A Brief History

“The mission of the Reno Chamber Orchestra is to create intimate, inspirational musical experiences by engaging the community through vibrant music making by the Chamber Orchestra and chamber ensembles.”

The Reno Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1974 by its long-time Music Director, and current Conductor Emeritus, Vahe Khochayan, in collaboration with several musician colleagues, most of whom were making their living playing in casino showrooms. They performed their first concerts in whatever performance space was available. In 1976, a group of RCO enthusiasts came forward to form the organization’s first Board of Directors, and the Orchestra started to present a regular season of concerts. Audiences continued to grow, as did the Orchestra’s reputation in the community.

Reno Magazine named the RCO one of its Best of Reno Top 101 in January 2009, and in 1993 the RCO won the title of Best Performing Arts Group in the Reno Gazette-Journal‘s annual “Best of Reno” survey. Five RCO musicians – Maestro Khochayan, principal French horn player John Lenz, Concertmaster Emeritus Phillip Ruder, principal pianist James Winn, and Oboist Emeritus Andrea Lenz – have received the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award for Artistic Achievement. The role the RCO plays in the community was further recognized when Truckee Meadows Tomorrow awarded the RCO its prestigious Silver Star Award “for improving the quality of life in the Truckee Meadows.” Some of the world’s most famous performers have appeared with the RCO, including Leonard Nimoy, Itzhak Perlman, Roger Wagner, James Buswell, Edgar Meyer, Yolanda Kondonassis, and Pepe and Angel Romero.

On the retirement of Vahe Khochayan in 2003, Theodore Kuchar was chosen from a field of 140 applicants in ten countries to be just the second Music Director in RCO history. Maestro Kuchar is the most recorded conductor of his generation, with over 100 compact discs to his credit. Along with his posts as RCO Music Director and Artistic Director of the RCO’s Nevada Chamber Music Festival, he holds the posts of Music Director with the Fresno Philharmonic and the Janacek Philharmonic (Ostrava, Czech Republic), Artistic Director and Conductor of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela, Resident Conductor of Kent/Blossom Music, and Conductor Emeritus of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine.

In addition to its regular season, the RCO presents the annual Nevada Chamber Music Festival, featuring some of the finest musicians in the world performing the great works of chamber music. Among the musicians Maestro Kuchar has brought to Reno to take part are James Buswell (Grammy Award-nominated violinist), Martin Chalifour (Principal Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic), and Pascal Rogé (one of the most recorded pianists in the world today). The Festival has attracted ever-increasing audiences, now regularly surpassing 2,000. Having established itself as a prominent part of Reno’s winter arts scene, the Nevada Chamber Music Festival is well on its way to becoming one of the world’s most important music festivals and a magnet for winter tourism.

Among the RCO’s many educational efforts is the College Concerto Competition. Open to students attending Nevada institutions of higher learning or Nevada residents who are studying out-of-state, the College Concerto Competition is the only one of its kind in Nevada. Each year the top three competitors are given substantial cash prizes to help offset the costs of their education and career development. The winner is also asked to perform as guest soloist with the RCO. Past participants have gone on to significant careers as soloists, orchestral musicians, and teachers.