Festival City Symphony has been an important member of the Milwaukee-area arts community for nearly 100 years. Formerly known as the Milwaukee Civic Symphony Orchestra, Festival City Symphony is Milwaukee’s oldest performing symphony orchestra. Its mission is to extend the reach of classical music in the greater Milwaukee area by presenting free and engaging concerts.
In 1993, the Civic Music Association and the Milwaukee Civic Symphony Orchestra mutually agreed the orchestra should reorganize as a separate nonprofit organization. Under its new name, Festival City Symphony, the orchestra performed its premier concert on February 27, 1994, in the historic Pabst Theater.
Striving to attract new audiences to live classical music performances, the orchestra’s collaborative programs often incorporate local arts or educational organizations, Milwaukee-based performers and artists, and children’s performing groups. Composed of professional musicians from around the Milwaukee area, FCS member musicians serve as instructors in many of Milwaukee’s universities, public and private schools, and private lesson studios.
Festival City Symphony is extremely grateful for the generosity of these sponsors:
- Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Franklyn & Barbara Esenberg Fund
- United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF)
- Cultural, Artistic and Musical Programming Advisory Council (CAMPAC) Milwaukee County Arts Fund
- Milwaukee Youth Arts Center
- Music Performance Trust Fund
- FCS is supported with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and granted through the Wisconsin Arts Board and Arts Midwest.
Friends of FCS:
- Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
- Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
- Milwaukee Public Library
- Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra
- First Stage
- The Association of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestras
- Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast & Manitou
Giving Back to the Community
Festival City Symphony is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that supports the community and nurtures music education and appreciation. FCS provides access to high-quality classical music to all through our free and low-cost Pajama Jamboree and Saturday Classics concert series. During the season, FCS collects nonperishable food donations for Milwaukee’s Hunger Task Force. In addition, FCS works closely with youth and community organizations including the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Girl Scouts of Southeastern Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Library, and HOPE Network.gr
Our Music Director
With the musicians of the Festival City Symphony, Music Director, Carter Simmons is most grateful to bring beautiful music to the lives of our wonderful Milwaukee community where he also serves as Artistic and Music Director of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. For 30 years, Simmons’ leadership has been sought nationally and throughout our region where he regularly conducts for the Milwaukee Ballet having also conducted the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, artists of the Florentine Opera, and the Wisconsin Philharmonic among other regional orchestras. Simmons has toured throughout Europe, in South America, and China, also leading performances in Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall and in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. In 2023, Simmons will lead MYSO’s international concert tour of Belgium and The Netherlands including a performance in Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw.
In 2015, in recognition of its innovative Community Partnership Programs, MYSO, which directly serves one thousand musicians, received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from President Obama’s Council on the Arts and Humanities. Mr. Simmons has served on the Education and Community Engagement Committee of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and is a Past President of the Board of Directors of Milwaukee’s Civic Music Association who later named Simmons a Distinguished Professional in the Arts.
Born outside Washington, D.C., Mr. Simmons’ training included participation at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Eastern Music Festival, and lessons at the Tanglewood Music Center. A finalist of the National Conducting Institute of the National Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Simmons also participated in seminars conducting the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and the Eastman Wind Ensemble. He attended classes of Elizabeth A. H. Green, John Downey, Leon Fleischer, Gustav Meier and Frederick Fennell among others, and is most grateful to his teachers Dr. John R. Locke, Robert Gutter, Larry Rachleff, and Professor Thomas L. Dvorak.
Festival City Symphony Board of Directors
Board Chairperson: Charlane O’Rourke-Hertig, Nonprofit Theater Executive, Arts Advocate
Director: Patricia Ellis, Interim Director of Equity, Access, and Inclusion, Milwaukee Public Schools
Director: Bethany Perkins, Vice President of Marketing, 7Summits, Inc.
Director: Marie O’Shea, Engagement Marketing Professional, Humana Inc.
Director: Joann Steidinger, CLU, ChFC, Owner/Freelance Writer, Steidinger Consulting
Chairman of the Board Emeritus: Franklyn Esenberg, Retired President and CEO of Interstate Forging Industries
Festival City Symphony Staff
Music Director: Carter Simmons
Music Director Emeritus: Monte Perkins
Operations Director: Brandon Yahn
Personnel Manager: Kathryn Krubsack
Unlocking the Score & Pajama Jamboree Host: Lynn Roginske
Music Librarian: Mary Pat Michels
Tchaikovsky Symphony #5
Overture from the Magic Flute
Great Gate from Pictures at an Exhibition
Flight to Neverland
Stars and Stripes Forever