We at the Houston Symphony have historically served Houston through extraordinary artistry, diverse programming, and robust education and community engagement.
We have the opportunity to do more.
We envision a vibrant arts world with an appreciation for culturally diverse backgrounds and experiences. We dedicate ourselves to serving Houston by fostering and sustaining an environment which allows us to better understand, appreciate, and support the differences reflected within our communities, our patrons, our business partners, and ourselves.
In 2014, we set an ambitious goal: In 2025, the Houston Symphony will be America's most relevant and accessible top-ten orchestra. The values we established stress the importance of serving the most diverse city in the nation through inclusivity at every level of the organization.
The Houston Symphony pledges to continue and grow initiatives to improve equity, inclusivity, and diversity with refreshed and renewed commitment at every level of our organization. This includes race, ethnicity, cultural experiences, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, physical and mental ability, education, and religion.
Who We Serve
Houston is the most diverse city in the nation. In a typical year, the Houston Symphony serves more than 410,000 people annually—including more than 225,000 through free and low-cost programs, events, and concerts. During a pandemic year, the Houston Symphony served more than 1.3 million people through a combination of digital and live events.
COMMUNITY & EDUCATION INITIATIVES
School District Partnerships
In a typical year, the Houston Symphony serves more than 46,000 elementary, middle and high school students from 350 schools in more than 20 Texas school districts through a combination of programs, including low-cost or free student concerts in Jones Hall, musician classroom visits, and school residencies.
While the Symphony’s community and education activities were impacted by the coronavirus shutdown, some were able to continue through virtual classrooms, masterclasses, and virtual hospital bedside visits.
- Nearly 50% of Houston Symphony Education & Community Engagement program participants are economically disadvantaged, and they represent the diversity of our community: 43% Hispanic, 24% Caucasian, 23% Black, 7% Asian, 1% American Indian, and 2% from two or more races.
- Student concerts bring in more than 46,000 elementary, middle, and high school students for low-cost or free performances in Jones Hall every school year.
In 2015, the Houston Symphony began hiring Community-Embedded Musicians, the first position of its kind in the country. The initiative places professional orchestral musicians in schools, neighborhoods, and health-care settings.
Community-Embedded Musicians are full-time, salaried musicians who also perform on stage with the Houston Symphony. Serving more than 55,000 people annually, the program has strengthened personal connections with students and other communities throughout the Houston area.
In 2021, the Houston Symphony and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music partnered and created a new pilot program: The Shepherd School–Houston Symphony Brown Foundation Community-Embedded Musician Fellowship, which will offer one Shepherd School graduate student the chance to work with the community.
MUSIC & WELLNESS
Annually, the Houston Symphony provides respite to more than 750 patients and healthcare workers to enrich the lives of patients through music at our healthcare partners—Houston Methodist, The University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, and The Periwinkle Arts In Medicine Program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers—as well as at the BakerRipley Dementia Day Center.
During the pandemic, Houston Symphony musicians continued to provide patients with virtual bedside concerts.
PARTNERSHIPS & SOCIAL SERVICES
The Houston Symphony partners with various non-profit organizations and community programs in order to help the Symphony serve Houstonians. The Symphony partners with early childhood development programs, such as the Prelude Music Foundation, to provide music engagement experiences to students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Houston Symphony has strong partnerships with a number of local and national organizations including:
Arts Connect Houston
City of Houston - Complete Communities initiative
Harris County Juvenile Probation Department
Houston Public Library
Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music
Texas Music Educators Association
Texas Southern University
University of Houston’s Moores School of Music
The Symphony has been a long-standing partner with the Sphinx organization with a deep commitment to supporting its mission of increasing diversity in America’s orchestras. We join 104 other orchestras from throughout the U.S. as a designated orchestra partner of Sphinx’s National Alliance for Audition Support (NAAS), the unprecedented national initiative that offers Black and Latinx musicians a customized combination of mentoring, audition preparation, financial support, and audition previews. The Symphony also provides the second prize winner of the annual Sphinx Competition the opportunity to play a concerto with the orchestra on a summer Miller Outdoor Theater concert.
The Symphony partners with a variety of social service agencies and other non-profit organizations, including women’s and homeless shelters, senior centers, and other organizations, to enhance the quality of life for over 4,000 underserved Houstonians through musician-led ensemble concerts at partner sites and free orchestra concert attendance at Jones Hall, helping to bridge diverse communities through music.
Our partners include:
Brazos Towers at Bayou Manor
Brookdale The Heights
Brookdale West University
Dress for Success
Glazier Senior Education Center
Holly Hall Retirement Community
Houston Food Bank
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston
Jewish Family Services
New Hope Housing
Villa De Matel
Village of River Oaks
The Houston Symphony regularly provides free concert tickets to a multitude of partners each year. This provides no-cost admission for individuals and groups to attend Symphony concerts.
Chavez High School
Cypress Ridge High School
DeBakey High School
Dobie High School
Hastings High School
Jersey Village High School
North Shore High School
Waltrip High School
Washington High School
Westside High School
Alzheimer's Association - SE Texas Chapter
Best Buddies International
Children At Risk
Down Syndrome Association Houston
Fort Bend Women's Center
Hope For Youth
House of Blues - Houston
Houston Coalition for Life
Houston Parks and Recreation
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston
Lulac National Educational Service Center
Montgomery County Youth Services
New Hope Housing
Partnership for the Advancement & Immersion of Refugees (PAIR)
POWER On Heels Fund, Inc.
San Jose Clinic
Second Mile Mission Center
Spring Branch Healthy Families
Star of Hope
Sunshine Thru the Rain
The Schiller Institute
The Women's Home
US Vets Houston
The Houston Symphony provides free and reduced-cost orchestra concerts throughout Greater Houston for over 220,000 people each year. These concerts include Miller Outdoor Theatre concerts, Neighborhood Concerts, Fiesta Sinfonica, and concerts at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
A great example of a community concert is Resilient Sounds: Celebrating the determination and hope of Houston’s refugee communities. This 2019 project was held in partnership between the Houston Symphony, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Rice University, and the University of Houston.
Who We Are
STAFF & HIRING PRACTICES
As of July 2022, the Houston Symphony employs 60 full- and part-time employees. The Houston Symphony is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate against otherwise qualified applicants on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, disability, veteran status, or any other protected class. The Houston Symphony follows all recruiting and hiring laws and guidelines set by federal, state and local government agencies, including but not limited to, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Houston Symphony has 103 members within its Board of Trustees. These members act as the governing body of the Houston Symphony Society and also serve on various sub-committees, such as marketing, finance, popular programming, and special events committees.
Additionally, Leadership Councils bring in guidance from Black and Hispanic communities, helping the Symphony bring meaningful musical experiences and programs to the Houston area.
When hiring third-party contractors and vendors, the Houston Symphony strives to hire minority- or women-owned businesses.
The Houston Symphony is currently made up of 79 full-time orchestra members.
Over recent seasons (2017–18 through 2021–22), 5 of 7 staff artistic leadership positions were occupied by women or people of color.
A 2016 study by the League of American Orchestras showed that while on-stage diversity of U.S. orchestras increased 400% from 1980 to 2014, the number of Black and Hispanic or Latinx musicians remains very low.
The Symphony works with the Sphinx Organization, a national nonprofit dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, and we participate in the National Alliance for Audition Support to financially support Black and Latinx musicians in the audition process, Sphinx Virtuosi tours, and the Sphinx “Soloist Program.”
During the 2020–21 and 2021–22 seasons, we committed to include musical selections composed by women and people of color on all programs, and we will continue that process into future seasons.
The Houston Symphony annually hosts more free and low-cost concerts than any other performing arts organization in Houston, including performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, as well as Neighborhood Concerts throughout Greater Houston. These concerts attract more than 220,000 attendees annually, with several taking place in neighborhoods designated as Complete Communities by Mayor Sylvester Turner. Family Series concerts also provide lower-cost tickets to attendees of all ages.
The Symphony seeks to include guest artists from all musical backgrounds, including from genres that may not be traditionally expected for an orchestral performance such as “The Music of Selena” program with vocalist Isabel Marie Sanchez performing works by the Tejana legend, "Boyz II Men with the Houston Symphony” when the four-time Grammy award-winning R&B trio joined with the orchestra for a one-night performance, or “Common with the Houston Symphony” when the prominent hip hop star Common joined with the orchestra for a one-night performance.
Did you know that donations account for two-thirds of the Houston Symphony’s annual revenue? We can't do it without you!