Aiken Symphony Orchestra ASO Paremski Lunch

For the Aiken Symphony Orchestra’s first performance, several founding board members join the featured soloist before the concert. Pictured, from left to right, are David Tavernier; Em Ligon; Doris Begley; David Allen; Natasha Paremski, ASO’s first piano soloist; Dr. Donald Portnoy, founder and music director; and Thomas Hofstetter. The ASO is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

On Sept. 17, 2015, the Aiken Symphony Orchestra, for the first time, brought to life an idea and the vision of Dr. Donald Portnoy, its founder and music director, at its inaugural concert.

As Portnoy promised at that time, “The Aiken Symphony Orchestra will stir your musical senses by producing great live performances that combine celebrated guest artists with compelling music created by the most dynamic composers,” according to a news release from the symphony.

By any measure, Dr. Portnoy has kept his promise, and continues to do so, judging by the phenomenal growth and community acceptance the orchestra has experienced, according to the release.

Just as former Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh commemorated the orchestra’s inaugural performance in 2015, the current Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon will recognize the orchestra’s fifth-year anniversary by proclaiming the week “Aiken Symphony Orchestra Week” in the city of Aiken.

Osbon will read his proclamation from the stage at the orchestra’s opening performance of the season on Sept. 14. Joining the mayor will be the symphony’s board president, Thomas Herlong, who also will provide comments.

Beginning at 7:30 p.m., the orchestra will perform the “Concerto for Piano & Orchestra,” by Edvard Grieg, Op. 16, A Minor, and the "Fifth Symphony, Op. 64, E Minor,” by Peter I. Tchaikovsky. The performance will take place in the Etherredge Center at USC Aiken at 471 University Parkway.

At 6:30 p.m., Portnoy will present his “Illumination Talk” on the music to be performed.

Tickets are not sold at the Etherredge Center before the date of each performance. Tickets are $40, $45 and $55, and single tickets can be purchased by visiting or by contacting the ASO office at 803-220-7251. Tickets also will be available the evening of the performance at the Etherredge Center.

Dr. Donald Portnoy Aiken Symphony Orchestra Portnoy 1

Dr. Donald Portnoy, the founder and music director, conducts the Aiken Symphony Orchestra, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

In its first season, the nascent symphony orchestra board partnered with the Aiken Symphony Guild, who presented the orchestra’s first season, consisting of three performances.

Since 1986, the Guild had been bringing quality music to Aiken. Today, the Guild serves as a support organization for the ASO. Today the orchestra presents 10 performances seasonally.

Part of the orchestra’s success is attributable to the international relationships that Portnoy has garnered over his long career, according to the release. And, because of those relationships, a number of renowned, internationally recognized soloists have been featured with the orchestra, who otherwise may not have found their way to Aiken.

Despite that reality, Portnoy stated, "It was beyond my imagination that such success came so quickly, and it is very gratifying.”

Additionally, his selections of “compelling music created by dynamic composers,” completed the formula for the orchestra’s acceptance by the community, according to the release. As Portnoy has said, “I pick the pieces that I enjoy listening to, and while I’m conducting, I’m also enjoying the music.”

Many of the orchestra’s musicians are locally based in Aiken, and throughout the CSRA, which reflects Aiken’s unusually rich pool of talent for a town its size.

As Mayor Osbon observed, “Aiken is unlike any other town her size. The availability of and opportunity we have to enjoy the arts in Aiken is truly special. The Aiken Symphony is truly a jewel in our crown. To have access to the level of musicians and the quality of performances we enjoy in our 'best small town' sets us apart from the rest.”

Based on the orchestra’s continuing attendance growth, many would agree with the mayor’s assessment, according to the release.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.