What Is the Belleville Philharmonic Society?

Belleville, Illinois is very proud of its Philharmonic Society and has every right to be. Founded by a musical group of local citizens in 1866, The Belleville Philharmonic Society is the second oldest continuously performing orchestra in the United States. In addition to its longevity, the Philharmonic Society boasts of its three ensembles: an orchestra, a chorale, and a youth orchestra. The current conductors are Robert Hart Baker for the orchestra and chorale, and Leon Burke III for the youth orchestra. The first conductor of The Belleville Philharmonic Society was Theodore Decker, who directed a group of gifted veterans, many of whom had been classically trained as musicians in Germany.

Keeping Culture Alive in the Community

Since its inception, The Philharmonic Society of Belleville has supported the arts in a number of ways, often partnering with the city in which it makes its home, the Belleville Chamber of Commerce, and a devoted group known as Belleville Main Street. The Philharmonic Society of Belleville is a not-for-profit organization. Having committed itself to supporting the arts in the greater Belleville community, it provides delight to audiences and musicians alike.

Performing regularly during its September to April season, The Philharmonic has an important place in the town’s heart — both as a creative outlet and a source of elegant entertainment. During the century and a half of its active existence, The Belleville Philharmonic Society has established a strong bond not only with the city of Belleville, but with all of St. Clair County, regularly performing for civic events and for the requisite Christmas holiday concerts, including, of course, a command performance of “The Nutcracker Suite.”

Competitive as well as Charming

Far from being only a quaint, nostalgic continuation of Midwestern history, the Belleville Philharmonic Society keeps its population on its musical toes by hosting two concerto competitions each spring for young musicians throughout the area.

Young people up to college age are eligible to participate in the “Stars of Tomorrow” contest. The winners of this contest earn the honor of performing with the Belleville Philharmonic during its October concert. In addition, the Youth Orchestra runs its own contest, The Tuerck Memorial Concerto Competition, named in honor of George Tuerck, the Youth Orchestra’s founder. The Tuerck competition is open to those who are high school juniors or younger; the winners receive honorary scholarships and get to play with the Youth Orchestra during its winter concert.

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