Theodore Thomas, ca. 1900 (A.W. Elson and Co., Boston photo)

Wishing a very happy birthday to our founder and first music director Theodore Thomas on the occasion of his 185th birthday!

“Theodore Thomas, the German-born conductor and visionary, was a giant in the musical life of nineteenth-century America. Through his carefully planned programs, he hoped to educate the public and encourage the rapidly growing immigrant population to appreciate classical music. His finest achievement, however, was the founding of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the building of its permanent home, Orchestra Hall.

“The more I learned about Thomas, the more I admired this man of tireless energy and enthusiasm who had elevated the orchestral musician from little more than a hired servant to a respected citizen. He was often criticized by those who could not understand his pursuit for excellence or his refusal to compromise. His legacy is a rich one, and as nineteenth-century America’s premiere conductor and builder of orchestras, he deserves to be remembered well and with gratitude.”

—culled from Lady Valerie Solti‘s foreword to Theodore Thomas: America’s Conductor and Builder of Orchestras by Ezra Schabas, 1989.

Happy, happy birthday!