Our History

In 1985, Edwin and Marilyn Benachowski left the cold and snow of New York to settle in the Coachella Valley. They had been operating a music school and music retail store for more than twenty-nine years but felt it was time for a change of pace. Having been regular visitors to the desert, they decided to relocate to Indian Wells. They were neither golfers nor tennis enthusiasts and were not ready to become retirees. So, in 1989, they founded The Desert Symphony, the valley’s first and only fully professional symphony orchestra.

The inaugural concert took place at the Ritz Carlton on July   29,   1989, with Marilyn on violin and “Ben” (as he liked to be called) on the podium. This small group of musicians – only twenty-eight in number – soon grew to an orchestra of more than fifty professional musicians. They continued to perform at the Ritz Carlton but soon expanded their performances to such venues as the Renaissance Hotel, the Las Palmas Resort, Saint Margaret’s Episcopal Church and Southwest Community Church before making their permanent home at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert.

Briefly known as the Indian Wells Desert Symphony between 1999 and 2004, the Desert Symphony has earned the reputation as one of the finest orchestras of popular music in the southwest United States. In the beginning years, the repertoire of the symphony encompassed the great works from the world of classical music, including Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms. The orchestra began a slow transition toward the “pops” as the desires for this repertoire by the residents and visitors to the desert was in need of being fulfilled. Glen Campbell was the first major star to perform with the orchestra and was soon followed by other great artists as Jose Feliciano, Peter Nero, the Gatlin Brothers and Art Garfunkel. Other stars that have performed with the orchestra include Andy Williams, Roger Williams, Jack Jones, Kaye Ballard, Michael Bolton, Jason Alexander, Tommy Tune, The Texas Tenors, Neil Sedaka, Crystal Gayle, and Peter Frampton.

Sadly, at the end of the orchestra’s twentieth anniversary in 2009, “Ben” Benachowski passed away. During the following season, the orchestra continued under the baton of assistant conductor Tom Hartley. In the summer of 2010, Gary Berkson was engaged to take over the helm as Music Director. The orchestra continues to offer concerts of great popular music encompassing pop, rock, Broadway, and jazz. In addition, the symphony serves the community through educational and outreach programs.

WordPress Image Lightbox Plugin