Arts & Culture

UK Symphony Orchestra Announces its 103rd Season

photo of UKSO playing at Carnegie on 2021-22 season brochure
photo of six women composers on UKSO 2021-22 Season brochure

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 27, 2021) — The University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra (UKSO), under the direction of John Nardolillo, has announced its 103rd season of concerts. The orchestra will return to an in-person public concert season with Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” Sept. 24, at the Singletary Center for the Arts. The 2021-2022 UKSO season will continue with several Kentucky premieres as well as works from 10 living composers — including six women, Hannah Lash, Natalie Diettrich, Angélica Negrón, Kaija Saariaho, Vivian Fung and Anna Thorsvaldsdottir — and a concert in Louisville. 

The opening concert featuring the Elgar's "Enigma Variations" will include the Kentucky premieres of Hannah Lash's "Music for Loss" and Natalie Dietterich's "aeolian dust." The program will also include a performance of Richard Wagner's "Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey from Götterdämmerung." UKSO's opening concert will begin 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24.

The following month UKSO will present Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 and a Halloween-centric performance of UK composer-in-residence Joseph Baber's "Frankenstein" to commemorate the retirement of the composer after a storied career at UK School of Music. The program will also include John Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" and Kentucky premiere of Ahmed Adnan Saygun's "Ayin Raksi." Joining Maestro Nardolillo for conducting duties will be UK doctoral students Sean Radermacher and Merih Erdem Özden. This concert will begin 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29, at the Singletary Center.

To close out the Fall 2021 semester, UKSO will present Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto and Igor Stravinsky's Suite from "The Firebird." This program will also feature a solo performance by doctoral student and violinist Jeehee Kang, a winner of the UKSO Concerto Competition, and the Kentucky premiere of Angélica Negrón's "Me he perdido." This concert will begin 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, at the Singletary Center.

UKSO will open its spring semester with a performance in Louisville. The concert, presented as part of the College Orchestra Directors Association National Conference, will feature performances of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1, “Titan," and Kaija Saariaho' "Ciel d’hiver" or "Winter Sky." The CODA concert will begin 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, at University of Louisville's Comstock Concert Hall.

UK's orchestra will return to campus the following weekend for an extended version of its CODA concert featuring both Mahler and Saarioaho's work with a solo performance by violinist and graduate student Madison Jones, a winner of the UKSO Concerto Competition, playing Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto. This concert will begin 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at the Singletary Center. 

The following month UKSO will present a concert featuring Elgar's Cello Concerto and Claude Debussy's "La Mer" or “The Sea." The Elgar will be performed by UKSO Concerto Competition Winner, cellist and doctoral student Jerram John, as well as performances of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" and Vivian Fung's "Aqua." This concert will begin 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 25, at the Singletary Center. 

The season finale will see UKSO join the UK Choirs on stage for Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 "Choral." The program will also include performances of Anna Thorsvaldsdottir's "Metacosmos" and Arvo Pärt's "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten." UKSO's season finale will begin 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 22, at the Singletary Center.

Founded in 1918, the UKSO is a 100-member all-student orchestra, presenting classical, chamber, opera and education concerts. The group is made up of undergraduate and graduate students from across the United States, Asia, South America, Africa and Europe. The orchestra has regularly performed with world-renowned concert artists including Itzhak Perlman, Lang Lang, Sarah Chang, Gil Shaham, Lynn Harrell, Marvin Hamlisch, Denyce Graves, Christine Brewer, Pink Martini, Ronan Tynan, Mark O’Connor, Wynonna Judd, Keith Lockhart and Arlo Guthrie.

UK’s orchestra has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., tours the state of Kentucky regularly, and has toured China, playing concerts in major concert halls in Shanghai, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Yangzhou and Beijing. The orchestra’s performance at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts was broadcast on China Central Television, a network reaching more than 1.5 billion viewers. In the fall of 2010, the orchestra played for the opening ceremonies of the World Equestrian Games, a performance that featured more than 1,500 performers and 200 horses that was seen live on NBC in the United States by 39 million people, and by an estimated 500 million more television viewers worldwide.

Maestro John Nardolillo has appeared with more than 30 of the country’s leading orchestras, including the Boston Pops, the National Symphony, and principal orchestras of Seattle, San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Milwaukee, Utah, Columbus, Indianapolis, Oregon, Fort Worth, Buffalo, Alabama, Louisville, Missouri, North Carolina, Toledo, Vermont, Columbus, Omaha and Hawaii. He also recently conducted concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia; and Carnegie Hall in New York. Nardolillo made his professional conducting debut in 1994 at the Sully Festival in France and has since made conducting appearances in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Czech Republic and China. He has led major American orchestras in subscription series concerts, summer and pops concerts, education concerts and tours, and for television and radio broadcasts. Nardolillo is the artistic director of the Prague Summer Nights Music Festival, and in 2004, he joined the faculty at the UK School of Music, where he serves as the director of orchestras.

Tickets for UK Symphony Orchestra concerts are $10 for general admission, $4 for students, and free for UK students with a valid ID before the day of the performance (at the Singletary Center ticket office). Tickets are available through the Singletary Center ticket office online at, by phone at 859-257-4929, or in person at the venue. Children 6 and older are welcome.

The Singletary Center is preparing to welcome audiences to events this semester but requests that everyone, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, remain masked at all times. The safety policy applies to students, faculty, staff and community visitors.

The UK Symphony Orchestra is housed in the School of Music at UK College of Fine Arts. The UK School of Music has garnered a national reputation for high-caliber education in opera, choral and instrumental music performance, as well as music education, music therapy, composition, and theory and music history.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.