Symphony Space got its start on January 7, 1978. That day, Isaiah Sheffer and Allan Miller opened the padlocked doors to the Symphony Theatre to the hundreds of people waiting in the cold to see Wall to Wall Bach, the first of many free twelve-hour music marathons that would become a signature event. The building had started life as a public market, and at various times it was an ice skating rink, boxing arena and movie theatre. It took two unique visionaries to see that this down-at-the-heels theatre would be embraced by its cultured and educated neighbors and become the centerpiece of the Upper West Side Renaissance.
As that first Wall to Wall drew to a close late in the winter night, hundreds of professional and amateur singers raised their voices to join with a pick-up orchestra of classical stars and neighborhood professionals in the stunningly evocative Bach B-minor Mass. It was an inspiring event to those lucky enough to be there, but it also made it to national television, courtesy of Morton Dean and the CBS Evening News. New Yorkers had come together to create their own performing arts center, and Symphony Space was born.
Years later, a neighborhood favorite has become a New York institution - and Symphony Space still brings artists and audiences together to make magic. A packed house listening intently as an actor conjures up the mood of a short story...the soulful notes of a jazz trumpet fading into the night...children laughing with glee at the antics of a master puppeteer...dancers creating rhythmic patterns across a darkened stage...high school students cheering one of their own as she accepts congratulations after a public reading of her work...images of cinematic brilliance flickering across a screen...families coming together to watch their kids rock out...this is Symphony Space today.
Watch a video celebrating Symphony Space's 30th Anniversary, and learn more about the life and work of Isaiah Sheffer, our Founding Artistic Director.