In 1933, 21-year-old Eugene Linden hitchhiked from his Portland home to Tacoma with the desire to start an orchestra. The first rehearsal was of historical significance: three musicians responded. Mr. Linden was satisfied, “No musicians would have been a failure, three was a beginning.”
In a few short months Mr. Linden brought together 65 musicians. Rehearsals were held in many Tacoma locations: Ted Brown Music Company and the Winthrop Hotel were the first. Hosted every Sunday, the first regular rehearsal hall was the basement of the State Armory. Once interest in the orchestra project developed, rehearsals were transferred to the Scottish Rite Cathedral, where the company remained until the first concert in March 1934.
During the first two years there was not any pay for musicians. Linden gave his time freely to form the orchestra and commuted each week from Portland. Mrs. Belle Hodges Fletcher, a Tacoma residence since 1884, generously extended Linden an invitation to make her home his headquarters during his time building the orchestra.
The first concert was on March 17, 1934 at Jason Lee Intermediate School with an attendance of 800 music lovers. The second concert followed on June 5, 1934. The organization developed a constitution, by-laws, incorporated and officially adopted the name Tacoma Philharmonic in 1936.
In the 1940s, Tacoma Philharmonic performed for servicemen locally many times.
Nearly a decade later in 1947, Tacoma Philharmonic merged with the Seattle Symphony to create the short-lived Pacific Northwest Symphony Orchestra, with Maestro Linden as the combined orchestra’s Music Director.
In 1951, due to rising orchestra costs, the Tacoma Philharmonic’s Board of Directors made the monumental decision to become a presenting organization. Since then, each year the Tacoma Philharmonic presents the finest orchestras, chamber ensembles and solo artists in classical music.
Photos Courtesy of Tacoma Public Library, Richards Collection.