About Us

Our Mission

MSO, Inc. pursues the following goals in order to support the work of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and to accomplish its mission:

  • To provide musical programs of the highest quality for the community
  • To give local amateur and volunteer professional musicians the opportunity to play and to grow as musicians
  • To support young musicians of the community through collaboration and inclusion in our concerts and activities
  • To enhance and develop the appreciation of fine music in the community

Our History

The MSO was founded in 1946-47. Chester J. Petranek spearheaded the effort to found the orchestra by persuading Montgomery County Junior College (now Montgomery College) and the Department of Adult Education of the Montgomery County Public Schools to take on the project. The goal was to promote cultural development in the county by giving its citizens good music without cost. John Riggleman briefly served as the first music director.

For the MSO, Petranek recruited members, set up rehearsals, bought music, found instruments for those who were without, organized concerts and was generally the “music man.”

For years under Petranek, the MSO played on the streets of Takoma Park during commencement exercises for the Junior College. After the Rockville campus was built, the MSO played in the gymnasium for commencements until the college formed its own student orchestra. Regular fall and spring MSO concerts were performed in school gymnasiums, auditoriums and retirement homes throughout the county. Leisure World in Silver Spring was a frequent venue, including some September outdoor concerts and the 1986 celebration of Leisure World’s 20th anniversary that featured local politicians and fireworks.

For over 40 years, the MSO has also frequently accompanied the winners of the Maryland State Music Teachers Association Piano Concerto Competition, accompanying different students as they perform each movement. John Gerschefski took the baton after Petranek suffered a stroke in 1993. Gerschefski began an association with the NIH Clinical Center, performing annual benefit concerts in the Masur Auditorium.

When in recent years the Adult Education Department at Montgomery College was closed, the MSO incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3) organization and continues to provide high-quality musical programs for the community.

Nevilla E. Ottley was conductor for the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 seasons.

A. Scott Wood was music director and conductor from 2002 to the end of our 2016-2017 season.

Blair Skinner joined the MSO as music director and conductor in 2018. Described by Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun as a “remarkably fluid and expressive” conductor, Blair Skinner currently serves as the conductor of the Hopkins Concert Orchestra in addition to being a freelance violinist and teacher. He has led performances with the National Arts Center, Chicago Chamber, Prince George’s Philharmonic,  North Shore Chamber, Peabody Symphony, The Northwestern University Symphony, The Northwestern University Philharmonia, the Wheaton College Symphony Orchestras. He studied conducting with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar at the Peabody Conservatory, and with Victor Yampolsky at Northwestern University.


You can view the MSO’s governing bylaws by clicking here.