In 1939, a young man named Eugene Andrie, a music teacher at the Kalamazoo Conservatory of Music and Associated Arts, founded one of the first youth orchestras in the country. He called it the Kalamazoo Little Symphony. In those first few years, Andrie’s orchestra, inspired by Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra founder Leta Snow and Wanda Miller, tackled movements of major repertoire. The Little Symphony was noted for its musical accomplishments and its concerts were well-attended.
Eventually the Little Symphony grew into a four-tiered orchestral program, the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Society, which today includes a training orchestra, two preparatory orchestras, the Junior Symphony Orchestra, and an impressive ensemble program.
The conductors who followed Andrie include Julius Stulberg, Herbert Butler, and Dr. Robert Ritsema. Each left behind legacies such as the student concerto competition, a name change, establishment of a board of directors, invitation to accompany the Michigan Youth Arts Festival concerto winners, accompaniment of Stulberg International String Competition winners, and several highly-successful international tours.
In its 75th year, Conductor and Musical Director Andrew Koehler, professor of music at Kalamazoo College and conductor of its Kalamazoo Philharmonia, leads an 84-member Junior Orchestra with three seasonal concerts.
Today the KJSO is proud to claim the third oldest continually running youth orchestra in the nation. Its musicians are drawn from the metropolitan area and nine surrounding communities.
Information and photographs provided by the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Society
Julius Stulberg rehearsing with orchestra members, 1951
1953-54 Season, Julius Stulberg conducting
Annual Tune-up Camp with Julius Stulberg, 1967
Bicentennial Concert Program, Herbert Butler conducting, 1976
A list of Stulberg "isms" remembered fondly over the years by Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra members