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Identifier: WH941


Ranging from 1912 to 1990, the papers chronicle the rise and fall of the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Early papers, before Saul Caston's appointment as conductor in 1945, consist of correspondence, but primarily of performance programs of the Denver Symphony Orchestra. (The collection includes most of these programs.) After the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) opened in 1978, the Denver Symphony Orchestra programs were included in Bravo, a publication for all of the arts performed in the Denver Center, until 1984 when the orchestra again produced its own programs.

Correspondence comprises the bulk of the papers of the Denver Symphony Orchestra and Denver Symphony Association. From business manager, Helen Black, through Chris Dunworth correspondence documents exchanges with the public, artists, agents, governmental agencies, foundations, donors, and so on. This includes conductors who resided overseas and communicated much of their business through correspondence. The association's Board of Trustees communicated with the orchestra, the conductor, the office staff and each other by correspondence.

The orchestra created its own public image through press releases and actively interacting with the media. Clipping services collected articles from national and local newspapers for many years. The collection includes many of these public views of the orchestra. Also, reel-to-reel tapes, films and videotapes include radio and television advertising for the orchestra.

The Denver Symphony Orchestra maintained active relationships with other organizations, especially those involved in the music industry. Universities, other organizations such as the American Symphony Orchestra League corresponded with the orchestra and sent newsletters. Throughout the Rocky Mountain Region, support groups met and worked to solicit funds for the orchestra. Groups included the Denver Symphony Guild, the Junior Guild and the Young Men's Organization among others. Papers from these organizations comprise a series in the collection.

This collection documents the operations of the Denver Symphony Orchestra and Association, as well as their public images.


The papers of the Denver Symphony Association comprise this series. Material includes agendas and meeting minutes of the annual meetings of the Denver Symphony Association as well as its many committees. The Board of Trustees of the association was primarily responsible for the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Correspondence between the members of the Board and between the Board and the orchestra's staff is included. Also, the series contains notes, biographies of trustees, consultant or committee reports, and lists of members and newspaper clippings describing events and people of the Association. Annual reports of various support groups such as the Denver Symphony Guild or the Denver Symphony Debs constitute a portion of the papers. The papers are arranged chronologically.

SERIES 2 FINANCIAL 1938-1990 BOX 8-32

For the early years, the papers in this series consist primarily of the Red Rocks financial papers, with the exception of yearly auditor's reports. After 1964, financial papers became comprehensive, reflecting the budget year-round. Ledgers, charts and reports comprise the budget papers. The "annual campaign" solicited contributions for the orchestra. Campaign papers include correspondence, forms, reports, and manuals for volunteers. Grant documents, whether governmental or private foundation, consist of proposals, reports and correspondence. Material for ticket sales includes box office reports, seasonal reports, correspondence, memos and charts. Budget reports reflect the donations of support groups such as the Denver Symphony Guild, but more detailed information about the budgets of these groups may be found in the Other Organizations Series. The financial records are arranged chronologically.

SERIES 3 OPERATIONS 1945-1990 BOX 32-58

This series contains papers of the physical and behind-the scenes operations of the orchestra. Labor issues constitute a large portion of these papers. Musicians and stagehands joined unions, which negotiated master contracts. At the same time, individual musicians and stagehands each negotiated personal contracts with the business manager, sometimes having to audition for raises or for hiring. The series contains papers for both situations. The papers documenting the labor dispute in 1980, a season that was temporarily cancelled because of problems, comprise correspondence, memos, and reports that provide an inside look at the bitter negotiations.

Operations material such as leases, correspondence and invoices and receipts detail the physical office spaces throughout the years. Memos contain information on the working conditions for the office staff. Invoices delineate office supplies and equipment. The papers for operations also document the staging of performances. Memos and correspondence cover the costumes, dress for the musicians, travel and tour arrangements, and the acquisition and care of instruments. The performances on stages from the Auditorium Theater to high school auditoriums, from Red Rocks to Boettcher Hall, are documented in the series. Architects' plans, committee meeting minutes, correspondence and memos trace Boettcher Hall from the planning stage through construction to opening night in 1978.

Papers on the advertising for program books are included in operations, distinct from the publicity papers promoting the orchestra itself. Also, documents cover the physical printing of programs, fliers and tickets. The orchestra constantly received correspondence and brochures from agents and prospective artists, as well as resumes and correspondence from people seeking employment in the office. These papers are included in operations. Also, legal papers comprise a portion of this series. For many years, attorneys handled legal work for the orchestra either at cost or on a discounted basis. However, many of the members of the Board of Trustees were lawyers and eventually, they took over legal operations.

Musical arrangements, scores, and licenses comprise a portion of operations. For several years, the orchestra maintained a music library. Lists of music owned by the orchestra and repertoires of individual musicians, as well as of the orchestra are included. The papers of the operations of the Denver Symphony Orchestra are arranged chronologically.


Papers of the Denver Symphony Orchestra's performances consist of seasonal programs and schedules, individual performance programs, contracts with other orchestras and individual artists, and tour schedules and programs. The programs varied from year to year, either covering several months of performances, an individual performance, or an entire season. The orchestra's numerous tours are documented in correspondence and programs that either list the music or contain copious, detailed planning and reviews of the performances.

In this series, correspondence is exchanged with the public about performances, the performing artists, the management, Board of Trustees, and the orchestra's musicians. As much as possible, the papers for an individual performance were organized from the first negotiations through the reviews and follow-up of a performance. The series is arranged chronologically by the date of an individual performance and the dates of a season or a tour. Early papers consist primarily of programs.

SERIES 5 PUBLICITY 1949-1990 BOX 89-110

This series consists of papers related to publicity for the Denver Symphony Orchestra. In the early years, Helen Black handled publicity for the orchestra, along with managing the Orchestra, staging productions, and scheduling. The series includes primarily those publicity papers of the Red Rocks performances during the 1950s and early 1960s. In the 1960s, a Public Relations Department was formed. It consisted of one staff member at first, then later expanded to a full department with several employees, the number of which varied from year to year. Press releases, newspaper clippings from clippings services, promotional material, and advertising comprise this series, along with correspondence sent and received with the public. Of special note in the collection are the internal memos between the publicity department and other staff members that reveal insiders' views of the Orchestra and its performances.


As well as providing social activities for their members, support groups helped fund the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Papers include meeting minutes, correspondence, reports, brochures and fliers. The Denver Symphony Guild functioned as the main support. This group's papers date from the 1934 to 1990, when it became the Colorado Symphony Guild. Other groups formed off and on throughout the years such as the Young Men's Organization, the Junior Symphony Guild, and the Symphony Debs. Papers from these organizations comprise a portion of the series.

At times, members of the association, the business manager, the conductor, and others belonged to organizations such as the American Symphony Orchestra League, American Federation of Musicians, or the Colorado Council on the Arts and Humanities. The series includes papers from these organizations.

Also, the Denver Symphony Orchestra was actively involved in various musical groups throughout the Rocky Mountain region. For example, Helen Black helped form the Central City Opera Association and this group sometimes performed with the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Other musical organizations sometimes affiliated with the Denver Symphony Orchestra include the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra, Denver Lyrical Opera, and Denver Ballet West. Papers from these organizations as well as numerous other groups comprise a portion of this series.

SERIES 7 SCRAPBOOKS 1935-1989 BOX 125-131

The scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings, articles from magazines, programs, fliers, and schedules of the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Because of the deteriorating quality of the newsprint, it is recommended that the microfilm be used.


This series includes a collection of 78rpm and 33 1/3rpm recordings of Denver Symphony Orchestra, many of which were created for radio broadcasts in the 1950s. Reel-to-reel tapes from the 1970s and 1980s comprise a portion of this series. Numerous tapes contain advertising spots on radio stations. The series also contains demo tapes sent to the orchestra by artists and their agents.

This series includes production-quality videotapes and 16mm films, primarily of the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Of special note is A Secret Life of an Orchestra produced in 1973 by associate conductor Allan Miller, during the same time period that he won an Oscar for a similar documentary produced for the San Francisco Orchestra.

AVBox 143 of this series contains computer magnetic tapes containing the names and addresses of donors to Denver Symphony Orchestra. The tapes are restricted for seventy years due to the personal nature of the information.


The oversize documents include posters, seating charts, plaques and awards. Rotogravures, special money-making advertising supplements to newspapers, comprise part of the series. A few oversize scrapbooks constitute another portion of this series.


The photographs in this series portray individual artists, musical groups, employees of the orchestra and performances. The mostly black-and-white images also include theaters and equipment of the orchestra. Oversize photographs include the Cavallo Orchestra in 1912 and an image of Walter Light, tympanist.


The scrapbooks in this series contain newspaper clippings, magazine articles, programs and other items related to the Denver Symphony Orchestra, its employees, guest performers and concerts. The microfilm copies correlate to the paper copies of the scrapbooks except that the first paper scrapbook is the second scrapbook in the microfilm series.


  • TBD


The collection is open for research. Some magnetic computer tapes are restricted.


Denver Symphony Orchestra and Association Papers are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


The Denver Symphony Orchestra began as a professional orchestra in 1934, formed by the Civic Symphony Society. After 55 years and several name changes, the organization filed for bankruptcy in 1989. Its remaining assets were merged with the newly formed Colorado Symphony Association in 1990. The organizations were different but the orchestra was the same - it is not inaccurate to say that the Denver Symphony Orchestra became the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra had its roots in the civic symphony movement of the early 1900s. In Denver, the Civic Symphony Society was formed in 1922 and began by supporting the community-based Civic Symphony Orchestra. In 1934, this same organization formed the all-professional Denver Symphony Orchestra. The first Denver Symphony Orchestra concert was on November 30th, 1934 at the Broadway Theatre, located at 18th and Broadway (now demolished). The Civic Symphony Society supported both orchestras for many years. The Denver Symphony Orchestra generally presented concerts Tuesday nights at 8:30pm and the Civic Symphony played Sunday afternoons at 4pm. Horace Tureman conducted both orchestras. Concerts were usually performed in the Municipal Auditorium (now called the Auditorium Theatre). The Civic Symphony Society also supported a youth orchestra, starting in 1936, with Tureman conduction. Helen Black, a former reporter and amusements editor for the Rocky Mountain News and an assistant to the advertising director at the Daniels and Fisher store, began volunteering as publicist/business manager for the orchestra in 1932.

Horace Tureman had to step down as conductor of the Denver Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 1943-1944 season because of ill health. He proposed a plan for developing the Denver Symphony Orchestra into a major orchestra while combining the Civic and Junior Symphony Orchestras into an educational orchestra. The idea was that Tureman would return as conductor of the Civic Symphony Orchestra, but that never happened - he resigned in April 1945. The 1944-45 season saw many guest conductors. Saul Caston was chosen as the new conductor and music director, starting in the 1945-46 season. After years of volunteering, Helen Black was also hired as the full-time business manager at that time. The Civic Symphony Orchestra played through the 1945-46 season, but with Denver Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Henry Ginsburg conduction. When the Civic Symphony Orchestra was discontinued in the 1946-47 season, the Denver Symphony Orchestra took over performing on Sunday afternoons.

In 1949, the Civic Symphony Society changed its name to the Denver Symphony Society. During the 1950s many famous guest artists traveled by train and found Denver a convenient stop on the way to or from the West Coast. Jascha Heifetz, Rudolf Serkin, Gregor Piatigorsky, Leon Fleischer and many others performed with the orchestra. The Municipal Auditorium was remodeled in 1955-56. During the renovation the orchestra played in the Tabor Grand Opera house, located at 16th and Curtis (now demolished). A series of summer concerts at Red Rocks gained a national reputation - most notable were performances of Wagner's Die Walkure in July 1957 and July 1958. Saul Caston and the orchestra also traveled to towns around Colorado and into Wyoming. In March and April of 1953 they toured the Midwest, playing 53 concerts in 41 days, including two concerts in Chicago's Orchestra Hall.

By 1962 there was a move afoot in the community and within the orchestra to replace Caston. A group called the Better Music Associates wanted Caston replaced when his contract ended after the 1962-63 season. Many musicians also said publicly that Caston should go. Caston developed cancer of the throat in 1962 and on January 29, 1963 it was announced that he would retire at the end of the 1963-64 season. Helen Black and Board president Allan Phipps, both strong supporters of Caston, also resigned at the end of the 1963-64 season. Vladimir Golschmann, former conductor of the St. Louis Symphony, was chosen as Music Director starting with eh 1964-65 season. The Denver Symphony Orchestra started playing pairs of subscription concerts (Monday and Tuesday nights) in 1965. A third subscription concert (Wednesday afternoons at Phipps Auditorium [now the Imax theatre] at the Denver Museum of Natural History in City Park) was added sporadically starting in March 1966. Golschmann conducted throughout the 1968-69 season.

In 1970, the Denver Symphony Society changed its name to the Denver Symphony Association and Brian Priestman was chosen as Music Director. With the help of Ford Foundation money, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and support from the state of Colorado and the city of Denver, Priestman and the orchestra expanded outreach efforts, including in-residencies at most Colorado universities, free "city" concerts, regular performances in the Denver and Jefferson County public schools, and tours throughout the state. Even Wyoming Arts Council money was tapped - the orchestra went to Laramie several times. In September 1978, the orchestra took a memorable train tour through Wyoming and Idaho, traveling on a private Union Pacific passenger train. (Carmen Dragon conducted.)

Under Priestman the organization increased the size of the orchestra, the number of performances, and musician pay. The orchestra toured the Pacific Northwest in November 1971. The orchestra went on a lengthy tour of Texas and Oklahoma with Henry Mancini in May 1973. A recording (LP) was produced and the orchestra toured to the East Coast, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in D.C. in March 1974.

During this period the Denver Symphony enjoyed widespread grass-roots support thanks to Priestman's ebullience and radio station KVOD, who helped present the annual "Marathon" fundraisers. The front window of the downtown May D and F Department Store, located at 16th and Court Place, was transformed into a broadcast studio where musicians performed chamber music and local celebrities elicited interest and support for the orchestra.

Priestman and the Denver Symphony Association pushed for a new concert hall in the planning of the new Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPS). Voters passed a bond issue in September 1972, and Boettcher Concert Hall opened in March of 1978.

In the fall of 1977, contract negotiations were unsuccessful and resulted in a 9-week delay in the start of the season. Governor Dick Lamm got involved and the impasse was finally resolved by a successful public appeal for funds called "Save our Symphony." The money was put in a separated trust fund and used over three years to augment musicians' salaries.

By the time Boettcher was completed, Brian Priestman was nearing the end of his tenure as Music Director. Sixten Ehrling was appointed Principal Guest Conductor for the 1978-79 season. Gaetano Delogu was chosen Music Director beginning with the 1979-80 season. He asked Duain Wolfe to form the Denver Symphony Chorus, which performed for the first time on October 25, 1984. Maestro Delogu reflected the growing trend amongst music directors to spend only a few weeks each season in the city. Most decisions were actually made by the Executive Director with the guidance of the Association.

In the fall of 1980, contract negotiations again resulted in a delay to the start of the season, this time for 12 weeks. The Association had hired Carlos Wilson from Dallas (who had recently been involved in labor problems there) as Executive Director, and the musicians had hired nationally known labor lawyer Len Leibowitz for the negotiations. An agreement was reached in time for the December holiday season concerts to take place. The turmoil resulted in significant change on the Board of Directors.

Stephen Klein was hired in 1982 as Executive Director and surrounded himself with a capable staff. The 1983 contract negotiations went smoothly and an optimistic new 3-year agreement was signed early. But Denver's bad economy, the result of the collapse of the oil industry in the mid-1980s, meant that long-range hopes for the orchestra could not be achieved. An expanded series of summer concerts in 1984 at the new Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre coincided with unusually wet weather, resulting in the organization losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Stephen Klein left in 1985 to head the National Orchestra. Delogu conducted through the 1985-86 season. Philippe Entremont was appointed Principal Conductor beginning with the 1986-87 season.

In September 1986 the musicians agreed to a 20% pay cut. Several outside groups studied the orchestra's problems and issued reports, including an American Symphony Orchestra League consulting team in May 1987 and a Mayor's Blue Ribbon Panel in November 1988.

By the fall of 1988, money matters had become critical; the first three weeks of the season were cancelled. Board Chair Robert E. Lee resigned in November. Music Director Entremont and Executive Director Chris Dunworth resigned in January. Then on March 20, 1989 (the day after the annual Marathon fund-raising weekend), the Association announced the cancellation of the remainder of the season. The final concert of the Denver Symphony Orchestra occurred on March 25th, 1989. The organization filed for bankruptcy on October 4th, 1989. In May 1990, it merged with the newly formed Colorado Symphony Association.

This historical note prepared by Gary and Joanne Goble, January 7, 2005.


144 Boxes

6 OVBoxes, 2 OVFolios, 1 OVFF

4 PhotoBoxes (2.75 l.f.), 1 PhotoOVFF

8 ilm Reels

Language of Materials



In 1969, Thomas Patterson Campbell donated a box of Denver Symphony Society papers. Stephen Klein, Executive Director, donated a portion of the papers in 1976 and again in 1983. John H. Low, Chairman of the Denver Symphony Association, donated the remaining papers in 1990.


Number of Boxes: 144

Oversize: 6 OVBoxes, 2 OVFolios, 1 OVFF

Number of PhotoBoxes: 4 (2.75 l.f.), 1 PhotoOVFF

Microfilm Reels: 8




Ann Brown




Ellen Zazzarino

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States