Founded in 1970 as the Somerset County College Orchestra by Fred Stillwell and Donald Bowers, our members come from seven counties in Central New Jersey. Daniel Schuman served as the first music director. Upon his retirement in 1985, the orchestra changed its name to the Central Jersey Symphony. Roger Briscoe, Professor of Music at the college, became Music Director and began a closer association between the CJSO and Raritan Valley Community College.
For sixteen seasons the orchestra presented six to eight concerts per season, performing the standard orchestral repertoire. At its Gala 10th anniversary concert (under the new name) in May 1995, the orchestra completed a cycle of the nine Beethoven symphonies with a sold-out performance of the Ninth Symphony. In the following year, it presented an acclaimed concert of "Music of the Holocaust at Terezin". In 1998, the orchestra began a cultural exchange with Lithuania, presenting Lithuanian guest artists making their U.S. debut. These artists were then accompanied by Maestro Briscoe on two trips back to Lithuania.
The CJSO has always been committed to presenting the works of New Jersey composers. During several seasons the orchestra presented world premieres by composers such as Mario Lombardo and John Sichel. In addition, works by David Rimelis and David Sampson have also been presented.
In 2002, with a need for greater autonomy, the CJSO re-organized as an independent nonprofit organization. The events of September 11, 2001 had taken a severe toll on the orchestra's funding, and the newly-formed Board of Directors found itself in a unique position: leading a long-established arts organization with a brand-new artistic mission. During the following six seasons,the CJSO began to perform in various venues around Somerset County, including the Somerset County Vocational-Technical School, Bridgewater-Raritan High School, and Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School.
During Dr. Briscoe's sabbatical leave in 2004-05, concertmaster Michael Avagliano stepped onto the podium for the first time to lead the orchestra. His work with the ensemble was so outstanding he was asked to become the CJSO's third Music Director upon Briscoe's retirement, beginning with the 2008-09 season. The orchestra returned to the Nash Theatre at RVCC for Dr. Briscoe's final concert in May 2008.
With the continuing leadership of the Board of Directors and Music Director Michael Avagliano, the CJSO has developed a collaboration to present the orchestra "in residence" at Raritan Valley Community College. While retaining its independent nonprofit status, the CJSO will perform at the Nash Theatre and allow the College's students the opportunity to perform with the orchestra. In addition, the CJSO remains committed to presenting New Jersey artists and composers, including some of today's finest young musicians. These exciting developments signal the beginning of a new era for the CJSO, as the orchestra looks to expand its concert season and reach out to new audiences across the central New Jersey region.
The CJSO is a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue code. The orchestra derives the major portion of its funding from generous donations and grants from individuals, corporations, and government arts and culture divisions.
Visit our Support page to learn more information about how you can make a difference. Support the CJSO today!
If you have questions about how you can financially support the orchestra, contact Megan Helvering, our fundraising and grants coordinator.
Andrew Silbert - President & On-the-Go
Scott Hawkinson - Vice-President & audio archivist
R. Douglas Helvering, DMA - Treasurer
Fatima Magboul - secretary
Megan Helvering - development asst.
Michael Avagliano - ex officio
Roger Briscoe - Music Director Emeritus
Our programs are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and administered by the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission
through the State/County Partnership Local Arts Program.
Copyright 2016-17 Central Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
All Rights Reserved.