In 1894 Morris Steinert, an immigrant from Germany, was persuaded by a group of New Haven amateur musicians to form a symphony orchestra.
Steinert was a music merchant and an instrumentalist, who played piano, organ, flute, cello, and violin. Many of the men who approached Steinert to form an orchestra were also German-Americans seeking to continue the traditions of their native country in their new land, where classical music was less appreciated. Steinert consented and the group started rehearsals upstairs above his piano store.
The first performance of the fledgling orchestra took place in January 1895 at a now-defunct theater on Chapel Street near the present Union League Café. The program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schubert, as well as two solos performed by Isidore Troostwyk, a Dutch-born violinist who had recently arrived as a Professor of Music at Yale. Troostwyk served as concertmaster of the new orchestra. The conductor was Horatio William Parker, also newly arrived at Yale and already a composer of some reputation. It was through Parker’s leadership and commitment over more than two decades that the Symphony was gradually transformed from a local band into an accomplished symphony orchestra.