Glacier Symphony & Chorale Mission

To provide a diverse range of excellent musical experiences in Northwest Montana that inspire, challenge, and educate our musicians, audience, and students.

Glacier Symphony & Chorale History


The Glacier Symphony, Orchestra and Chorale has its roots in the 1970’s when the Performing Arts Council was formed from a core of music lovers in the Valley. The Council sponsored recitals and summer concerts in the Valley and later formed The Hockaday Chamber Orchestra, which performed a series of concerts. Glacier Symphony members of this early group included Doug James, Lindy James, and Shauneen and Ray Garner.

This early musical group coalesced in earnest in June, 1981 when they continued to rehearse and perform together as the Flathead Valley Chamber Orchestra and Chorale. By 1982, the group had expanded to the size that larger works could be performed, under the direction of the new guest conductor Gordon Johnson, conductor of the Great Falls Symphony. That same year, Gordon was named Music Director, and the name of the group was changed to The Glacier Orchestra and Chorale. Shauneen Garner was the founding Chorale Conductor and Robin Bailey was named Executive Director in 1985.

In 1997, with the hiring of John Zoltek as a full time music director, the growth of the organization expanded rapidly. To reflect its substantial growth and artistic quality, the G.O.C. changed its name to the Glacier Symphony and Chorale in July 2003. In 2004, Amy Smith-Kellogg was hired as Executive Director, followed by Alan Satterlee in 2006. Dr. Jim Stanard was hired as the Chorale Conductor in 2006 following the retirement of Shauneen Garner. Accomplished chorale conductor Dr. Micah Hunter, was hired in 2015 to take over for Dr. Stanard. 

Continuing to grow and evolve, with a mission to bring more classical music to the area, John Zoltek’s dream of establishing a week long classical music festival came to fruition in 2008 with the premier of Festival Amadeus, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017

Now, with the new name of “Glacier Symphony, Orchestra and Chorale,” we are the most active symphonic organization in the state of Montana performing up to 24 concerts and events per season, with year-round programming. During our Masterworks season we offer a variety of Symphonic, Holiday Pops and Chorale concerts from October through February, a 3 concert series in April for our Easter Festival, and a special “Jazz Night with the Maestro” concert in May. Summer programming includes our outdoor Summer Pops concerts at Rebecca Farm, and our unique, weeklong, Festival Amadeus. Interwoven throughout the entire year is our expanding Wild About Music (WAM) education and outreach programs.

Glacier Symphony attracts audiences from all across Northwest Montana, plus visitors from around the country. Guest artists of world renown perform regularly with the Symphony and are delighted to find such an accomplished symphonic organization in our valley. The Symphony will continue to provide diverse programming, combining with the different art forms such as opera and dance to enlarge its artistic offerings, enhancing the cultural assets of our community. There is truly something for everyone at the Glacier Symphony!


  • The GSC was one of twelve orchestras honored in 1991 with the annual ASCAP Award for Adventuresome Programming.

  • Former Music Director Gordon Johnson was selected to conduct the Kumamoto Symphony as part of a Sister/State Exchange program with the government of Japan.

  • Chorale Conductor Shauneen Garner was one of seven American choral conductors selected to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London.

  • The GSC was selected to be the performing orchestra and choir for the 1986 “Amy Grant Christmas Special,” aired nationally on NBC Television.

  • The League of the GSC won the Flathead Arts Council Arts Education Award in 1989.

  • Three GSC volunteers have been named Flathead County’s Volunteer of the Year – Connie Heckathorn, Bill Kuehn, and Dorothy Laird.

  • The GSC hosted the 1989 and 2001 Regional Arts Conference, sponsored by the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras and the Montana Alliance for Arts Education.

  • The GSC received its first National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1991 and receives N.E.A. and Montana Arts Council grants annually.

  • The GSC has performed the world premiere of four compositions, one which the GSC commissioned in honor of its 10th anniversary season.

  • The GSC hosted the National Symphony Orchestra Residency with concerts, recitals, and education programs throughout NW Montana.

  • Music Director John Zoltek was named the Artistic Director for the inaugural Montana Power Summer Symphony concert.

  • Former League President Dorothy Laird was elected to the American Symphony Orchestra League’s Volunteer Council and served as President of the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras.

  • GSC volunteers Connie Heckathorn and Martha Groenke were named the Montana Association of Symphony Orchestras’ Volunteer of the Year.

  • GSC Music Director John Zoltek was selected to conduct the Latvian National Symphony in Riga, Latvia. GSC, one of seven Montana arts organizations, awarded Wallace Readers Digest Foundation “Building Arts Partnerships” grant.