Begun in 1963-64, the symphony has brought both classical and pops music to its audience, thanks to the concerted efforts of both the community and university. Its annual programming also provides a unique opportunity for a select group of outstanding music students to play alongside their teachers and mentors.
BSO concerts are a collaborative effort of the community-based non-profit Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association and the Tennessee Tech Department of Music and Art. Performances are in the Wattenbarger Auditorium in the Bryan Fine Arts Building on the TTU campus. The building -- and orchestra -- were named for teacher and composer Charles Faulkner Bryan, a native son of the Upper Cumberland, the first Tennessee musician to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a former chairman of the music program at Tech. The orchestra’s subscription concerts are regularly sold out and draw audiences from every county surrounding its home in Putnam: Cumberland, DeKalb, Jackson, Overton, Smith, Warren, and White.
A member of the League of American Orchestras, the BSO is managed by the independent Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association Board, which consists of both community and university representatives. Its advisory members are its music director, who is a member of the TTU faculty; its executive director, who reports directly to the board and is responsible for the BSO's daily operations; the president of TTU; the director of Putnam County Schools; and an orchestra representative from the TTU faculty. TTU is an important partner of the BSOA, providing in-kind support, including rehearsal and performance space, as well as the participation of the music director and faculty and student orchestra members.
The BSOA is the current manifestation of an earlier auxiliary group, the Tech Community Symphony Guild, which changed its name to the Bryan Symphony Guild at the same time the Tech Community Symphony Orchestra was renamed the Bryan Symphony Orchestra. The guild supported and helped guide the ensemble from 1967 until 1998, when it merged with the Bryan Symphony Orchestra, becoming the Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association. Over the years, the guild was recognized several times by the League of American Orchestras, winning the Sally Parker Award in both 1995 and 1998 for its support of the orchestra's educational program. In 2003, the BSOA won the league's Gold Ribbon award for innovative fund raising. And in 2010, the BSO shared the league's Gold Baton Award with other members of the "Made in America" consortium that commissioned a new work by composer Joan Tower.
Then, as now, the association's goals include increasing interaction among the BSO's musicians and the local K-12 school system. Bringing music to area youngsters in the form of concerts, classes, and special curricular activities is one way to ensure that children learn to appreciate the joy of music.
Today's BSO is led by Music Director Dan Allcott, former music director and principal conductor of the Atlanta Ballet. Former BSO conductors are Brendan Townsend, music director of the Laredo (Texas) Philharmonic Orchestra and Corpus Christi Area Youth Orchestra; John Dodson, music director of the Adrian Symphony Orchestra in Michigan; Jonathan May, who was artistic director of the Florida Young Artists Orchestra in Orlando and the Central Florida Youth Orchestra in Leesburg and music director of the Flagler Youth Orchestra; and founder James Wattenbarger, who held the baton 25 years before his retirement.