Roswell Symphony Orchestra

A Brief History

Now in it's 59th season, the Roswell Symphony Orchestra's musicians come from all major cities within a 200 mile radius of Roswell: Lubbock, Amarillo, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, El Paso, Portales, Alamogordo, and Roswell.

It all began in the basement of the First Methodist Church on July 28, 1959. That first group included lawyers, accountants, teachers, florists, housewives and geologists. Although not professional musicians, they were determined to give Roswell and southeast New Mexico a professional sounding orchestra. For a city the size of less than forty-thousand the formation of the Roswell Symphony Orchestra was quite an accomplishment.

Maestro John Farrer became the director of the RSO for the 1972 season. He followed William Kirschke, Thomas Lewis, and Glenn Cunningham, the first director of the RSO. Under the leadership of Maestro Farrer the RSO has earned a reputation for musical excellence by sharing with the under served target audience of southeast New Mexico the talents of professional musicians, many of whom have performed renowned symphonies across the United States as well as in Canada and Europe.

The first concert season in 1960-1961 featured three concerts held in New Mexico Military Institute's Pearson Auditorium. Since then the season has grown to include a Subscription Concert Series of five classical concerts in Pearson Auditorium, featuring world renowned guest artists, Children's Educational Concerts for elementary students in Roswell, Dexter and Hagerman, and a free Labor Day Concert at Spring River Park and Zoo.


For over 50 years the Roswell Symphony Orchestra has earned a reputation for musical excellence by sharing with Roswell and Southeastern New Mexico the talents of New Mexico's professional musicians. More importantly, many have been born and raised in New Mexico and with just a few exceptions they all reside in New Mexico. Under the direction of John Farrer, recipient of the Governor's Award for Excellence and Achievement and nominated by Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman as a Trustee of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Subscription Concert series is made up of five concerts performed October through May. Subscription Concerts are held at New Mexico Military Institute's Pearson Auditorium. These Subscription Concerts bring classical orchestral music, performed by professional musicians, to the area. Music written by Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Mozart, Strauss, Wagner and the like are performed, often with internationally known guest artists, ranging from Violinists to Classical Guitarists. In addition, the season will feature many other special events.

The concert season always opens with the free Labor Day "Pops" Concert in the park. Held at the Spring River Park and Zoo, this concert is given to the community by the Roswell Symphony Orchestra as a thank you for the wonderful support given throughout the year. In addition to this annual concert, we always have our "instrument petting zoo". This petting zoo is held in the afternoon prior to the Concert and allows young and older children alike to come and talk with some of the orchestra musicians about their instruments and even play them. This is a wonderful opportunity for children to become interested and involved in music.

The Roswell Symphony Orchestra will continue to emphasize the educational service to the community that it has successfully provided and expanded in recent years. The Roswell Symphony Orchestra strives to provide the students of Southeastern New Mexico with an opportunity to hear and enjoy the RSO and some of the great classical work by composers throughout the world. The 4th grade "Young Person's Concert" is, for many, the beginning of a life-long love of music, instruments and the arts. Our "Shadow Experience" program allows the best musicians from high schools around the area to perform with a professional orchestra and be mentored by some of New Mexico and Texas' finest musicians. Our educational materials library, open to all area teachers provides on-going support to the educational community. Our desire to make available at a reduced price, to each and every student symphonic music at its finest, is at the heart of the "Student Rush" program, implemented for the first time in the 2004-2005 concert year, where any student may purchase a ticket to attend the symphony concerts for just $5.00 fifteen minutes before the concert begins.

Regardless of culture, heritage, economic situation, or upbringing, one thing is certain in this part of New Mexico: Music plays an integral part in our society. Often, those cultural events which are the domain of larger cities are neglected in the smaller more rural communities of Southeastern New Mexico. It is for this reason that the Roswell Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors is so committed to providing Roswell, Hagerman, Dexter, Artesia, Ruidoso, Alamagordo and other areas of SE New Mexico a large number of projects in order to make sure that anyone who wants to enjoy the musical arts is given every opportunity. This is the mission of the RSO in action.

Concertgoers regularly come from Roswell, Alamagordo, Artesia, Carlsbad, Ruidoso and the rural areas of Southeastern New Mexico. Without the RSO, there would be no other venue for this type of experience in these areas.

The "Send a Senior" program in which merchants sponsor season tickets, and the RSO Board of Directors match, are given away to seniors on a first come, first serve basis. These seniors might not otherwise be able to attend the concert. This program grows each year as our seniors population grows. In all, approximately 160 tickets per concert are available to be given away for each concert. More than 900 seniors attend free each year. The Roswell J.O.Y. Center has collaborated with the RSO to provide transportation to seniors who may not be able to drive or are simply more comfortable with someone else doing the driving. This service is available to any senior over the age of 60, regardless of physical ability, disability or ability to pay. Wheelchair access is available at all concerts.

The Roswell Symphony Orchestra continues this mission by reaching out to economically disadvantaged students in the area by means of the "Student Rush" program. The addition of the "Student Rush" program is an attempt to allow low income students seriously discounted admission.

High school students also have an opportunity to participate in the "Shadow Experience." The students, are chosen by Orchestra and Band Directors, not only in Roswell, but also Alamagordo, Hagerman, Dexter and Artesia. These students sit in and play alongside a professional musician of the RSO during rehearsals and then perform with the orchestra at the 4th grade Children's Concert, scheduled each year. Giving the professional musicians a chance to share techniques and mentor the aspiring musicians next to them. This program gives the students a rich and rewarding musical experience, along with providing invaluable "musical mentors".

In addition to the Shadow Orchestra Project, The Roswell Symphony offers a "Young Person's Concert" each year for area 4th grade students in both private and public elementary schools in Roswell, Dexter and Hagerman. Over 900 students attend each concert.

Our innovative Music Education Resource Lending Library housed at the RSO office continues to grow. This multi-media library, originally funded through a generous grant by the then New Mexico Arts Division, enjoys a steady balance of and increased activity by public-school teachers throughout the year. Our "Partners in Education" program with fifteen area elementary schools is ongoing.

For 46 years, Maestro John Farrer has been our Music Director. It is unheard of for a symphony to retain such a gifted, world-renowned conductor, spanning four decades. In this celebration we will include four full orchestra concerts including our full orchestra performing for our traditional Christmas concert. The Roswell Symphony Orchestra will focus on extremely high quality presentations of symphonic music, enhanced by larger orchestras. The Roswell Symphony Orchestra looks forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with our wonderful Maestro and with the community!