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The National Symphony Orchestra regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including performances for state occasions, presidential inaugurations and official holiday celebrations. Through its tours of four continents and performances for heads of state, the National Symphony also fills an important international rôle.

Officially founded in 1931, throughout its history the orchestra has been committed to both artistic excellence and a force for music education. In 1986 the National Symphony became the artistic affiliate of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the nation’s center for the performing arts, where it has presented a concert season annually since the center opened in 1971. The orchestra itself numbers 100 musicians, presenting a 52-week season of approximately 175 concerts each year. These include classical subscription series, pops concerts, and one of the country’s most extensive educational programs. In addition to these activities, small groups of NSO members develop education programs designed at age levels from pre-kindergarten through high school. Collectively these ensembles present as many as 100 additional performances a year during the American Residencies and at the Kennedy Center.

The National Symphony Orchestra has a strong commitment to the development of America’s artistic resources. Through the John and June Hechinger Commissioning Fund for New Orchestral Works, the orchestra has commissioned more than 50 works, including cycles of fanfares and encores, which, taken as a whole, are representative of the diverse influences in American composition today. The National Symphony has long been distinguished for its nurturing of young American conductors; that commitment has escalated with the creation in 2000 of the National Conducting Institute, of which music director Leonard Slatkin is founder and director. Unique in combining leadership, administrative, and musical training with a major orchestra, the institute is an advanced training program designed to help conductors successfully make the transition from leading student or part-time orchestras to working with a full-time professional orchestra. Also of note is the Kennedy Center Summer Music Institute. For more than a decade, scholarships provided by the National Trustees of the National Symphony Orchestra have enabled high school students from throughout the country to come to the nation’s capital for several weeks of study with NSO musicians.

Another important project is the National Symphony Orchestra American Residencies for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This venture encompasses sharing all elements of classical symphonic music with a specific region of the United States, exploring the diversity of musical influences, and giving the region a musical voice in the nation’s center for the performing arts through exchanges, training programs, and commissions. Established in 1992, the project has so far taken the NSO to 15 states.

Throughout its history, the National Symphony Orchestra has served the nation through tours, broadcasts, and other special projects.

Role: Orchestra 
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Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group