Reno, Nevada. 1969. Population: 70,000. Casinos. Divorce. The persistent hum of neon. These were the sights and sounds conjured up in the minds of people when asked about Reno- a city hiding in the desert- glamorized only by its proximity to the blue oasis of Lake Tahoe.
The region would become home to one man with a wild dream of creating a symphony orchestra in the Biggest Little City. His name was Gregory Stone. Born in Russia at the turn of the century, the eccentric and strong-headed man possessed the credentials to take up the baton…and he had the passion to face the myriad of obstacles that would stand in his way.
Gregory Stone saw a cultural and artistic void that yearned to be satisfied. He knew the roadblocks- a lack of funding, lack of classically trained musicians, and a lack of audience – yet he forged ahead with the same spirit of pioneers and innovators that have come to define our city.
Through a decade of highs and lows, he persevered. When the financials were on life support, he dug into his life savings to fund the orchestra with over $100,000 and enlisted the help of his wife to sell ads and solicit donations. When critics panned the quality of the orchestra, Gregory was steadfast in his conviction that Reno could produce a high-quality symphony with local talent. He scoured the town for musicians, bringing in players from the casinos and tapping into the wealth of exceptional young talent in the area. A handful of these young played have stayed the course and are familiar, prominent members of the orchestra today.
People with big dreams and the passion to pursue them make the impossible happen. Because of Gregory Stone and his personal sacrifice, the magic of music has shaped the landscape of northern Nevada for 50 years. A magic that has enthralled hundreds of thousands as the symphony’s attendance continues to blossom from the early days of scarcely filled halls. A magic that speaks to the soul of a listener- eliciting a variety of emotions that shake us alive. It is a magic that brings together people from all walks of life, all ages, and forges bonds across generations. A magic that ushered in a cultural renaissance for Reno that has never waned, but continues to grow, expand, challenge, and delight.
Gregory Stone gave us a symphony, yes, but he also gave the city the imperishable gift of music. He gave young musicians a community in which to pursue their dreams. He gave critics and admirers alike an unlikely- and magnetic- story. A story that began with Gregory and continued through the guidance and artistry of subsequent maestros: Ron Daniels, Barry Jekowsky, and Laura Jackson. A story that thrives today with an unwritten future that brims with promise and potential for even greater heights and deeper impacts. A future where the Reno Phil continues through education and growing a new generation of young musicians and music lovers. We look forward to writing future chapters of this story with you while continually celebrating the powerful magic of music.
Just one person can make a monumental difference and change the landscape forever.
Because of Maestro Gregory Stone’s relentless passion we exist today.
Because of you, we exist tomorrow.