Sheboygan Symphony, The First 100 Years
On a cold, cloudy evening, February 20, 1919, Zion Reformed Church in Sheboygan was reportedly "packed to the doors" to hear a concert. The highlight was to be a cantata performed by the Zion Choir, but the program listed them as "assisted" by a new entity: the Sheboygan Community Orchestra, led by John Schmidt, "who certainly needs no introduction," according to the anonymous review published the next day in the Sheboygan Press. In the months to follow, that body of players would be performing on their own, and by the time of their third concert they would be calling themselves the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra. They are still the SSO, one hundred years after their founding in the fall of 1918: the oldest symphony orchestra still functioning in the state of Wisconsin. They have performed continuously, except for pauses during the Great Depression and in the midst of World War II; and though they were called the Sheboygan Civic (Symphony) Orchestra from 1936 to 1973, there has been a continuity in both personnel and musical vision, linking one generation to the next over a 100-year span.