Our History & Mission

Aiken Symphony: Who We Are

The Aiken Symphony Orchestra, a not-for-profit IRS 501 (c)(3) organization, brings a dramatic enhancement to the music culture of Aiken.  Established in 2015 by founding board members Thomas Hofstetter, David Allen, Doris Begley, Sandy Costanzo, and Beverley Zigelman as well as founding Music Director & Conductor Dr. Donald Portnoy, the Aiken Symphony represents an ensemble of some of the best professional classical instrumentalists from South Carolina and Georgia. On par with a number of regional orchestras from larger towns and cities, the Aiken Symphony greatly adds to the vitality and sophistication required of Aiken in order to attract new businesses, employees, tourists, and recent retirees to our community.

The Aiken Symphony also works to enhance music education among the students of the Aiken community. To read more about our educational outreach efforts and to view the generous sponsors of these programs, please visit our Educational Outreach section.

Our Mission

The Aiken Symphony Orchestra endeavors to provide artistic leadership to the greater Aiken community through the presentation of symphonic music that educates, entertains, and enriches the human spirit.

Our History

The notion that Aiken should have its own professional symphony orchestra began to percolate a few years before Aiken Symphony’s first official concert in September 2015. In the years leading up to our organization’s founding, a group of dedicated classical music lovers known as Friends of the Aiken Symphony (formerly the Aiken Symphony Guild) had contracted a visiting orchestra to perform three concerts per year for the community’s listening pleasure. When they could no longer produce their concerts with the visiting orchestra, it seemed as if classical music in Aiken might be a thing of the past. They began to talk to individuals in another arts organization in town who had successfully presented several visiting orchestras.

Under the leadership of Mr. Thomas Hofstetter, the Aiken Performing Arts (APA) had produced a string of very successful productions of classical music featuring a full orchestra beginning with a visit from the National Symphony Orchestra during their 2008 state-wide tour, followed by two special performances of the USC Symphony Orchestra in 2010 and 2011. This led to several performances featuring a gathering of professional musicians from across the state under the baton of Dr. Donald Portnoy which Tom Hofstetter had dubbed “Orchestra of the Midlands.” This impromptu orchestra of professional musicians was initially formed to accompany a special benefit operatic performance by Ms. Frederica von Stade in 2011, was later utilized for two children’s concerts in 2012 and 2013, and a special benefit performance in 2013.

In June 2014, eight of APA’s board members met with Dr. Portnoy at the University of South Carolina to discuss the potential of creating a symphony orchestra in Aiken. Shortly afterward, talks began in earnest with officers of Friends of the Aiken Symphony, select members from the APA board, community leaders, and the City of Aiken.

The Aiken Symphony was officially organized April, 2015. The founders of the orchestra were designated as:

Thomas C. Hofstetter
Sally Hofstetter
Doris M. Begley
Sandra S. Costanzo
B. David Allen
David M. Tavernier
Beverley Zigelman

After the first board meeting of the Aiken Symphony in June 2015, it was decided that Dr. Donald Portnoy would be accorded the title of Founding Music Director/Conductor.

In our inaugural year, only three concerts were performed, each with world class soloists. From those humble beginnings, we have continued to expand our classical music offerings as well as introduce a wide variety of guest artists to our audience. We are now producing three successful series called Masterworks, POPS, and Chamber, and have recently introduced Concerts in the Community and Educational Outreach programs in the schools.

During the 2021-22 season we undertook a year-long national search for a new conductor. As a result of that search, in April 2022 Scott Weiss was appointed Music Director & Conductor of the Aiken Symphony, marking the beginning of a new era for Aiken’s professional orchestra.