About Our Orchestra

About Our Orchestra

The Civic Orchestra of Tucson (COT) was founded in the spring of 1975 by George Schwartz so that he and his friends could play classical music together. Drawing largely from his private library, the group presented standard small orchestra literature from Baroque to light opera.

In 1980, Dr. Herschel Kreloff became the orchestra’s artistic and musical director, and it has grown to full symphonic instrumentation. Each year COT features at least one professional guest artist in addition to soloists from the orchestra. In 2005, and again in 2009 COT participated in Ford Made in America—a consortium of 65 orchestras coordinated by the League of American Orchestras and Meet the Composer. Our effort culminated in the Arizona premiere of Joan Tower’s “Made in America,” and Joseph Schwantner’s “Chasing Light.” Tower’s composition went on to win a classical Grammy, and the entire Ford Made in America program was given the League’s Golden Baton award for “vision and leadership which…(brought) vibrant energy of new orchestral music to communities in all 50 states.”

Charles Bontrager conducted the orchestra from 2018 until he retired in 2022. Dr. Keun Oh became the fourth Music Director in 2022.

Now starting our 47th year, the Civic Orchestra of Tucson enriches the cultural life of the greater Tucson area by presenting free concerts at various locations. We also offer music education opportunities for children through our Musical Instrument Petting Zoos and Young Artists’ Competition.

We are proud members of these organizations: