The San Francisco Symphony is among the U.S.A.'s leading orchestras, with a reputation for adventurous and innovative programming that highlights American composers and focuses on targeting new audiences for orchestral music. The San Francisco Musical Association, established in 1908, founded the San Francisco Symphony, which gave its first concert in 1911. Its early conductors included Henry Hadley and Alfred Hertz. After the orchestra had to cancel its 1934 season for financial reasons, the city ratified an amendment to its charter in 1935 establishing municipal funding for the orchestra. That year Pierre Monteux was named music director, and under his leadership the orchestra grew substantially in stature and reputation, making its first national tour and making over 40 recordings for RCA.
Since Monteux's retirement in 1952, some of the world's leading conductors have served the orchestra, including Enrique Jordá (1954), Josef Krips (1963), Seiji Ozawa (1970), Edo de Waart (1977) and Herbert Blomstedt (1984). In 1980, during de Waart's tenure, the orchestra moved from the War Memorial Opera House, where it had performed since 1932, into the Louise M. Davis Symphony Hall. That same year, it expanded its season to 52 weeks and inaugurated its 'New and Unusual Music Series', planned by composer John Adams, the orchestra's New Music Advisor. Since 1995, Michael Tilson Thomas has served as the orchestra's music director and has brought it to a new level of prominence through its local performances, national and international tours, and many recordings and broadcasts.