Unlike the college’s band and choir organizations, the orchestra has not been a consistent musical offering at Concordia.
The orchestra first appeared in 1900 and was organized by Annette Peterson. The group performed at the Washington’s Birthday Program, an annual event from 1893 to 1942, which featured speeches and musical offerings. Shortly after this event, the orchestra disappeared and reappeared sporadically under the leadership of Wilhelm Rognlie, Estella Rawson, Harry Rudd, and J.P. Bohlin.
The orchestra was revitalized by J.A. Holvik in the 1920s. A March 2, 1928, Concordian article commented on how the newly formed orchestra “fills a long-felt need.” The musical group’s first appearance after its formation was in 1928. Eager to build the orchestra program, Holvik called for musicians to join the group even if they were lacking musical expertise.
Sigvald Thompson, Soren Lura, Ralph Logan, Thomas Hubbard, J. Andrew Ponder and Valborg Leland also strived to create an orchestra program at Concordia. Under Lura’s tutelage, the college had a “little symphony,” and Milo Wold directed the orchestra for chapel performances and an all-college play during the 1933-34 academic year.
J. Robert Hanson, a music faculty member from 1966 to 1995, is credited with the formation of The Concordia Orchestra in 1968. Under Hanson’s leadership, the orchestra flourished and remained a signature musical organization. Hanson started the popular Pops and Popcorn concert in the 1980s. This concert featured well-known music selections (e.g., “Carnival of the Animals,” musical highlights from “Rocky” and “The Barber of Seville”). Hanson led the group on its first European tour in 1986.
Bruce Houglum assumed the directorship of the orchestra after Hanson’s retirement in 1995 until 2011. Under his leadership, the orchestra traveled internationally and celebrated its 40-year anniversary during Homecoming 2007. As part of that celebration, current students and alumni were led by Hanson in concert.
Foster Beyers began serving as director of orchestras at Concordia in 2011. In 2014, he led The Concordia Orchestra on a tour of the Holy Land.
Kevin Sütterlin became the conductor of The Concordia Orchestra in 2016.
Despite its sporadic early existence, The Concordia Orchestra has become a prominent musical organization with international acclaim.
Contributed by Lisa Sjoberg, college archivist