History and Mission

Pocatello has had a community orchestra since nearly the turn of the last century. It is known today as the Idaho State-Civic Symphony and is uniquely made up of a combination of local community members who play alongside students and faculty members of Idaho State University (ISU).

Pocatello’s first orchestra efforts go back to the days of the Academy of Idaho, now as ISU. By the early 1920s, the orchestra was functioning under the direction of Llewellyn Roubidoux. In 1928, Professor Donald Kissane assumed the leadership and conceived the idea for joining the community and university into what was known as the Pocatello Symphony Orchestra.

The second period in the development of the orchestra began just before World War II. In 1943, Gibson Walter became the conductor and built a strong string section by devoting long hours to private instruction. He also made local residents more conscious of the outstanding talent in the community by presenting as soloists gifted young musicians, a practice continued to the present day. This young musicians guest artist program was discontinued sometime thereafter, but it was reinstated as a biennial event in 2010, known as the Young Artists Competition.

In the late 1940s, the orchestra was included on the Pocatello Community Concert Association programs for one or two concerts a year.

In 1947, Dr. Harold (Hal) Mealy assumed the position as Conductor, a position he held until 1969. During his tenure as conductor, in 1953, the Idaho State-Civic Symphony Association was founded under the direction of Ralph Comstock, Sr., with Don C. Brown elected as the first President. Through their leadership and with the help of the women’s auxiliary, the financial condition of the orchestra was greatly improved by securing donations from patrons and sustaining a membership list.

Following the significant tenure of Dr. Mealy as conductor, Dr. Don McGolthan assumed the position of conductor followed by Dr. H. James Schoepflin for the 1972-73 season. In the 1976-77 season, Dr. Alan Stanek conducted the Symphony, followed by Dr. Gregory Fried beginning in the 1981-83 season.

In 1977, the Association was incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization by Dr. William Brydon, John Looze, Blaine Gasser, Lloyd Browning, and Sally Johnson as officers, and its Amended Articles were approved with language specifying adherence to the federal regulations for charitable corporations.

During the 1983-84 season, Dr. Thom Ritter George was named Conductor and Artistic Director of the Symphony, and his tenure became the longest to date and stretched through the 2006-07 season. Also, notable in April 20, 2005, the Symphony performed the inaugural concert in the new beautiful Stephens Performing Arts Center Jensen Hall.
Since then, the conductor position has changed more frequently, interspersed with seasons covered by interim and acting conductors as searches for a permanent conductor were ongoing as noted below:
Dr. Thom Ritter George, Conductor 1983-84 through 2006-07
ISU Faculty, Acting Conductors 2007-08 (Dr. George Adams, Dr. Patrick Brooks,)
Dr. Chung Park, Conductor 2008-09 through 2011-12
Dr. George Adams, Interim Conductor, 2012-13
Dr. Grant Harville, Conductor 2013-14 through 2016-17
Dr. Julie Sorensen, Interim Conductor 2017-18; Conductor 2018-19 through 2020-21
Dr. Scott Andersen, Dr. Connor Gray Covington, Jennifer Drake, Interim Conductors 2021-22
Dr. Nell Flanders, Conductor 2022-23 to present

During the 2007-2008 season, ISU professors Dr. George Adams and Dr. Patrick Brooks conducted the Symphony as acting conductors.

Dr. Chung Park was named Conductor for the 2008-09 season, beginning a three-season tenure through 2010-2012. Following his departure, Dr. George Adams was again called on to conduct the Symphony for the 2012-13 season while another search took place.
Dr. Grant Hartville was selected for the 2013-14 season and headed the orchestra for four seasons. Upon his departure and during the nationwide search for a permanent conductor, Julie Sorensen served as Interim Conductor for the 2017-2018 season. Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Julie was name Conductor and Artistic Director, serving through the 2020-21 season.

During the 2019-2020 season, the Idaho State-Civic Symphony was forced to suspend the final two concerts, beginning in March due to the Covid 19 Worldwide Pandemic. To make sure that the Symphony did not go “dark” like many orchestras did around the country, and with the technology assistance from the university (John Young), the Symphony continued with the 2020-2021 virtual format with a complete, successful season.

Carrying on with Symphony season under these unprecedented circumstances was due to the collaboration of the dedicated musicians, conductor Dr. Julie Sorensen and the officers and members of the Symphony Board of Directors.
Following the departure of Dr. Sorensen, the Symphony once again turned to interim Conductors, with Connor Gray Covington from the Utah Symphony, Jennifer Drake from the Boise Philharmonic Orchestra, and Dr. Scott Anderson serving for the 2021-22 season.

In 2022-23 season, the current Conductor/Artistic Director Dr. Nell Flanders joined the faculty of ISU and leading the Symphony.

Throughout the many years, the Symphony has hosted numerous renowned guest artists including Grant Johanneson, Ruggiero Ricci, Louis Kaufmann, Joseph Schuster were engaged to perform with the orchestra within the first few years of the formation of the Association. Numerous other renowned artists such as including Kathleen Battle, Eugen Sarbu, The Pablo Casals Trio, the Kingston Trio, Joe Foss, the Canadian Brass, The Four Freshman, along with local artists including Mark Neiwirth, and international Opera star Hans Gregory Aschenback (we know him as Ashbaker)
Recently, Broadway stars Nathaniel Stampley, Phumzile Sojola, Andrea Jones-Sojola and pianist Jeffrey Biegel have graced the stage of the Idaho State-Civic Symphony.

(Resources: 1983 document: Organization Plan -author unknown, Joan Collett, Ron Bolinger - 2024)