Our History


Source: Washington Idaho Symphony Archives at Washington State University 

The Washington Idaho Symphony Association was created 46 years ago, “by the people and for the people,” of the Palouse and Clearwater Valley communities. It originated with a small nucleus of dedicated amateur musicians from Pullman who organized the Palouse Community Orchestra in 1969. As the small orchestra grew and evolved, it continually adopted new names to reflect the groups changing musical and regional status. In 1970, the Palouse Empire Chamber Orchestra secured a musical conductor to provide artistic guidance and by fall of 1971 expanded its membership to include musicians from Moscow, Lewiston, and Clarkson to become the Palouse Intercommunity Symphony.

The first major public performance of the original chamber orchestra was Mozart’s Requiem with the Pullman-Moscow Chorale in the spring of 1971. By fall of 1972 the Washington Idaho Symphony Orchestra was formals organized and increased in size to approximately 60 members. The Symphony Association Board incorporated in January 1973 with representative members from the Quad Cities. Robert Hausenbuiller was the first board president.

The formation of the Washington Idaho Symphony Association was a pioneering effort to create and maintain a regional symphony orchestra. The rich pool of musical talent in the region resulted in an orchestra of a much higher caliber than might otherwise have been possible and provided a unique contribution to the quality of life not usually found in the areas of the population. The WIS Orchestra brought classical music to a rural area previously deprived of regular access to symphony performances. The Symphony has been directed by three permanent conductors–Dr. Martin-Beatus Meier, Dr. H. James Schoepflin, and Dr. L. Keating Johnson.

Chapter One: The Early Years|

The first musical director of the Washington Idaho Symphony was Swiss composer-conductor, Dr. Martin-Beatus Meier who served as Professor of Music and Director of the WSU Symphony Orchestra, Opera, and Chamber Orchestras in the early 1970s. Dr. Meier began working with the fledging orchestra in 1970 to provide leadership and musical focus. He continued to conduct until 1975. The early concerts of the Orchestra included both substantive works from the standard repertoire as well as light, familiar works that reflected the operatic style of Dr. Meier and were highly accessible to both audiences and performers. For example, ballet and opera favorites such as the Suite from Bizet’s Carmen, the Suite from the ballet Gaite Parisienne by Jacques Offenbach, and Strauss’ Tales from the Vienna Woods as well as Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Opus 68. The artist- in-residence program was also established in those early days as a means of brining in outside artists and providing educational opportunities for young musicians.

Early reviews of the orchestra revealed the enthusiasm, appreciation, and great expectations the regional audiences had for their new symphony association. Attendance varied from as few as 70 to more than 200. In addition, Dr. Meier started the tradition of providing personal explanations of the music. He is credited for initiating a professional standard of musicianship and audience rapport that continues with the symphony to this date.

Chapter Two: The Building Years|


Chapter Three: Coming of Age|


Chapter Four: The Present|