The Rochester Symphony’s scintillating sounds have serenaded the Med City for a century. That’s right -- the symphony is turning 100, so it’s time to celebrate with a look back at the ensemble’s cultural and artistic contributions to our community.

In partnership with the symphony, the History Center of Olmsted County has created an exhibit that presents the legacy of the symphony’s music and tells the story of its founding. The exhibit will open with a special celebration on Oct. 24, from 6-8 p.m. that includes a gallery talk, historical insights from the Artistic Director and CEO/President of the symphony Jere Lantz, a performance from a string quartet composed of symphony musicians, and some wine and light appetizers.

In addition to seeing the Rochester Symphony Exhibit at its opening, guests will also be able to view the history center’s entire gallery which currently includes two other exhibits: "Coming of Age: The 1968 Generation" (a Minnesota Historical Society traveling exhibit) and "Traveling While Black."

The Rochester Symphony exhibit was suggested by a long-time volunteer at the History Center: Linda Willihnganz. She thought the symphony’s centennial season could be an interesting topic to explore. After some preliminary research, the History Center staff set up a meeting with the Rochester Symphony.

"I especially like the partnership in this exhibit," says Wayne Gannaway, the executive director of the History Center of Olmsted County. "They have a great story to tell, and the History Center is really good at telling stories of our past that connect to our present and future."

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Gannaway hopes this exhibit will lead the way for other partnerships with area nonprofits.

The exhibit includes everything from an enlarged version of the first known photo of the symphony, to an original program from its New Year’s afternoon concert at "The Armory" in 1920.

Dan Nowakowski, the curator of Collections and Exhibits at the History Center, spent about three months researching, finding pictures, and organizing the exhibit. His work helps tell the story of how the symphony was formed in 1919 by the Cooke brothers. After an ensemble they organized performed, the public wanted to hear more concerts, which led to what we know today as the Rochester Symphony. And Nowakowski unearthed plenty of their set lists.

Gannaway is excited that guests will have a multifaceted experience at the exhibit opening. "Visitors can experience the exhibit while listening to live music played by symphony musicians. It’s visual and aural," he says.

The exhibit will be the perfect way to whet your musical appetite for the remainder of the Rochester Symphony’s 2019-2020 Centennial Season. Future shows will include "The Messiah" in December, "A Century of Cinema" in February, "Cheers to 40 Years" in March, and "The Spirit of Us" in April. For more information on these concerts go to

"I think it's important for Rochester to learn about the 100-year history of the Rochester Symphony because they are one of the remaining cultural icons for Olmsted County," says Nowakowski. "The symphony was created for the benefit of the community and is intertwined with it."

What: The Rochester Symphony exhibit opening

When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24. The exhibit will run through the summer of 2020.

Where: History Center of Olmsted County, 1195 West Circle Dr. SW, Rochester

Cost: Nonmembers twelve and older $10, ages 2-12 $5, adult members $5