HSO’s 80th Anniversary Gala was indeed a SENSATION! 

SENSATION! was the official name of HSO’s 2024 Gala, but SENSATION expressed the reaction of everyone in the room that night.  

The Gala, a celebration of HSO’s 80th anniversary season, also honored Joyce C. Willis, a passionate supporter of the arts and former HSO Board member. When Joyce passed away from Covid-19 in the early days of the pandemic, the Roberts Foundation created a Black Artist in Residence program in her name, honoring a special woman who was revered by all who knew her, and who also served on the Roberts Foundation Board. The ground-breaking three-year grant from Roberts, awarded to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (as well as Hartford Stage and the Amistad Center for Arts and Culture), brought composer Quinn Mason to the HSO as the first recipient in the 2022/23 season. Grammy award-winning violinist Melissa White was the Joyce C. Willis Artist in Residence during the 2023/24 season, and in the fall of 2024, we welcome Clayton Stephenson as the third artist to receive the honor. The award in Joyce’s name was presented to Joyce’s niece, Danielle Maxwell. 

The ‘sensation’ theme of the Gala included music and experiences paired with each of the five senses. Sight included an explosion of virtual fireworks to accompany Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, and participants donned HSO-branded blindfolds to enhance the experience of hearing the final of Stravinsky’s Firebird. For smell, audience members received aromatic sachets (with an aphrodisiac quality that matched the orchestra’s performance of Strangers In The Night.) For taste, gala guests munched on candy treats while the symphony performed Be Our Guest (from Beauty and the Beast) and for touch, everyone was brought to their feet with the orchestra’s rendition of MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This, an arrangement created by HSO’s Director of Artistic Operations, Nathan Scalzone. 

Each year, HSO’s Gala draws a diverse audience who delight in sharing the excitement of the evening with the importance of raising funds to support HSO’s educational and community activities, which ensure that music is accessible to all.  

SAVE THE DATE for HSO’s Gala 2025 – May 2025 (TBD) at the Parkville Market!