The Missouri Symphony brings enriching musical events and education to the Columbia region.
“Music is an important part of community building.”
That’s one of Wilbur Lin’s musical mantras that guides his role as the Missouri Symphony’s newest conductor. The Missouri Symphony, also known as MOSY, provides musical experiences and education in addition to community-building opportunities in the heart of downtown Columbia.
With deep roots in Columbia, MOSY calls the historical Missouri Theatre home for many of its well-known events such as the Hot Summer Nights Music Festival and the Symphony of Toys.
MOSY is made up of three branches — the orchestra, the conservatory, and the league. The orchestra is the core of the organization and is comprised of top musicians from across the world to provide symphonic concerts in Columbia and the surrounding areas.
The conservatory provides music education through content areas including large ensembles, chamber music, and musical skills and knowledge. The league is a social community that allows members to connect and support the organization throughout the year.
Since its beginning in 1970, the Missouri Symphony has only had two conductors. Hugo Vianello both founded and conducted the orchestra from 1970 to 1998 and was then followed by Kirk Trevor until his retirement in 2021. In 2021, the board of directors set out to find the third conductor through a rigorous process that took nearly a year and a half.
The process identified 30 candidates and the field was narrowed down via interviews, meetings, and engagements with a variety of staff and board members. The team selected four finalists who were invited to conduct two concerts through MOSY’s notorious Hot Summer Nights Music Festival in 2022, which was labeled “The Summer of Conductors.”
Trent Rash, MOSY executive director, says the focus was not only on their conducting talents but also on how well each candidate connected with the musicians and the audience. After the music festival ended, the board made the decision to invite Wilbur Lin to become MOSY’s newest — and third-ever — conductor. He agreed and signed a three-year contract, though he hopes to spend longer than three years to accomplish his goals and vision for MOSY. However, he says it is important for new ideas and people to keep flowing into the organization, so he doesn’t want to extend his stay past 10 years.
Wilbur has lived and worked all over the world including Taiwan, New Jersey, England, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and California, and he even visited Columbia in 2017 to take a master class from previous conductor Kirk Trevor. His most recent work was in Cincinnati as an assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Wilbur says that from the time he was a young child, he’s always had an interest in music, but it wasn’t until high school that he realized conducting was his passion. As MOSY conductor, he will be directing both the orchestra and the conservatory which he says allows him time to work directly with the students each week. He says he is eager to bring new ideas on ways to connect the symphony and the community in a town that is eager to learn.
He hopes to teach others the art of critical listening and analysis that extend beyond music to foster connections and conversations with others.
Meeting You Where You Are
The Missouri Symphony prides itself on being culturally diverse within a community that continues to make strides in cultural competence and diverse experiences. The organization is set on meeting people where they are most comfortable, Trent says. He understands that coming into the theatre for a symphonic concert can be overwhelming at first.
As a result, MOSY has created events such as Preludes at the Pub, where music is paired with happy hour at local bars to introduce the community to the orchestra. This opens the opportunity for community members to hear MOSY’s music and to increase interest in local concerts and events.
Wilbur says that while MOSY has a dedicated audience, it is his mission to create a larger and more sustainable audience. While upholding traditions of annual events, he also hopes to add larger and more frequent events for the community to be involved in all seasons.
Keeping classical music relevant and providing exposure to the symphony is at the forefront of MOSY’s mission.
The Missouri Symphony receives funding from both the city and the state; however, private donations are key to maintaining its operation.
“We only exist because of the support of others,” Trent says.
The organization has extensive plans for growth in 2023, including a new, immersive event in the spring that will pair food and music together by connecting the director with a local chef. With each course, the chef and director will share how their work is connected and inspired by each other.
The Missouri Symphony
The Missouri Symphony enriches our community through music education, professional performances, and diverse experiences.
Board of directors
Julia Gaines, President
Scott Pummill, Vice-President
Nicole Robovsky, Secretary
Greg Brockmeier, Treasurer
Jessie Kwatamdia, Officer-at-Large
Brandon Banks, Member
Jolene Schulz, Member
Charles Bruce III, Member
Julie Swope, Member
Rodney Dixon, Member
Tim Ireland, Member
Keegan Thompson, Member
Shana Trager, Member
Jackie Rodgers, Jr., Member
Eric Margheim, Member
Chris Thomas, Member
Lindsey Tyler, Member
Matthew Vianello, Member
Pauli Landhuis, Member
Laura Hayes, Member
Siri Geenen, Member