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Historical Info

How the NSO was Formed

As recalled by Michel Sasson, the founding conductor, in a conversation in 2005. Written by Arlene Hecht, board member.


Michel and Doris (Dodi) Sasson and Mrs. Nan Bennett gathered at the Brookline residence of Michel’s dear friends Milan and Lydia Dabcovitch. Nan Bennett asked why there was no symphony orchestra in Newton. Michel, violinist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra for many years, jokingly replied, “You start it and I’ll conduct it.” It all began with a consultation with the Mayor of Newton, Monty Basbas, who felt the orchestra would be named the Newton Civic Orchestra. Gertrude and Henry Lasker phoned two hundred people and the audience was built for the first concert in 1965. (Henry Lasker reviewed the first concert for the press.) By 1967, the name was changed and The Newton Symphony Orchestra was born. Official documents were filed and certification issued. Michel Sasson emphasized that, “Gertrude and Henry did absolutely everything and they were the best friends the Newton Symphony ever had. Nan Bennett and Dodi Sasson were the spark plugs of the whole thing.”


Max Hobart, BSO violinist, was the first Concertmaster and “he made a huge contribution.” Marylou Speaker Churchill became the second Concertmaster and remained in that position for two years. Ronald Knudsen, a BSO violinist who also played in the NSO, became the third Concertmaster. In 1983, Mr. Knudsen became the second Music Director of the Newton Symphony Orchestra, where he remained until 1994. Jeffrey Rink was the third Music Director from 1995 to 2007. Kristina Nilsson became Concertmaster of the Newton Symphony Orchestra in 1995. James M. Orent became the fourth Music Director in 2008.