Frank Simon organized the first civic symphony in Middletown in 1921. Dr. Simon formed the orchestra after the establishment of the Armco Band, but he soon realized that the success of the Armco Band required his full attention. As a result, he disbanded the civic orchestra. Various conductors reorganized the orchestra several times in the following years, but the organization did not reach stability until Miss Valda Wilkerson took over the baton as conductor in 1941.

Miss Wilkerson taught music at Roosevelt Junior High School. She studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and during the summer months attended the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts. While at Berkshire, she began to think about reestablishing a Civic Symphony in Middletown.

Rehearsals began in 1941 and the first concert was given on May 7, 1942, in the Armco Auditorium. All Middletown orchestra personnel performed free of charge, including the conductor, Miss Wilkerson. Within two years, the Civic Symphony Orchestra increased in size, and in 1945 the orchestra joined the American Symphony Orchestra League. In 1946 a Women’s Committee was formed to promote the sale of tickets and a business manager was named. Also that year a board of directors and officers were elected. During the 1960-61 season, the orchestra became incorporated as the Middletown Symphony Orchestra.

In 1965 the Symphony became affiliated with Arts in Middletown (AIM), a non-profit organization that was formed to promote further musical and artistic education and culture of the people of the Middletown area. The first concert held in Dave Finkelman Auditorium was October 18, 1969. The Middletown Symphony Women’s Association was formed in 1973 to provide support in the form of hospitality and promotion of the Symphony. In 1974, a pops concert combined with a conductor auction fundraiser was added to the three performances given each season. The first outdoor concert was given in Sunset Park, free of charge to the public, in 1979, and became an annual Labor Day tradition until 1999. The free Labor Day concert moved to the AK Steel Labor Day Celebration in 2000, and since 2007, the Labor Day Concert has been held at Woodside Cemetery and Arboretum. In the fall of 1980 the Middletown Youth Symphony was taken under the MSO umbrella.

Since the formal organization of the Middletown Symphony in 1941 five conductors have directed the orchestra including:

Valda Wilkerson 1942-1967
Charles Ansbacher 1967-1970
Bruce McKinney 1970-1972
James Martin 1972-1982
Carmon DeLeone 1982-present

Current Symphony Conductor

Carmon DeLeone has been Music Director of the Middletown Symphony Orchestra since 1982. This is his 35th season with the Orchestra and also his 45th season as Music Director of the Cincinnati Ballet. He retired from the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra in the South suburbs of Chicago in 2011 where, in 1995, he was named the Illinois “Music Director of the Year.” At New York’s Carnegie Hall, Maestro DeLeone has served as Conductor and Host of the “Family Concert” Series, and has also conducted frequent performances in Europe with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra.

As a composer, he most recently premiered his original ballet score for PRINCESS AND THE PEA. His best known work, the full-length ballet in two acts, PETER PAN, garnered rave reviews at its opening and first revival in Cincinnati and equal praise when it was presented by Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Iowa City and Anchorage. A newly choreographed production of PETER PAN featuring the Atlanta Ballet debuted in London for 28 performances as a part of Royal Festival Hall’s Millennium Celebration. Maestro DeLeone conducted the opening series of these performances. Excerpts of PETER PAN have also been premiered in New York City at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and in Luxembourg at the Wiltz Summer Music Festival.

During his 12-year tenure as Assistant, and later Resident Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Maestro DeLeone served on its staff with Music Directors Max Rudolf, Thomas Schippers, Walter Susskind and Erich Kunzel. He was also selected personally by Erich Leinsdorf to participate in an intensive master conducting seminar at Lincoln Center.

Maestro DeLeone is very pleased to have made his New York conducting debut with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for their season-opening gala performance of CARMINA BURANA and REVELATIONS at New York’s City Center. He made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in October of 1998 and was immediately re-engaged to host and conduct the “Family Concert Series.”


Honorary Life Board Members

Midge Bailey Bryant, Norman Hayes, Wanda Williams, Virginia Jenkins, Emily Koenig, Dr. Walt Roehll, Carole Schul

Deceased: Harry Harrison, Mary Kinkler, Robert Nerenberg, Dr. John Ritan, Ginny Turvey, Hannah Wrenn, Helen Ramsdell


For more information about the Middletown Symphony Orchestra, contact mso@middletownsymphony.com or call us at 513-424-2426.

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