The Seattle Symphony was born on December 29, 1903, when violinist/conductor Harry West assembled 24 musicians to perform in Christiansen Hall. The symphony is one of the oldest and largest cultural institutions in the Pacific Northwest. From September through July, the Seattle Symphony is heard live by more than 325,000 people annually, in a schedule that includes 18 weeks of classical subscription concerts and a broad spectrum of other series. The orchestra also performs in community concerts throughout the Puget Sound region and the state of Washington. After nearly a century of searching for a permanent concert venue, the Seattle Symphony opened Benaroya Hall in September 1998. The hall was created specifically for symphonic concert music, and its acoustics have received virtually unanimous praise from local, national, and international media. Seattle's progressive nature and its symphony came to the fore as early as 1921. Madame Davenport-Engberg, one of the world's first women to conduct a symphony orchestra, reorganized and expanded the ensemble to 90 mostly amateur players. In 1954, Milton Katims, protege of Arturo Toscanini and a memorable violist, began his 22-year tenure as music director. Katims expanded the symphony's education program through public school concerts. He also developed the "Little Symphony" to present chamber music. Under his guidance, the symphony released a number of commercial LPs*, thereby gaining further national recognition. Seattle Symphony musicians began their long association with the Seattle Opera in 1973, serving as the orchestra for opera productions. The symphony experienced significant artistic growth and renown under Music Director Rainer Miedél, who served from 1976, until his death, in 1983. In 1980, the Seattle Symphony and Miedel embarked on their first European tour, always to standing ovations and critical acclaim. Music Director Gerard Schwarz came to the Seattle Symphony as music advisor, in 1983. The following year he became Principal Conductor, and then Music Director, in 1985. The ensemble welcomed the appointment of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Stephen Albert for a three-year engagement as Seattle Symphony's composer in residence. Since then, several noted symphonists have been composers in residence. In 1994 and 1996, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers honored the symphony with the ASCAP Award for Programming of Contemporary Music. The 1998-1999 inaugural season at Benaroya Hall featured the following world premieres: David Diamond's A Gala Celebration (for the opening night concert and gala), Henri Lazarof's In Celebration, and others. During the 1999-2000 season, the symphony performed several more world premieres. In June 2000, the symphony performed Igor Stravinsky's masterly neo-classic Oedipus Rex. In July 2000, during Seattle Symphony Watjen Organ Dedication Week, the symphony premiered David Diamond's Symphony No. 10 with Carole Terry, organist. That week, the symphony premiered Robert Sirota's In the Fullness of Time, Hatsumi Miura, organ; and Naji Hakim's Seattle Concerto for Organ and Orchestra, with organist Bernadette-Marie Dufourcet-Hakim. The 2000-2001 Seattle Symphony season began with two major events in September: a Beethoven at Benaroya Hall festival, and a four-city tour of Washington State. In April 2001, the much-awaited Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center in Benaroya Hall opened. In May 2001, the symphony presented a Pacific Rim festival titled, “Fusion, West to East — East to West,” under the artistic collaboration of Maestro Schwarz and composer Bright Sheng. The symphony's Watjen Concert Organ figured prominently during the 2000-2001 season in the new Fluke/Gabelein Organ Recital series, as well as in many symphony performances. In February 2002, the Seattle Symphony toured the state of Florida. In May 2002, the symphony presented the Silk Road Project festival. In January/February 2003, the symphony presented "Shostakovich Uncovered," a festival of music by the 20th-century master, including workshops, seminars, lectures, and discussions with educational and cultural institutions in the community. In March 2003, the symphony announced a new relationship with recording company Naxos of America, resulting in the release of 10 remastered Seattle Symphony recordings as part of Naxos' American Classics series. The Seattle Symphony celebrated its Centennial Season in 2003-2004 with six specially commissioned works and an East Coast Centennial Tour, which included the Orchestra's Carnegie Hall debut. In 2004, the American Symphony Orchestra League and ASCAP gave the Seattle Symphony the First Place Award for Programming of Contemporary Music. In addition, in 2003-2004, the orchestra initiated the Artistic and Cultural Community Engagement with the "Seattle Symphony Project," which represents the orchestra's commitment to engage diverse populations with symphonic music. In May 2005, the symphony presented the "Made in America Festival: Part 1," featuring the music of such American symphonists as Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, William Schuman, Virgil Thomson, Leonard Bernstein, and others who created a distinctive American symphonic tradition.