Tulsa Symphony Mission

To collaborate and resonate throughout our community as the professional orchestra that educates, entertains,  inspires, and distinguishes our community through musical excellence, innovation and service.

The Founding and Beginning Seasons, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08

The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra was born in October 2005 when Dr. Frank Letcher, prominent retired Tulsa neurosurgeon, presented his plan for a new model of orchestral governance and musician involvement for a 21st century orchestra.

The failure of the traditional symphonic orchestral model of the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as those in other mid-sized cities, underscored the need for a fresh and innovative approach to achieve an artistically viable and organizationally robust orchestra for Tulsa. TSO’s innovative mission would focus on a musician-led structure that encouraged and promoted musician investment and engagement coupled with extensive community service to build an indispensable role for the orchestra in the Tulsa community.

Timothy McFadden, former Principal Trumpet with the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra, was the first hire as Orchestra Manager of this ground-breaking symphony. Leaving an administrative post with the Tulsa Opera, his knowledge and network of local and regional musicians provided the pool from which experienced professional talent would be recruited to organize a musician-led administrative staff and highly-skilled professional orchestra.

Originally, the proposed model created Executive Musicians who were to be employed fifty-two weeks a year in dual roles as musicians, administrators, fundraisers, marketers, teachers and other staff and management positions for the orchestra.

The goal of 50 full-time Executive Musicians bore a challenging price tag of $3m, which was impossible to raise only three short years after the unfortunate and unpleasant demise of the Philharmonic, which created considerable negativity throughout the community.

Nonetheless, persevering with a small Executive Musician staff and a determined Board of Directors, Dr. Letcher personally funded Tulsa Symphony’s first public performance of Sleeping Beauty with artistic partner Tulsa Ballet, followed by an early spring gala performance event again with Tulsa Ballet.

On May 2nd, 2006, the orchestra presented a special concert evening for former Tulsa Philharmonic supporters, which was well received, hoping some would gain trust, confidence and faith in this new and very different Tulsa orchestra.

In this first 2006-07 season TSO established a 22-member Board of Directors, a 19-member Board of Advisors and an orchestra staff that included five salaried musicians, three of whom were full time Executive Musicians. Although the structural scope of the orchestra was realistically down-sized to reflect the actual budget, financial support began to increase from individuals and foundations as more community partnerships and school collaborations were formed.

Consequently, a major fund drive, the Virtuoso Campaign, was launched and a new Tulsa Symphony operational home office was established on the ground floor of the historic Tulsa Union Depot, whose principal tenant was and is the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.

Simultaneously, TSO designed and offered a five-concert 2006-07 season that attracted over 1100 subscribers and presented a highly-praised inaugural concert on November 3, 2006 to an impressive PAC audience. The orchestra continued to attract public attention and gain recognition, which led to its first annual contract with the Tulsa Ballet for the 2006-07 season as well as an agreement to perform for another artistic partner, the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus. Although not under the TSO name, TSO musicians largely comprised Tulsa Opera and Light Opera Oklahoma orchestras.

With the end of the second season in May 2008, TSO had presented six critically acclaimed concerts, two of which were sold out. Perhaps, the most memorable sell-out was the premiere performance of Mahler ‘s monumental Symphony No. 5, which earned the orchestra the longest standing ovation in the history of the Performing Arts Center to date.

Additional milestones included the encouraging moral and financial support of The Albert and Hete Barthelmes Foundation that enabled TSO to engage David J. Hyslop, former CEO of the St. Louis Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra, as Interim Executive Director. Furthermore, the Foundation generously committed to fund the national search and salary for a permanent Executive Director for the next three years beginning in the 2008-09 season.

The orchestra was gaining significant momentum and recognition in the community with the return of free outdoor concerts and an attractive PAC Classics Series.

Simultaneously, the Board and musicians constructed a comprehensive three-year Strategic Business Plan, and embarked on a new collaboration with ONEOK and Walsh Branding of Tulsa to support brand development and increase community recognition and visibility. The good work and diligence was definitely beginning to show results and that season ended with a cash surplus.

The day after the October 12, 2008 Symphony at Sunset concert at the Tulsa Country Club, the first TSO Executive Director, Ron Predl, former University of Tulsa Professor of Music and arts administrator, joined TSO and a new chapter in its history and evolvement began. Thanks in large part to the foresight, confidence and financial support of the Albert and Hete Barthelmes Foundation and Executive Director, Theresa Collins.


Underlying the principles of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra is the recognition that symphony orchestras today exist in a changed operating environment requiring adaptive strategies to be viable and relevant to their communities.

  • Musicians are integrated into all aspects of orchestra governance and operations.
  • Decision-making is a process of Formal Consensus, which seeks mutual agreement, making sure all concerns are heard and addressed.
  • TSO adheres to timeless principles of artistic excellence, striving to provide musical leadership and strengthen the music infrastructure in the Tulsa area.
  • TSO is committed to working collaboratively with other community organizations.
  • TSO is committed to an extensive education program utilizing music to help young people excel in their learning style, build a foundation of musical experiences, broadly reach out to the education community and develop future audiences.
  • TSO is a community organization that brings value to civic and cultural life.