The NBC Symphony Orchestra (NBCSO)

The NBC Symphony Orchestra (NBCSO)

David Sarnoff founded the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1937. At the time, Sarnoff was the head of RCA, an electronics company that owned Radio Corporation of America. The orchestra would perform radio concert broadcasts every week(Khoudje-Coyez, 17). The first broadcast by the group was aired on November 13, 1937, and this continued until the group’s disbandment in 1954. NBCSO is said to be one of a kind due to its high standards. Besides giving 52-weeks contracts, its salaries were also the highestin the industry (Meyer, 233). Artur Toscanini conducted the orchestra after being offered by the RCA chairman Sarnoff.

NBC lured top orchestral artists by its lucrative offers. Twenty-one of the musicians that the group successfully recruited were former section leaders of other orchestras. Thanks to Artur Rodzinski, the musicians were moulded into the precision ensemble. Rodzinski also took the lead in group’s first concerts. Following the retirement of Artur Toscanini in 1954, NBC had planned to bring the orchestra to an end (Meyer, 99). However, the group could not just die. The former members of NBCSO would later join hands to form a new ensemble by the name “Symphony of the Air” which remained functional until 1963 (Meyer, 233).


The orchestra was ranked as one of the world’s greatest immediately it went on air. NBCSO is famous for its lean and precise sound. For many years, leading and famous music legendries conducted the orchestra with Leopold Stokowski as a co-conductor between 1941 and 1944 (Meyer, 126). Thanks to NBCSO, many recordings were produced for RCA, and at times they would record as the “RCA Victor Symphony.” NBCSO boasts of quite a good number of distinguished former members such as William Primrose (violist) and Josef Gingold (violinist)(Khoudje-Coyez, 21).


During the first seasons, the orchestra funded its broadcasts. However, later on, the group would enjoy commercial sponsoring from various companies. General Motors (GM) acted as the primary sponsor for NBCSO. The orchestra broadcasts aired as General Motor’s symphony of the Air while under the corporation’s sponsorship. Other companies that sponsored the group include the Reynolds Metals Company, House of Squibb and the Socony Vacuum Oil Company (Meyer, 111).


Although the orchestral scene has seen a great decline of popularity in the past half century, the fact remains that Orchestra is not dead yet because we still hear from the likes of Los Angele Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. If the NBCSO was there today, we would see a major change in the NYC orchestral scene. First, and foremost, it is good to note the flexibility of NBCSO in terms of switching from one sponsor to another as well as a never-give-up attitude. I am sure that NBCSO would have found a new way to tune orchestra in a manner that tickles the ears of millennials in a bid to lure them from rock and hip hop either through collaborations or creativity. All in all, NBCSO will remain significant in the books of history.