Millikin University students have the opportunity to perform with professional artists in the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra was created by the convergence of an established community orchestra with the Millikin University Orchestra in the early 1920’s. The scope of the Symphony’s services and activities were expanded in 1975 with the formation of the Symphony Guild of Decatur, a non-profit support organization representing the wider community. This partnership has allowed the MDSO to provide an ever-expanding galaxy of cultural benefits to central Illinois in the last quarter century, including symphony concerts for audiences of all types, the co-sponsorship of the Decatur Youth Orchestra, youth scholarships for private lessons and summer music camps, in-school programs, a competition for University soloists, clinics, workshops, master classes with guest artists, and partnerships with the music programs of area schools. For the first two decades of this period, the orchestra was conducted by the successive Deans of the Millikin University School of Music, Ronald Gregory and Wesley Tower.
An important new stage of growth began in 1996 with the creation of a full-time position for a professional Music Director and Conductor, a position that was filled with the appointment of Dr. Michael Luxner. Since that time, the orchestra has converted from a college-community model to a fully auditioned professional model. Working conditions, pay scale, rehearsal schedules, travel allowances, and repertoire are now on a par with other professional ensembles in the region, and the orchestra’s student members are trained in a professional environment and standard of performance.
The MDSO is also intensely engaged in efforts to build new audiences and to raise the Orchestra’s profile in the wider community. Initiatives in this area include outreach concerts, media appearances, contract services, publications, speaking engagements, and new partnerships with underserved constituencies. Building on a venerable history and unique spirit of town and gown cooperation, the Millikin-Decatur Symphony looks forward to a distinguished future of artistic achievement and community pride.
Students may also perform in the String Arts Ensemble, a student ensemble that rehearses and performs in a workshop setting.