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Symphony Orchestra History

Photographic evidence suggests that the orchestral tradition at Coe goes back to at least 1902. With starched collars and high-buttoned shoes the dozen or so participants of that coeducational ensemble held pose for an unidentified photographer in a picture that remains the earliest evidence of an orchestra on campus. The fact that it included both men and women is significant. Whatever developed from that early ensemble was washed away by the tide of World War I in 1913. It was not until 1924, a year after founding the Cedar Rapids Symphony at Coe, that Dr. Joseph Kitchin reorganized the Coe student orchestra. Dr. Kitchin, a well known faculty violinist and conductor, kept the orchestra thriving until his retirement in 1957. Since then several orchestral ensembles have evolved at the college. In 1957, the orchestra became known as the Coe-Promenade Orchestra, mixing community musicians with students and fulfilling the mission of music on the lighter side. The Promenade Orchestra was led by several conductors: Dallas Tjaden (1957-1962 and 1966-1967), Norman Stafford (1963-1965), Thomas Slattery (1967-1976), and Timothaeus Topolewski (1976-1981). From 1981 to 1984 the group was known as the Coe Chamber Orchestra. The Coe College Symphony Orchestra was later revived in 1995 by Dr. Jerry Owen.