The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) is a Canadian orchestra based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Its primary concert venue is the Centennial Concert Hall, and the orchestra also performs throughout the province of Manitoba. The WSO gives an average of 80 concerts per year. The WSO also provides orchestral accompaniment to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Manitoba Opera.
Established in 1947, the WSO played its first concert on December 16, 1948 in the Civic Auditorium. Walter Kaufmann was the WSO's first music director, from 1948 to 1958. Victor Feldbrill, the WSO's only Canadian Music Director to date, succeeded Kaufmann in 1958. The WSO initially performed out of the Civic Auditorium until April 1968, when the WSO moved to its present home in the 2,300-seat Centennial Concert Hall. In 1992, then-Music Director Bramwell Tovey and the WSO's Composer-in-Residence Glenn Buhr, along with others, created the WSO's New Music Festival. In the 2011-2012 season, the WSO began the 'Sistema Winnipeg' programme, modelled after Venezuela's El Sistema, to provide music education to disadvantaged children in Winnipeg.
Andrey Boreyko was the WSO's music director from 2001 to 2006. During his tenure, the musicians experienced a labour lockout in December 2001, and the mass resignation of the orchestra's board in the winter of 2003. The musicians took a 20% pay cut and Boreyko donated a portion of his salary to the orchestra during the financially troubled 2002-2003 season. The orchestra musicians took an additional pay cut for the 2003-2004 season. The orchestra retired its accumulated debt in September 2005. In his final season as music director, Boreyko led 6 weeks of concerts, in contrast to 12 the season before. Overall, Boreyko received praise for his musicianship, but also criticism for a lack of community outreach, and not fulfilling an intention to establish residency in Winnipeg.
In February 2006, Alexander Mickelthwate was named the WSO's eighth music director. He took up the post in September 2006, with an initial contract of 3 years. In December 2008, Mickelthwate extended his contract with the orchestra through the 2012 season. His Winnipeg contract has since been further extended through the 2015-2016 season. The orchestra's current executive director is Trudy Schroeder, effective July 2008.