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MIDLAND-ODESSA SYMPHONY AND CHORALE

MIDLAND-ODESSA SYMPHONY AND CHORALE. The Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale (MOSC) was chartered on January 8, 1969, when two entities, the Odessa Symphony and the Midland Symphony and Chorus Association, joined forces. The Odessa Little Symphony was founded in the fall of 1947 by Robert L. Maddox, music supervisor for the Odessa public school system, who served as conductor, and Mrs. Leland R. Croft, a violin instructor. The Odessa Little Symphony held its first performance on May 18, 1948, with thirty-eight student and adult volunteer charter members. Realizing its potential for success, the organization formed a board of directors and soon changed the name to the Odessa Symphony. By 1953 the Odessa Symphony was a chartered nonprofit organization. Maddox resigned as conductor, and the role passed to Bill Dean, J. R. McEntyre, and Gene Smith.

At about the same time, residents of Midland, just twenty miles east of Odessa, were laying the groundwork for the formation of the Midland Symphony and Chorus Association (MSCA). In September 1952 Mrs. Naomi Lancaster organized local citizens into the Midland Society of Community Music as the first step toward establishing a city-wide symphony. Soon, the group hired Mathys Abas, a musician and student from the Netherlands, to conduct the new symphony orchestra.

With seventeen local musicians, fifteen singers, and other musicians recruited from nearby Abilene and Lubbock, the MCSA held its first performance in January 1953. That same year, the Midland Society of Community Music changed its name to the Midland Symphony and Chorus Association. Abas, who was in the United States on a student visa, eventually returned home to the Netherlands. In July 1953 the symphony hired a new conductor, Walter Mantani, who focused on procuring additional musicians and recruiting broader community support. During Mantani’s tenure, the Midland Symphony grew to include sixty-five musicians and fifty singers. Mantani’s success with the MSCA brought him to the attention of the Odessa Symphony, which also decided to hire him as conductor. When Mantani resigned in 1962, the MSCA recruited Dr. Lara Hoggard, a nationally-recognized conductor and choral director. Hoggard accepted the position under the condition that the two orchestras unite and hold identical performances in both towns. Each board agreed, although the two organizations officially remained two separate entities.

Within his first year as conductor, Hoggard auditioned 400 singers in order to establish a new chorale, which gave its first performance in February 1963. Hoggard also worked to increase the symphony’s educational outreach. Under his direction, the symphony created a student concert series, in which students attended rehearsals and worked alongside the professional musicians. Hoggard also initiated the National Young Artists Competition, which held its first competition in 1962. At this time, Hoggard expanded the symphony to seventy musicians and seventy-five singers who would perform eight concerts (per city) and four youth concerts (per city).

In 1957 local residents organized the Odessa Symphony Women’s Guild. The Midland Women’s Symphony Guild was formed in 1963 and soon became involved in ticket sales, volunteer services, and fundraising, all in support of the town’s symphony orchestra. A notable event was the performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Passion According to St. Mark during the 1965–66 season—the first such performance by an orchestra in the Western Hemisphere; the orchestra score had previously been lost for more than 200 years.

Lara Hoggard resigned in 1967 and was replaced by Robert G. Mann, who remained conductor until 1971. Mann acquired the Frank Black Music Library for the symphony in 1968, organized the Permian Community Orchestra, inspired the creation of the Permian Civic Ballet, and initiated the hiring of a paid chorale director, beginning with B. R. “Bev” Henson in 1968 and followed by Gene Kinney in 1970.

On January 8, 1969, the two orchestras formally joined together to create the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale (MOSC) as a way to pool financial resources and musical talent. Mann resigned following the 1970–71 season. Phillip Spurgeon, who helped create a youth orchestra, replaced Mann for one season. When Spurgeon left, Robert Kreis conducted the MOSC for the next two seasons.

In 1974 Dr. Thomas Hohstadt joined the MOSC as conductor just as the new rehearsal hall and administrative building, located between Midland and Odessa, were being completed. During his fifteen-year tenure, Hohstadt established several landmark programs, including the “Pops in the Park” summer concert series, a string quartet, the Lone Star Brass Quartet, and the West Texas Winds, a woodwind quintet (which disbanded and started up again in 2000). Another accomplishment under Hohstadt was the symphony’s ballet performance filmed as part of an award-winning documentary, which brought attention to the arts in West Texas during the 1980–81 season. Hohstadt also succeeded in recruiting professional musicians to the Midland-Odessa area, thereby creating a true resident symphony.

After Hohstadt left in 1989, Don Jaeger took over as conductor until 1995. During the early 1990s the symphony faced financial hardship until a strong fundraising campaign stabilized the organization’s fiscal standing. Rob Hunt served as conductor from 1995 to 2001, and Nyela Basney served from 2002 to 2004. Gary Lewis was hired as full-time music director and conductor before the 2007–08 season and still served in that capacity in 2015. The Midland-Odessa Symphony Chorale, which made its first international concert tour to Germany and Austria in 2014, was conducted by Gregory M. Pysh.
 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Midland-Odessa Symphony & Chorale (www.mosc.org), accessed August 4, 2015. Midland Symphony Guild (www.midlandsg.com), accessed August 4, 2015. Scott White, A Study of the Evolution of the Community Symphony Orchestra Based on the History and Growth of the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale (M.A. thesis, University of Texas of the Permian Basin, 1992). 

Cortnie Jones

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Cortnie Jones, "Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale," accessed October 19, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgm05.

Uploaded on June 4, 2015. Modified on August 5, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.