About KWS

About the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony

Innovative, inspiring, and ever-evolving: this is the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. As one of Waterloo Region’s largest arts and cultural organizations, we continue to push boundaries, build community, and welcome and cultivate world-class talent in our community. Who we are and how we approach our work is a reflection of the innovative and entrepreneurial culture which abounds in this Region. 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, musicianship and 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.

Over our 70-year history the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony has grown from a community orchestra into the third largest in Ontario, our peers being the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Over the last ten seasons, under the Music Directorship of Edwin Outwater, we have expanded the idea of what music is, what it can be and how it can make an impact – often in unexpected ways. The KWS has positioned ourselves as one of Canada’s leading orchestras and has worked strategically to become an orchestra for the next generation.

We are a robust, complex organization that brings the joy and inspiration of music to the lives of the very young, through the Kinder, Family and School Concerts, and to our more senior citizens, through our Health and Wellness Program. Economically disadvantaged children receive music lessons on orchestral instruments through our Bridge to Music program and the next generation of musicians is nurtured through our Youth Orchestra Program. Community outreach concerts are performed in non-traditional venues each year including Kitchener City Hall, Grand Valley Institution for Women, Chandler Mowat Community Centre, and the Rotary Adult Centre, to spread the joy of music to those who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity. We perform over 222 concerts annually to an audience of over 90,000, both in the concert hall and across Waterloo Region.

History

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 a significant cultural asset for Waterloo Region.

Past Music Directors

2007 – 2017
Edwin Outwater (Music Director Laureate)

2001 – 2003
Martin Fischer-Dieskau

1993 – 1999
Chosei Komatsu

1971 – 1993
Raffi Armenian (Music Director Emeritus)

1960 – 1970
Frederick Pohl

1945 – 1960
Glenn Kruspe