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From Our Editors
In 1922, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performed its first concert at the Montclair Art Museum. They weren't called by that name yet, and they only had 19 string players at the time, but it was a show that established the orchestra as an important organ in the artistic community. It also might have been the last time the group was largely unknown. The ensemble quickly swelled in size, talent, and popularity as it racked up one significant achievement after another. In 1968, Henry Lewis joined the company to become the first African-American music director of a major symphony. The orchestra reached new heights under his leadership, taking the stage at Carnegie Hall and at the Garden State Arts Center with Luciano Pavarotti—a guest who joined the musicians again in 1984 to perform the first-ever classical program at the humble speakeasy known as Madison Square Garden. The group's illustrious career continued into the late '80s, as it performed live on PBS and played a concert of Bernstein works that won the admiration of the man himself.
Today, the NJSO continues to confidently play into the 21st century. Under the current leadership of Music Director Xian Zhang, the ensemble shares seasons of classical, pops, and family programs, along with outdoor concerts, and educational projects. But the group has never forgotten its humble beginnings, maintaining a commitment to the community that caused The Wall Street Journal to call them “a vital, artistically significant musical organization."