History & Recognition

Mr. George M. Irwin founded the Quincy Symphony Orchestra in 1947 under the name “Quincy Little Symphony.”  The Orchestra was expanded in 1952 and re-named the Quincy Symphony Orchestra, presenting four concerts annually.  In 1946, Mr. Irwin founded the “Quincy Choral Society” and was its first conductor.  The Quincy Symphony Chorus joined the Association in 1972 and the Quincy Area Youth Orchestra joined the QSOA in 1993.  The Quincy Area Children’s Chorus was added in 1995 and is now the Quincy Area Youth Chorus.

The QSOA presents ten or more concert events annually involving the symphony orchestra, symphony chorus, youth orchestra, and youth chorus.  The QSOA sponsors educational opportunities for young people such as the Young Artists Competition and the annual Young People’s Concerts.  Encore! Symphony Volunteer Council provides funding for the QSOA, scholarships to music camps, the high school musicians grant program, and the school music programs through fundraising events such as Bridge-O-Rama and Symphony of Trees.

The orchestra has been under the direction of seven conductors since 1947, starting with George M. Irwin, its founder.  Other directors have included Harold Bauer, Dr. Crawford Gates, Dr. Thom Ritter George (also a composer), Jack Ranney, and Clyde Bassett.  The current conductor is Dr. Bruce Briney.  George M. Irwin, Douglas Reeve, and Dr. Phyllis Robertson have directed the Symphony Chorus. Richard M. Cangro is the conductor of the Quincy Area Youth Orchestra, and Paul Shelor and Amy Fairchild are the conductors of the Quincy Area Youth Chorus.

The QSOA’s contribution to the Quincy community has been formally recognized many times.  The organization has received the City of Quincy Arts Award multiple times, and members of the Boards and staff have received statewide recognition.  The QSOA and Encore! Symphony Council were named the 2018 Arts Organization of the Year by the George M. Irwin Arts Awards, and most recently, the QSO was named Illinois’s 2020 Community Orchestra of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras in recognition of excellence in programming & repertoire, community involvement, youth opportunities, audience growth, fiscal responsibility, and community support.