Meet the Symphony
Since 1903, the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra (SISO), composed of faculty and students of Southern Illinois University, talented community members and area professionals, has presented live orchestral music in Southern Illinois. In January 2001, the Illinois Council of Orchestras named SISO the Community Volunteer Orchestra of the Year in Illinois, and awarded it a Certificate of Recognition of Meritorious Programming for the 2001-2002 season. In January 2005, the Council named Music Director, Edward Benyas, Conductor of the Year in the Small Orchestra category. In 2007, Maestro Benyas received the “Keeping the Arts in Business” Award from the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.
Recent musical highlights include: The appearance of Emanuel Ax in 2008 before a sold-out Shryock Auditorium; an appearance on national television (C-SPAN) during the funeral of the late Senator Paul Simon in 2003; performing for President Clinton, a bevy of state and local dignitaries and an audience of 10,000 in 1995; All-American music programs for Presidents' Day, Election Day, Black History month, Veterans' Day, Lincoln’s 200th Birthday, Copland's 100th Birthday, and the Pearl Harbor 60th Anniversary; annual concerts for school children; "Six Tenors and More!" in 2000; the first Southern Illinois performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with a 100-voice chorus in 2001; appearances by the world famous Eroica Trio, David Kim, Christine Brewer; and the production and release of several compact discs.
In Fall 2004, SISO established Klassics for Kids. This monthly concert series helps expose infants and toddlers to live classical music and jazz. In 1997, a Patrons Committee of prominent members of the community formed to promote the orchestra as a community resource. The 50-member Patrons Committee volunteers their time year-round to promote the orchestra season, raise operating funds through corporate and individual contributions, sell program ads, increase the scholarship endowment, host pre-concert dinners, post-concert receptions and an annual benefit dinner.
In Summer 2005, Maestro Benyas and the SISO Patrons Committee established the Southern Illinois Music Festival (SIFest), an annual summer festival that includes over 40 professional performances/presentations of classical music, ballet, art and jazz in two-dozen venues throughout Southern Illinois during the three weeks leading to the 4th of July. In five successful years of operations, audiences have steadily grown, the number and amount of individual, corporate and governmental sponsorship has increased markedly, and the Festival has developed a regional reputation for excellence. The majority of events are admission free, including over a dozen and a half geared especially for young persons, with the remaining events reasonably priced, and all performances are presented in an informal and audience-friendly manner. With its half-decade history of sustained artistic and economic growth, SIFest is in position to develop a national reputation for excellence.