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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

2011-2012; Kayoko Dan's first season as CSO music director

2011; Kayoko Dan’s first season as CSO Music Director.


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

Spencer McCallie; President
Mark A. Smith; Treasurer
Kim Gavin; Secretary
Susan Elliott Rich; Past President


Jeanine Alday
Warren Barnett
Dr. Gordon Bietz
Gail Chapman
Michelle Chastain
George S. Clinton
Jo Coke
Mike Cooper
Nick Coussoule
Linda Friberg
Bill Green
Mai Bell Hurley
Gordon James
Eva J. Johnson
Ian Leavy
Pat Ledford
Eddie McCrary
Don McDowell
Claudia Moore
Jean Rader
Colleen Russell
W. Keith Sanford
Tyler Siira
Teresa Spilko
Pat Starke
Linda Thompson
Lindsey Ann Waldrep
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

Molly Sasse, Executive Director
Molly Sasse; Executive Director
423.267.8583 Extension 2103


MOLLY K. SASSE is the Executive Director of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera. She oversees the production of as many as 15 concerts and opera productions every year. Active in the arts in Chattanooga for over 22 years, she served as executive director of Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga from 1987 to 2002. Allied Arts raised over $20 million for the arts in Chattanooga during her tenure.

Molly’s work in the united arts fund movement led to two national awards. She received the Michael Newton Award from Americans for the Arts in 1998, as well as the Arts Administrator of the Year Award, presented by Arts Management News Service and the Kennedy Center in 2000. She was a founding board member of Americans for the Arts, after serving on the steering committee to merge the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies and the American Council for the Arts.

Molly took a five-year break from the arts to serve as Vice President for Development at Siskin Hospital, Tennessee’s only not-for-profit rehabilitation hospital, where she was responsible for all phases of a comprehensive development program.

In October, 2007, Molly became the Acting Executive Director of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, after serving on its board of directors for 2 years. Following a national search, she was named Executive Director in April, 2008.

Molly holds a degree in music from Centre College and a Master’s degree in Arts Administration from Indiana University. In her spare time she sings with Choral Arts of Chattanooga, an auditioned group of 32 singers. She is married to Jim Sasse and has two children.

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


Samantha Teter has over 14 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. Samantha enjoys performing in community theatre as a singer/actor. She is married and has a 10-year old daughter and two adult stepchildren. 

Kathy Allison; Operations Manager
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.

Tiffany Feltner; Patron Sales and Service Manager
Tiffany Feltner; Ticket Sales and Services Manager
423.267.8583 Extension 2101


Tiffany joined the CSO as Ticket Sales and 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.

Sarah Marczynski; Community and Patron Engagement Manager
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.

Follow Sarah on Twitter-@SGMarz

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.

Hannah Christian
Hannah Christian; Administrative Coordinator
423.267.8583 Extension 2106


Hannah started with the CSO as an intern in January, 2014 and is excited to now be on staff as the Administrative Coordinator. She is studying to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Lee University. While at Lee, Hannah has been active member of the Wind Ensemble under the direction of David R. Holsinger, and has studied clarinet with David Shaffer and Peter Cain. For the past two years, she has worked as the administrative assistant to the Director of the Lee University Music Camp and the Director of Instrumental Projects. She is currently serving as President of the Lambda Eta chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota – an international women’s music fraternity. In the future, Hannah plans to attend graduate school to receive a master’s in Arts Administration.

Janet Hale; Librarian
Janet Hale; Librarian
423.267.8583 Extension 2108


Janet Hale recently retired as the Principal Flute after 40 years of making music with the CSO. She had played with the symphony as a flutist since 1972, when she moved here from Knoxville after graduating from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Music degree. She continued her education and received a Bachelor of Science in Music Education and a Masters Degree in Flute Performance. Her teachers were David vanVactor, Judith Bentley and Warren Little. Janet became band director at Cleveland Junior High School, while playing piccolo and second flute in the orchestra.

As CSO librarian, she is responsible for researching, purchasing or renting music for performances; organizing, distributing, collecting and returning music. In addition, she catalogs and maintains records on all music currently owned by the CSO.

Janet is the flute instructor at Lee University in Cleveland and Covenant College. She also has a private studio of select students and loves the one-on-one experience of working with young flutists. After teaching at UTC and Cadek Conservatory for over 20 years, she has a lot of teaching experience to her credit. Her enthusiasm as a teacher shows in the quality of her students.

Janet is one of the founders of the Chattanooga Area Flute Society, has served on the board of the Local 80 Musicians Union Board, has been head of the CSO Players Committees and works on various committees of the CSO. Janet and her son Adam, a classical guitartist, perform in a duo called “The Mother Sun.”

Kayoko Dan; Music Director & Conductor
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.


The CSO announces openings for its Call Center.

Job Title:            Call Center Sales Associate
Department:      Marketing
Reports To:       Patron Services Manager
Salary:               $8.00 per hour plus commission
Hours:                Monday through Thursday, 4-8pm – temporary, seasonal (late April through late Sept)

Basic Function:  The basic function of the Call Center Sales Associate is to sell CSO subscriptions via outbound calls to former and current CSO ticket buyers. A Call Center Sales Associate must be an energetic and motivated salesperson, providing great customer service to CSO patrons.

Primary Duties and Responsibilities

  • Make outbound calls in our call center to pre-determined leads, primarily to solicit season subscriptions and donations as well as cross-selling and up-selling other products.
  • Daily manage a list of phone leads by achieving the standard number of calls made per hour.
  • Answer patron questions and inquiries in a patient and helpful manner.
  • Meet weekly sales quotas as determined by the Director of Marketing and the Patron Services Manager.
  • Maintain accurate and precise sales and lead records.
  • Ensure all Do-Not-Call and Do-Not-Mail requests are appropriately noted on lead sheets and given to Patron Services Manager.

The duties listed above are not all inclusive.  The person in this position is expected to perform other work-related duties as assigned even though they may not be considered primary duties.

Work Requirements and Qualifications

  • GED or HS diploma required.
  • One to three years of experience in a customer service, box office, or sales environment. Previous ticketing experience preferred, but not required.
  • Requires strong phone skills, customer service and salesmanship. An ability to problem-solve and think quickly on one’s feet and deal with a variety of different personalities and situations while conducting duties in a positive, professional manner in the best interest of the CSO.
  • Ability to use a standard office phone.
  • Basic computer skills.
  • Ability to work flexible hours, primarily Monday through Thursday, 4pm-8pm.
  • Knowledge of classical music is helpful, but not required.

The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera reserves the right to revise this job description at any time.  This job description is not a contract for employment. All employees are expected to adhere to all terms and conditions of the Association’s Personnel Policies and Employment Manuals and other Association policies and procedures which may be promulgated and published from time to time.


Volunteering with the CSO

The mission of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera is to inspire, engage, and enrich the greater Chattanooga community through music and music education. Volunteers, committed to the success and goals of the CSO, are instrumental in helping to achieve this mission. Volunteers provide invaluable support, time, experience, ideas, and enthusiasm during our regular concert season and during our off season. The CSO recognizes that volunteering should benefit the individual as well as the organization and aims to provide a friendly, inclusive, and musically filled environment.

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 our Film Music Festival, 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 (February 6, 7, and 10); set-up and staff a small information table at community performances of the ensembles (usually during the day); assist with guest artist engagement opportunities and masterclasses; provide event support for the Chattanooga International Film Music Festival (February 28-March 2), the Conductor’s Workshop (April 5-8), and the Play Along with the CSO (May 11). 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 Hannah Christian 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

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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