Mission, Values and History

Mission and Values

The Minnesota Orchestra's mission is to enrich, inspire and serve our community as an enduring symphony orchestra internationally recognized for its artistic excellence.

In pursuit of this mission, we strive to create a culture that embodies the following core values among all musicians, artistic leaders, board, staff and volunteers.

Respect, Collaborate, Listen

We expect a culture in which all members treat one another with decency, fairness and professionalism. We support a culture that encourages colleagues to work together to solve problems and seek solutions, in which alternate views are valued and the worth of each individual’s contribution is respected. We strive to hear each other’s perspectives and to be professional, courteous and empathetic as we seek mutual understanding.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

The Minnesota Orchestra is committed to building a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. Among many initiatives, we are currently prioritizing learning and work that will disrupt systemic racism.

Our Impact

The Minnesota Orchestra strives to impact our local community and the world through a commitment to extraordinary artistry, inspiring people of all ages to learn and listen, and by growing a keystone for Minnesota’s exceptional cultural community.



The Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, now in its second century and led since 2003 by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, ranks among America’s top symphonic ensembles, with a distinguished history of acclaimed performances in its home state and around the world; award-winning recordings, radio broadcasts and educational engagement programs; and a visionary commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of tomorrow.

Founded as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra gave its inaugural performance on November 5, 1903, under the baton of founding Music Director Emil Oberhoffer. Since 1968 it has been known as the Minnesota Orchestra. The ensemble presents about 175 programs in a typical year, most at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, and its concerts are heard by live audiences of 300,000. Its summer season, now titled Summer at Orchestra Hall and led by Creative Partner Jon Kimura Parker, has been a Minnesota favorite since 1980. The popular Live at Orchestra Hall series has been conducted by Sarah Hicks since 2014.

Tours, Recordings and Broadcasts

The Orchestra has a long history of touring throughout Minnesota, nationally at venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall, and internationally in Australia, Canada, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and, most recently, South Africa in a 2018 tour that celebrated the centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth. In 2015 its tour to Cuba—the first by an American orchestra since the that in U.S.-Cuban relations—drew widespread international attention and prompted The New York Times to hail the Orchestra’s new place “at the cultural vanguard.”

Recording has been an important part of the Orchestra’s mission since the 1920s. The Orchestra’s landmark Mercury Living Presence LP recordings of the 1950s and 1960s included a Gold-certified recording of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture that was the first to include an authentic military cannon and bell carillon. During Osmo Vänskä’s tenure, the Orchestra has undertaken several acclaimed recording projects, primarily for BIS Records. In 2014 the Orchestra and Vänskä won their first Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance for a disc of Jean Sibelius’ Symphonies No. 1 and 4. The Orchestra’s newest recording initiative focuses on the symphonies of Gustav Mahler.

The Orchestra’s legacy of broadcasting extends to 1923, when it performed a nationally-broadcast concert under guest conductor Bruno Walter. Today the Orchestra’s Friday night performances are broadcast live regionally by Minnesota Public Radio, a weekly tradition for more than 40 years. New in 2020 are live television broadcasts on Twin Cities PBS and online video livestreams.

Looking to the Future

The Minnesota Orchestra connects with more than 85,000 music lovers annually through family concerts and educational programs including Young People’s Concerts, a series founded in 1911. In recent seasons the Orchestra brought the series to a global online audience with Young People’s Concert webcasts, which have reached students around the globe in hundreds of cities across more than 20 countries. During the 2020-21 season, the Orchestra’s Young People’s Concerts will be shared in an entirely digital online format, allowing families and students to attend the concerts for free from their homes.

In 2017 the Orchestra launched the Rosemary and David Good Fellowship, a two-year program intended to encourage greater diversity in the orchestral field by supporting the career development of outstanding young musicians of African American, Latin American and Native American descent as they embark on professional orchestral careers. To date, four musicians have served as Good Fellows.

The Minnesota Orchestra nourishes a strong commitment to contemporary composers. Since 2002 its annual Composer Institute, under the direction of Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Puts, has offered more than 140 emerging composers an intense immersion into the orchestral world. Since 1903 the Orchestra has premiered and/or commissioned more than 300 compositions, including works by John Adams, Kalevi Aho, Dominick Argento, Béla Bartók, Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, Paul Hindemith, Charles Ives, Aaron Jay Kernis, Libby Larsen, Bongani Ndodana-Breen, Stephen Paulus, Kevin Puts, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

Read Full History (PDF)

Music Directors of the Minnesota Orchestra

Osmo Vänskä


Eiji Oue


Edo de Waart


Sir Neville Marriner


Stanislaw Skrowaczewski


Antal Dorati


Dimitri Mitropoulos


Eugene Ormandy


Henri Verbrugghen


Emil Oberhoffer