Musicians: 52 players on staff
Length of Season: 38 weeks (September to May)
Since it was formed in 1945 by Dr. Glenn Kruspe to accompany a concert of the Grand Philharmonic Choir, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony has been the cultural centerpiece of Waterloo Region. In 1960, Frederick Pohl succeeded Glen Kruspe as Music Director and under his leadership a KWS Youth Orchestra was founded in 1966. In 1971 conductor Raffi Armenian joined the KWS. As the longest serving Music Director, he had a profound and lasting impact on the organization: his position as Music Director for the Stratford Festival brought about the creation of the Canadian Chamber Ensemble, which attracted professional musicians to the orchestra. Armenian was also key in developing the Centre In The Square, working with revered acoustician Russell Johnson to ensure that the building and acoustics were of the highest quality. Maestro Armenian’s tenure saw the KWS evolve into a fully paid professional orchestra with a core of 52 musicians that toured across Canada, Europe, South America and Asia, and made numerous recordings including several JUNO Award nominations.
Raffi Armenian was followed by Music Directors Chosei Komatsu (1993-1999), Martin Fischer-Dieskau (2001-2003) and Principal Guest Conductor, Simon Streatfeild (2004-2006). Between 2003 and 2007 the KWS faced a challenging period in its history. Turmoil surrounding Fischer-Diskau’s departure as Music Director led to divisions within the organization. In October 2006, the KWS announced it would be forced to declare bankruptcy unless it was able to raise the necessary funds. It launched a "Save our Symphony" campaign, and the community responded with overwhelming support, allowing the KWS to raise $2.3 million and enabling it to continue operations. The KWS emerged from the 2006/07 season healthy and thriving and in a solid financial position, having just announced Edwin Outwater, one of North America’s most creative, dynamic, and engaging conductors, as its new Music Director. Today, the KWS is one of Canada’s outstanding orchestras, presenting a diverse and rich concert season and garnering national and international attention for its artistry and musicianship as well as for its innovative programming. Its education and outreach programs serve its evolving community and a continuum of ages. The KWS continues to be the largest employer of artists and cultural workers and the most significant cultural asset for Waterloo Region.