The Tupelo Symphony was founded in 1971 by attorney Wade Lagrone who believed it was possible for a city as small as Tupelo to support an all-professional symphony orchestra. The Tupelo Symphony has drawn musicians from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and beyond and become an important regional orchestra in Mississippi. As a reflection of its increasing regional presence, in May 2013, the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra was renamed the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra.
Music Directors for the Symphony have included such distinguished conductors as Arthur Kreutz and Kurt Klipstatter. Eric Knight was Music Director for fifteen years when he retired and became Music Director Emeritus. Louis Lane succeeded him and continued to lead the TSO on its journey to new heights. In 2006, Mr. Lane became Music Director Laureate and handed the baton to current Music Director Steven Byess who had become well-known to audiences as Principle Guest Conductor for several years.
In 1997, the Symphony entered an alliance with the Cliburn Foundation making it possible for TSO to present winners of this prestigious piano competition. In April of 2009, TSO presented for the first time a winner of the Cleveland International Piano competition. These two competitions draw the very best of the young artists of the world. These world-class artists have performed regularly with the Symphony giving the citizens and young people of North Mississippi the opportunity to hear thrilling and unbelievable music close to home. In 2005, another impossible dream came true when the Tupelo Symphony purchased a Steinway Concert Grand piano, giving these outstanding pianists an instrument worthy of their talents.
Several years ago, the Symphony embarked on an ambitious Outreach Program to communities in North Mississippi. Under the leadership of Steven Byess, the Symphony has performed in such cities as Amory, Fulton, New Albany, and Oxford. This season, the NMSO adds Cleveland to the list, marking an expansion of the Outreach Program to the Mississippi Delta.
The North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra remains dedicated to providing quality classical music for the citizens of North Mississippi, as well as strengthening community outreach and increasing music education for all levels. Performance excellence is a must along with presenting programming with diversity and wide appeal.