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Mission Statement

The Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, through its professional excellence, vibrant performances, community education, and passion for transformation through music, is devoted to fostering artistic life in the Ithaca and Finger Lakes regions of New York State.


Our History

The Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, formally designated as the “Official Orchestra of the City of Ithaca,” has been bringing a wide variety of classical music to audiences of all ages for over three decades.

The Orchestra was founded by Charles E.L. McCary in May 1976 when a group of local professional musicians debuted as the Finger Lakes Orchestra.  Distinguished conductor and Pulitzer Prize winning composer Karel Husa, became Music Director of the orchestra in 1977 and served until 1984. He led the CCO in over 50 performances including ballet, oratorios, commissioned works, premieres, and many of his own works.  During an interim period from 1984-86, the CCO was led by guest conductors while the organization searched for a new musical leader.  In March 1986, the Board of Directors appointed Carl St.Clair Music Director.  Under the leadership of Mr. St.Clair, the CCO expanded its offerings from six to ten concerts per season. In 1987-88 the Chamber Music Series was added, and in December 1988, a new holiday event, Caroling by Candlelight, was introduced.  Mr. St.Clair stepped down as Music Director in 1991 but continued as Artistic Advisor while the search for his successor was undertaken.

During 1992-93, six finalists led full-orchestra concerts, and in May 1993, Heiichiro Ohyama became the CCO's third Music Director.  In his second season with the orchestra, Mr. Ohyama added an eleventh concert to the CCO's musical offerings.

Music Director Kimbo Ishii-Eto was the next Music Director for the CCO and helped lead the milestone celebrations of the CCO’s 25th season, and the 30th anniversary season in 2006-2007.  Ishii-Eto was instrumental in working with several local groups and artists in collaborative performances, including highly distinguished artists such as Steven Stucky, Rachel Lampert, Steven Doane, and the Cayuga Vocal Ensemble.  Ishii-Eto’s final performance as Music Director for the CCO was in April of 2007, where he conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at Bailey Hall with the Cornell University Chorus and Glee Club.

Our 31st season was dedicated to the "Season of the Search", while we auditioned four candidates, selected from a large pool of highly qualified applicants, for the position of the CCO's fifth Music Director.  On April 19th, 2008, the CCO officially announced that Lanfranco Marcelletti, Jr. would be taking the podium for the 08-09 Season as the next CCO Music Director.   Maestro Marcelletti’s tenure brought a distinct diversification in repertoire and programming, and included collaborations with local and international artists alike.

Four finalists were selected to lead the Orchestral Series concerts during the 2015-16 Season.  At the conclusion of the season, Cornelia Laemmli Orth was chosen to be the next Music Director of the CCO, beginning with the 2016-17 season, the CCO's 40th Anniversary of serving Ithaca and the surrounding communities.