On January 26, 1857, Philadelphia’s most important political, business, and society denizens gathered to open the Academy of Music at a glittering concert and ball. The evening was said to be “the most splendid affair, in all respects, that had ever come off in this city.”
In the ensuing years the Academy not only hosted musical events of all kinds, including the U.S. premiere of Gounod’s Faust, but also Susan B. Anthony arguing for a woman’s right to vote; the 1872 Republican National Convention; a circus featuring “Buffalo Bill” Cody; visits by royalty; and Tchaikovsky himself, conducting music from his ballet The Nutcracker.
Then, on November 16, 1900, Fritz Scheel gave the downbeat to Carl Goldmark’s overture In Spring for The Philadelphia Orchestra’s very first concert. From that moment on, the Academy became the ensemble’s home for the next 101 years.
The Orchestra and the Academy entered into a new arrangement in 1957, when the Orchestra Association purchased the “Grand Old Lady of Locust Street,” an important relationship that continues to this day. And exactly 100 years after the official opening of the Academy, the first Anniversary Concert and Ball was inaugurated on January 26, 1957, as a benefit for the restoration and upkeep of the building.
This coming January 27, the Academy celebrates her 161st Anniversary with the annual Concert and Ball, including a performance by The Philadelphia Orchestra led by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The evening is chaired by Lydie Szabo Brown and John Fry, and as it has since 1957, will benefit the Academy of Music Restoration Fund, the primary means by which the Academy continues to support critically important annual capital projects.
As the cultural heart of the Greater Philadelphia community and the “Crown Jewel of the Avenue of the Arts,” the Academy of Music is a National Historic Landmark that needs constant attention beyond day-to-day operations. The Academy undergoes numerous preservation and conservation capital projects annually to maintain her superb stature and service to over 250,000 patrons each year. Among other projects, the proceeds this year will go toward the replacement of the South Alley Cooling Tower, which carries a projected cost of $300,000.
For more information on the 161st Anniversary Concert and Ball, including how to purchase tickets, visit www.academyofmusic.org or call 215-893-1978.