continuously since 1987, providing cultural programs to thousands of area residents in its history. Operational expenditures for the NFSO are paid by the college. The Northwest Florida State College Foundation has fundraising responsibility for the NFSO. In January 1997, the NFSO was the first group to perform in the new Arts Center. The on-going commitment of support from Northwest Florida State College, the Northwest Florida State College Foundation, the Northwest Florida Symphony Guild and patrons in the community have enabled the orchestra to become a vital part of the performing arts in our community. The NFSO normally performs a series of five concerts annually. The talented, professional musicians who perform with the NFSO come from the greater Florida Panhandle region and many of our guest artists have an international reputation. There are presently approximately 60 active members in the NFSO at Northwest Florida State College. John Leatherwood served as the symphony's conductor and music director from 1987 to 1999. Leatherwood retired from the college in 2005 and continues his affiliation with the symphony as the Emeritus Director of the NFSO. Dr. David Ott served as the symphony's conductor and music director from September 1999 to April 2002. Demetrius Fuller served from July 2002 to December 2005. Lois Van Dam, Northwest Florida State College music faculty, served as the interim conductor from 2005 to 2007. Jeffrey Rink became the NFSO's conductor and music director on July 1, 2007.