City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Meridian Symphony Orchestra

Prepared to be Moved!

The Meridian Symphony Orchestra will move you! Now in its thirty-third season (2023-2024), this 70-member volunteer musical ensemble dedicates itself to enriching the community’s cultural life by providing quality, family-friendly entertainment in an educationally focused environment.

Begun in the 1990s, when the Meridian School District (now West Ada School District) did not have a student strings program, this community undertaking supported the development of string programs. A group of volunteers and music educators originally formed the string program, including providing lessons to help students get started. Today, the West Ada School District has its own string programs.

The seasonally performing Meridian Symphony Orchestra (MSO) grew out of the March 1990 volunteer work. Since then, the MSO has evolved into an adult community ensemble comprised of 70 to 75 musicians who volunteer to play. Musician skills range from people who are accomplished on their chosen instruments to those who hold master’s degrees in music performance and there are even some retired PhD professors. The musicians come from all walks of life: homemakers, teachers, educators, engineers, attorneys, accountants, physical therapists, dentists, music teachers, full-time parents, and more. All are fulfilling their passions for music. The group’s attitude is one of seriousness and high musical standards that are no different from a full-time musical organization.

Together, they perform at a very high level under the artistic direction of Conductor James Ogle. “They play with passion and emotion, energy and love,” says Ogle. Rehearsals are held Monday evenings, two-hours at a time with an average of six or seven per concert.  Rehearsals are hardworking and fun. The musicians’ energy translates into audiences that feel these ethics and emotions. The annual Holiday Concert is the only two-performance opportunity to experience MSO. About 1500 community members attended the 2023 Holiday Concerts. People from the audience consistently share that they have had fun – that they have been moved.

Music is selected around a theme for each season’s concerts by Artistic Director Jim Ogle. He then works with the musicians on the final selections. On some occasions the musicians share requests and a program is built from these recommendations.

The Meridian Symphony Orchestra Board is also all-volunteer and comprised of symphony members and two from the community at large. The organization is self-governed and has wonderful community support. “For the Love of It” is the motto of the Meridian Symphony Orchestra. "The musicians love making music – together and for the audience,” says Principal Flute and Board Secretary Jennifer Rhees.

In 2007, the MSO held its first Young Artist competition. The competition is held each January. Students apply to perform in this competition. They bring their own piano accompanist and play one piece for a panel of judges. There is a junior (8th grade and younger) division and a senior (9-12th grades) division, with one winner from each division. A recent winner was 10 years of age and a piano player. The winners perform with MSO, thereby inspiring other young musicians.

MSO member auditions are held annually.  Openings are communicated via the website and word-of-mouth. Auditions are held in front of a committee of peers, with each performer behind a screen so that each person is judged purely on their playing and their ability to contribute to the orchestra. MSO never knows what openings might occur year to year.

Artistic Director and Conductor James Ogle earned a Master's in Clarinet Performance from the University of Michigan. After he graduated, he realized that conducting was his real passion and he sold his clarinets. In 1974, he entered the Martha Bard Rockefeller Foundation’s competition for an American Conductor to conduct an orchestra. He won the opportunity for a two-year fellowship to conduct the North Carolina Symphony, which turned into a 19-year career with them. Then, in 1987 and the following five years, Ogle commuted between North Carolina and the Boise Philharmonic to conduct both groups.  For 39 years, Jim has conducted the North Carolina Symphony’s The Messiah. “I really grew up conducting the North Carolina Symphony. It has been an incredible ongoing relationship.”

Ogle lead the Boise Philharmonic for 20 years. Then Dr. Bob Kustra asked him to join Boise State University’s advancement team to raise funds for 14 years, including raising monies for the recently opened Center for the Visual Arts building. "Working with the orchestra enriches my life. They share my passion. We work together to play at a very high artistic level and to make the music come alive!” shares Ogle.

Ogle has stayed in the Treasure Valley community because “The artistic community has grown in fantastic ways. This has been a great place to raise our family. And the community support for the Meridian Symphony Orchestra continues to grow.”

More information:

Final Regular Season Concert:  MAY 4, 2024 at 7:30 PM

Music from around the globe is featured in: “Here, There, Everywhere.” Music includes Resphigi’s tone poem, “The Pines of Rome”; Strauss’s “Emperor Waltz,” composed as a symbolic toast of friendship from Austria-Hungary to the German Empire; and Gould’s "Latin American Symphonette," based on dance rhythms of rhumba, tango, guaracha, and conga.

Location:  Check website.

Outdoor Community Concert: JUNE 8, 2024 at 7:00  PM

This family-friendly free concert during the City of Meridian's annual Gene Kleiner Day, features some of the orchestra's "greatest hits". Bring a picnic, a blanket, or a chair and enjoy!

Location:  Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park bandshell, 1900 N. Records Avenue, Meridian ID

To learn more, or to buy tickets: 

  • March 2 concert at Centennial Performing Arts Center including include Bizet’s Carmen, Haydn’s Clock Symphony, Brahms Academic Festival Overture, as well as wel