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The mission of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera is to inspire, engage, and enrich the greater Chattanooga community through music and music education.


1930's, First picture of the CSO

1930’s, Melvin Margolin and the newly formed Chattanooga Symphony

The Chattanooga Symphony traces its roots to an enterprising group of young people looking for an opportunity to play classical music together. Led by Melvin Margolin, several recent graduates and students from Chattanooga High School, joined by a few adult musicians in town, gave the first concert of the Chattanooga Symphony on November 5, 1933.

Earlier efforts to launch an orchestra at the turn of the century had never taken root, but the young players won the hearts of community leaders and music lovers with their tenacity and talent. Melvin Margolin and his friend Borden Jones led the group in its first four years. By 1938, the group had progressed enough to warrant professional leadership and Dr. Arthur Plettner from Juilliard was engaged to become the conductor for the next 11 years.

At the same time, a remarkable pair of musicians was escaping from Nazi Germany and bringing their expertise with them to Tennessee. Dr. Werner Wolff and his wife Emmy Land Wolff had been fixtures in German opera houses. They founded the Chattanooga Opera Company along with Dorothy Hackett Ward from the University of Chattanooga, mounting a production of Il Trovatore with local singers in February, 1943.

Because of their connections in the opera world, the Wolffs were able to draw internationally known stars to Chattanooga to join with local singers. These stars included Beverly Sills, John Vickers, Norman Triegle and Phyllis Curtin. Guest artists with the Chattanooga Symphony over the years include Isaac Stern, Artur Rubenstein, Oscar Levant and Robert Merrill.

In 1985, the Chattanooga Symphony and the Chattanooga Opera merged, becoming the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Association (CSOA), the first and only symphonic and opera organization of its kind in the United States. Vakhtang Jordania served as the Conductor and Artistic Director from 1985 to 1991. A native of the former Soviet Union, Jordania escaped to the West in the 1980’s through conducting.

Maestro Jordania guided the CSOA through a period of growth and transition; the establishment of a core orchestra and the comprehensive blending of classic, romantic and contemporary works. Over the years, the CSOA featured famous guest artists including Itzhak Perlman, Gidon Kremer, Jean-Pierre Rampal and Gary Karr.

In 1992, the CSOA and Chattanooga residents welcomed Maestro Robert Bernhardt as Music Director and Conductor. Under his leadership, the CSOA experienced significant increases in concert attendance, community involvement and musical quality and has emerged as a leading regional orchestra. Under his baton, the CSO hosted famous guest artists such as Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Stella Zambalis and Edgar Meyer.

The CSO celebrated its 75th Anniversary in the 2008-2009 season with a Gala celebration attended by current and former orchestra members, city and state officials, and of course, the many Friends of the CSO.

In 2009, Maestro Bernhardt announced his decision to take on a different role at the CSO, the organization’s first Music Director Emeritus, thus beginning a two year search for the CSO’s next Music Director and Conductor. Nine candidates from across the globe conducted the CSO from 2009-2011, allowing the CSO to display its extraordinary musicianship under each new baton.

Maestro Bernhardt’s final season with the CSO included the release of Black Tie and Bluegrass, a CD featuring Fletcher Bright and the Dismembered Tennesseans and the CSO’s String section.

The 2011-2012 season marked the first for CSO’s new Music Director & Conductor, Kayoko Dan. Music Director Kayoko Dan is the youngest conductor in the CSO’s history, as well as the first female to serve in this role. The 2014-15 Season celebrates 82 years of bringing classical and orchestral music to the greater Chattanooga community.

1930's, CSO musicians

1950’s, CSO musicians

Early Musician Photo

Early Musician Photo

1950's, first Tivoli Theatre performance

March 1963, first performance in the Tivoli after the City of Chattanooga acquired it

CSO Brass players on the Chattanooga Choo-Choo

1980s, CSO Brass players on the Chattanooga Choo-Choo

Early image of CSO

1950s, Julius Hegyi and the CSO

2008, CSO's 75th anniversary

2008, CSO’s 75th anniversary


CSO Facts

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera was the first combined professional resident symphony and opera company in the nation, merging in 1985.  Kayoko Dan, Music Director and Conductor, leads the company’s artistic vision and is in her third season with the CSO. Principal Pops Conductor and former Music Director, Bob Bernhardt, is beginning a new role after serving as the CSO’s Music Director and Conductor for 19 seasons.

The CSO has an annual budget of about $2.2 million, managed by a full time administrative staff of seven with part-time staff and volunteer assistance. Our season begins in September and ends in May, and we perform often at the Tivoli Theatre, better known as “The Jewel of the South.”  In addition, we perform at the Sheraton Read House, Volkswagen Conference Center, Memorial Auditorium, Coolidge Park, and other area venues.  The CSO performs for and collaborates with over 200 community partners each season, including schools, hospitals, libraries, and at local celebrations.  To see a map and listing of these partners, download the PDF below.

CSO Community Partners
Spring 2



Executive Committee

Don McDowell; President
Mark A. Smith; Treasurer
Kim Gavin; Secretary


Jeanine Alday
Warren Barnett
Dr. Gordon Bietz
Taylor Brown
Gail Chapman
George S. Clinton
Jo Coke
Mike Cooper
Linda Friberg
Bill Green
Kristen Holritz
Eva J. Johnson
Ian Leavy
Pat Ledford
Don McArtor
Spencer McCallie
Eddie McCrary
Claudia Moore
Linda Mosley
Sheri Peck
Jean Rader
Susan Rich
W. Keith Sanford
Tyler Siira
Pat Starke
Katherine Sutton
Linda Thompson
Harriett Whitaker
Jeffrey Wilson
Katie S. Wilson

Honorary Directors

Ruth S. Holmberg
William L. Montague, Jr. (deceased)

Contact the CSO Board

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CSO Administration


Samantha Teter; Director of Marketing
Samantha Teter; Interim Executive Director/Director of Marketing and Corporate Partnerships
423.267.8583 Extension 2104


Samantha Teter has over 15 years of experience in arts and non-profit marketing, public relations, and sales. She moved to the Chattanooga area in 2012 from Denver, where she was Director of Marketing and Sales for the Colorado Symphony. Prior to that, she was Director of Marketing and PR for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic in Indiana.

Other arts and non-profit experience includes Director of Marketing and Auditorium Events for the Scottish Rite Center in Fort Wayne and Marketing Specialist for Indiana Tech. She is currently a contributing writer on and serves on the programming committee for SoundCorps. Samantha enjoys performing in community theatre as a singer/actor. She is married and has an 11-year old daughter and two adult stepchildren. 

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Kathy Allison; Operations Manager
423.267.8583 Extension 2113


Kathy joined the CSO in January 2009 as production coordinator. Kathy has over 30 years of experience in the Hamilton County School system serving as the Dean of Fine Arts at Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts, Coordinator, and Music Teacher. Ms. Allison has also worked as Wardrobe Mistress/Costume Coordinator for the CSO since 1977.

She holds a Master of Music in Music Education, as well as the Administration and Supervision Endorsement, from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Ms. Allison is a current or former member of International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees-Local#140, Chattanooga Music Teachers Association, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church Handbell Choir, City of Chattanooga Public Arts Committee, and Delta Omicron Music Sorority.

Eric Anderson; Photograph by Brad Cansler
Eric Anderson; Personnel Manager
423.267.8583 Extension 2105


In addition to playing the Principal Bassoon, Eric Anderson also serves as the CSO’s Orchestra Personnel Manager.

Eric has been Principal Bassoonist of the CSO Orchestra and Bassoonist of the CSO Wind Quintet since 1996. He attended the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he received a Bachelor of Music degree and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University for Post Graduate work where he studied with Benjamin Kamins. He has performed with the Florida Orchestra, the Virginia Symphony, the Bergen (Norway) Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Hampshire Music Festival. In addition to playing Principal Bassoon with the CSO, he currently plays Third/Contrabassoon with the Alabama Symphony.

MCP Headshot
Megan Chisom Peyton; Orchestra Librarian
423.267.8583 Extension 2108


In addition to performing as a member of the viola section, Megan Chisom Peyton also serves as the CSO’s music librarian.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Megan began studying the violin at the age of six in a public school Suzuki strings program. Since agreeing to “try on” the viola at the age of twelve, she has performed across the United States as a chamber and orchestral musician. In recent years, she has performed as principal viola of the Spartanburg Philharmonic and as a member of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, and has served on the faculty of Erskine College as instructor of violin and viola. She is also a Suzuki-trained teacher, and maintains an active studio where enjoys working with private students and chamber music groups of all ages.

Megan is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in viola performance from the University of Texas at Austin, and Master’s and Doctoral degrees in viola performance from the University of Georgia, with a doctoral minor in music theory. Find out more about her at

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Tiffany Feltner; Patron Services Manager
423.267.8583 Extension 2101


Tiffany joined the CSO as Patron Services Manager in 2013 after playing substitute French Horn with the orchestra for seven years. She brings more than 5 years of customer service, sales and concert hall staff experience to the CSO. Tiffany is a freelance musician in the Chattanooga area and maintains an active private studio. She also coaches the Chattanooga Youth Symphony Brass Ensemble. She holds a Master of Music Performance from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Lee University.

Tiffany lives in the Chattanooga area. She has three dogs – Tessa, Jessie and Rufus – and her hobbies include instrument repair, traveling and outdoor activities.

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Sarah Marczynski;Community Engagement and Education Manager
423.267.8583 Extension 2100


Sarah joined the CSO in 2010 working with the Marketing and Development staffs and quickly became interested in community engagement and education. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration focusing in Nonprofit Arts Management from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where her capstone and other work under Dr. Christopher Horne examined attendance patterns in high-art cultural institutions and network relationships between local arts agencies and cultural partners. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Vocal Music Education from UTC, where she studied under Dr. Kevin Ford and Ron Ulen.

Sarah has been active in the Chattanooga arts community, serving as the founding chair of the Chattanooga Young Artistic Network (CYAN), graduating from the Holmberg Arts Leadership Institute, and working with the Chattanooga Boys Choir, the Choral Arts Society, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Chattanooga Bach Choir.

Steve Tonkinson; Education and Youth Orchestras Manager
Steve Tonkinson; Youth Orchestras Manager
423.267.8583 Extension 2112


Steve Tonkinson received his Bachelor of Music degree (clarinet) from Midwestern University (Wichita Falls, TX), Master of Music degree from the University of Oklahoma (clarinet), and Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Missouri at Kansas City (conducting). He taught music in schools for more than 20 years in Texas, Missouri, and Tennessee. He has played clarinet with the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra (1969-72; 1975-79), Springfield (Missouri) Symphony Orchestra (1987-1991), and the CSO Orchestra (since 1991). He has been Manager of the CSO Youth Orchestras since 2009.

Amber Sanderson; Administrative Assistant


Amber is a life-long lover of the arts. She holds a Master of Public Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management, and Bachelor of Art degrees in Communication and Art History, all from East Tennessee State University. Her past work has included museums in Johnson City, TN and Abingdon, VA; a historic preservation agency in Jonesborough, TN; and a downtown development organization in Bristol, TN/VA. She has experience in community development, membership development, and municipal government. After four years working in local government, she is excited to return to her nonprofit roots.

Amber is originally from Nashville, and lived in Northeast Tennessee for 13 years. She loves the vibrancy of Chattanooga and is thrilled to be a part of the arts community here!


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Kayoko Dan; Music Director & Conductor


Gary Wilkes; CSOYO Conductor


A native Chattanoogan, Gary Wilkes is an alumnus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. After graduation, he attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and was awarded a Master of Music Diploma in Bassoon Performance. It was at Southern Methodist University where he studied conducting with James Rives-Jones, associate conductor with the Dallas Symphony and the Colorado Symphony.

Over the past thirty-five years, he has taught both bands and orchestras in Texas and Tennessee. Currently, he is the orchestra teacher at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences. Gary is proudly beginning his twenty-first year as the music director of the Chattanooga Symphony Youth Orchestras and the conductor of the Chattanooga Youth Symphony.

Gary has professional affiliations with the National Association for Music Education, Tennessee Music Education Association, East Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association, American String Teacher’s Association, National School Orchestra Association, International Double Reed Society, Tennessee Education Association, Hamilton County Education Association, and the American Federation of Musicians – Local 80. He recently completed a six-year tenure on the Executive Board of Directors with the Tennessee Music Education Association and is also past President of the Tennessee chapter of the American String Teacher’s Association. He also holds membership in the Phi Beta Mu Honorary Band Director’s Fraternity, and was recently honored as one of Tennessee’s outstanding teachers by the Board of the Tennessee Governor’s School of the Arts.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he is Director of Music at First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. He is proud to be a husband to Lisa and Dad to Richard, Michael, Kathryn, Karen and Olivia.



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Volunteering with the CSO

There are a variety of ways to volunteer at the CSO, not just on concert nights. Volunteers are found in our box office every day, at the front door of the Tivoli, working a registration table at UnCorked!, or preparing mailings in our conference room. We are constantly looking for ways to include volunteers in our day-to-day operations, our concerts, and other special and community events. Listed below are regular opportunities to volunteer with the CSO this season.

Box Office

Box Office
Volunteers in the box office provide customer service assistance to the Ticket Sales and Services Manager, including greeting patrons, selling tickets over the phone and in person, and answering phone calls. Good computer and customer service skills are needed and training on our ticketing software will be provided.

Concert Box Office

Concert Box Office
Volunteers working with the concert box office will assist the Ticket Sales and Services Manager in selling tickets using our ticketing software, passing out will call tickets, and answering patron questions. The ability to handle money and ability to stand for up to 2 hours are needed. Training on our ticketing software and frequently asked patron questions will be provided.

Concert Greeter

Concert Greeter
Concert greeters provide a first face on concert nights. They are responsible for greeting and welcoming patrons, checking tickets, setting up program tables, and handing out programs. In addition, concert greeters answer basic questions about seating and accessibility. The ability to stand for approximately an hour is needed as is a personable demeanor.

Education & Engagement

Education and Engagement
The CSO has exciting education and community engagement plans for the coming season. Opportunities to volunteer here include serving as an usher for our Young People’s Concerts or open rehearsals, setting up and greeting for Spotlight Talks, and other special events. The ability to stand and the ability to greet and answer questions are needed.

Marketing & Development

Marketing and Development
Volunteers with marketing and development activities will generally assist the staff in preparing mailers. Typically, this happens in August, November, and February. Marketing and development staff may also ask volunteers to assist in calling subscribers and donors and thanking them for their support.


Volunteers working with merchandise will staff and sell guest artist CDs and other merchandise at Masterworks and Pops concerts when there is a need. In addition and when necessary, they will assist with guest artist autographs after the performance. The ability to stand for long periods of time and the ability to handle money are needed.


The CSO celebrates its 82nd season this year and has accumulated a variety of concert materials, articles, and other items over its history. Volunteers are needed to assist in scanning, recording, and entering notes about various objects.  Time commitment varies. This could be done around your schedule but should be done in the CSO office.

Other opportunities to volunteer may arise during the season. Volunteers will be notified of these through email or phone calls.

To learn more about Volunteering with the CSO, including volunteer policies and procedures, download the CSO Volunteer Manual.
Volunteer Manual

To volunteer with the CSO:

  • Download the Volunteer application below and return to Sarah Marczynski by email, by fax at 423.265.6520, or by mail at 701 Broad Street; Chattanooga, TN 37402
  • Complete the online form below.

Volunteer Application

Volunteer Application

Volunteer Application
  • Emergency Contact

  • CSO Volunteer opportunities

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Download IRS Form 990s and Annual Reports

As part of the CSO’s commitment to organizational transparency and effectiveness, we are pleased to make available the following financial disclosure documents and link to our organizational page at

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