The DSSO - 91 Years of Symphony

Steve Mattson

The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra

Sharing the Power of Music and Musicians’ Artistry for Over Ninety Years

According to Hans Christian Andersen, “Where words fail, music speaks.” The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra (DSSO)  has been “speaking” to area audiences for over ninety years.

The Duluth Civic Orchestra was first organized in 1931 and practiced in the carriage house of Alphin Flaaten, a professional music teacher. Their early concerts were held in the Duluth Armory, but in 1966 the Civic Orchestra moved to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center Auditorium.

By 1975, the name of the musical organization was changed to the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. They are renowned for their professional level of performance of symphonic music, both classic and new works, and the guest artists they host from around the world.

The DSSO’s symphony orchestra blends a magnificent collection of up to 100 musicians who play instruments from four basic families: strings, woodwind, brass and percussion. Each season they feature 6-7 masterwork concerts and 2-3 pops concerts.

They also perform “casual” afternoon concerts in various locales throughout the area where they encourage families to bring even young children to enjoy the music.

German conductor, Dirk Meyer, joined the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra as the Music Director in 2013. Meyer is also Music Director of the Augusta Symphony in Georgia and locally, the Lyric Opera of the North.

Dirk Meyer, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra Music Director

He has also been a guest conductor for orchestras throughout the United States and many orchestras in Europe and abroad. His engaging and entertaining conducting style has made him an audience favorite.

“Standing on the podium and working with our great musicians is the most rewarding for me. I am also really proud of the level of cultural offerings in theater, ballet, and opera, as well as from our colleges in our community,” said Meyer.

He added, “We enjoy our community outreach with ensembles in events like our ‘Beerthoven’ appearances in bars and breweries, playing Huskies’ games and for the 4th of July at Bayfront. We love getting music out to more people in different venues.”

Erin Aldridge is the DSSO’s Concertmaster. She also serves as Professor of Violin and Director of Orchestras at UWS.

DSSO’s Concertmaster Erin Aldridge

“The Symphony is not an elitist thing. We want our music to be open and accessible to everyone. I am very passionate about what we do at the DSSO, and I enjoy sharing that passion with our audiences,” Aldridge said.

Like Aldridge many of the DSSO musicians have educational connections in one of the area college or high schools. She said, “I love making music and I love teaching. I think I have the best of both worlds.”

Brandon VanWaeyenberghe was named the DSSO’s Executive Director in September of 2019. Before coming to Duluth, he served as the director of finance for the Charlotte Symphony.

Director Dirk Meyer and Executive Director Brandon VanWaeyenberghe

“I take great joy in my job with the DSSO. This is an exciting place to work, with wonderful musicians and a great conductor. We will always be looking for ways to build our audience and to have active conversations about how we fit in as an inspirational form of entertainment in the community,” VanWaeyenberghe said.

Melanie Sever, the administrator for the Duluth Superior Symphony Youth Orchestras (DSSYO), is also a freelance musician, plays with the DSSO, and is a flute instructor at UWS and CSS.

The DSSYO is one of the oldest youth orchestra programs in the country. For more than 80 years, thousands of young musicians throughout the Northland have found inspiration in this program.

The DSSYO gives young musicians the chance to sharpen their music skills through a variety of experiences with DSSO conductors and musicians in rehearsals, sectionals and side-by-side performances with the DSSO.

“I recall my positive experience playing with the DSSYO myself when I was in high school,” says Sever. “It is what propelled me to go into music. This is such a rewarding program for the students and for the music professionals who work with them.”

Competitive auditions are held annually to find new DSSYO members. Membership is open to students aged 10 through high school in their Youth Symphony, Concert Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble and Sinfonia.

“The Youth Orchestra is one of the most important things we do. I especially enjoy working with these young talented musicians,” said Meyer.

The DSSO Symphony Chorus has a long history of performances, going back to its founding in 1959. This chorus of dedicated volunteers appears regularly with the DSSO in presentations of choral-orchestral masterworks, operas and pops concerts.

Christabel Grant is a past member of the DSSO Chorus and is a current member of the Board of Directors. Her adult children were part of the DSSYO growing up.

“The DSSO has been an important part of our family for many years. It is a legacy of the love of music that we have been proud to pass down to our children, Grant said.

“Music restores my soul, and the DSSO has been an important part of that,” she said.

When asked why people who may have never been to the Symphony should attend, VanWaeyenberghe said, “It is wonderful to support local artists and support the local economy. The DSSO concerts are not stuffy or formal. You will see people dressed in jeans and t-shirts and people in tuxedos and fancy dresses, all coming together to enjoy music together.”

The communal experience of going to a DSSO concert is summed up in a quote from their website. “Music has the power to transport us in time, space and emotion. Poignant pieces of music can bring us to tears or make us dance with joy. It makes us remember moments we might have forgotten. Music shapes our experiences and brings us together. It moves our hearts and shakes out the cobwebs. Join us at a DSSO concert this season, and share in the joy.”

For more information about the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, Youth Orchestra, Concert Series, and tickets, visit











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