Mission and History

Orchestra 2001 (O2001) is a collective of adventurous, virtuoso performers dedicated to the music of our time. The ensemble strives to be an international leader in connecting diverse audiences with the greatest music of the 20th and 21st centuries, engaging new listeners through exhilarating concerts, innovative artistic collaborations, and enriching community partnerships in Philadelphia and beyond. 

Orchestra 2001 was founded at Swarthmore College in 1988 by James Freeman, serving as Ensemble-in-Residence for almost 25 years. In October 2018, we became the first Ensemble-In-Residence at Philadelphia’s new Cherry Street Pier on the Delaware River Waterfront, where our studio serves as office, rehearsal space, and storefront for our COMPOSER AT WORK projects. PIER PRESSURE partners music with resident artists, markets, and restaurants, and we kicked off the Pier’s first summer in 2019 with “On The Waterfront,” with music by Jennifer Higdon, Mason Bates, and Leonard Bernstein.

The ensemble has played in New York City at Carnegie’s Zankel Theater, Miller Theater, Bargemusic, and National Sawdust; at The Library of Congress, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, and Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). We have performed for diverse audiences on NEA-funded tours to rural Appalachia, the Southwest’s Navajo Nation, and HBCU's in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Orchestra 2001 has presented American music worldwide: in Denmark and England; on two tours to Russia; at the Salzburg Festival in Austria; at Festival de Música Contemporánea in Havana, Cuba; on an Arabian Gulf tour to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and Qatar; and on two tours to China at prominent festivals and venues in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Nanning, and Hong Kong.

All seven volumes of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer George Crumb’s “American Songbooks” – over 350 minutes of his brilliant transformations of American folksongs – were commissioned by, premiered by, and recorded first by Orchestra 2001. 

In 2014, “New Music Celebrations of the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King” included aside-by-side with young Play On Philly students; the premiere of Richard Danielpour’s “From the Mountaintop” featuring clarinetist Anthony McGill; and Jay Fluellen’s work for poet, jazz trio, gospel choir, and orchestra, inspired by Dr. King’s writings.

Our ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND series in 2017 featured music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer/environmentalist John Luther Adams, with outdoor concerts at large green spaces. The local premiere and subsequent performances of his “Inuksuitfor 9 to 99 percussion and piccoloswere presented on the grounds of the Barnes Foundation, Bartram’s Garden, and Schuylkill Banks Park; and the US premiere of Adams’ “Across the Distance” for 24 French horns took place at Race Street Pier.

In 2018 we performed the complete US premiere of Frank Zappa’s 17 classical compositions, collectively known as “The Yellow Shark” at The Fillmore on the 25th anniversary of its recording and Zappa’s death. A chamber concert at World Cafe Live, “Zappa’s Radical Classical Roots,” featured his favorite composers – Webern, Varèse, Stravinsky, and Boulez.

The ongoing ¡CONEXIONES! series at Teatro Esperanza features a differernt region of Latin America each year. Composers, commissions, and guest artists have highlighted series featuring Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. 

At the onset of COVID-19, UNHINGED! was the first virtual performance for Orchestra 2001 and for the Barnes Foundation in April 2020, matching Dr. Barnes’ eclectic art collections and mild obsession with wrought-iron door hinges with performances by 20 musicians from their homes and the organ of the Cathedral Basilica. 

Orchestra 2001 was the recipient of the Philadelphia Arts & Business Council Award in 2022, for our EMERGING MARKETS series, presenting concerts where Philadelphians work, shop, and play in all corners of the city, especially during the pandemic.

In Spring 2023, Orchestra 2001 presented a sold-out Philadelphia premiere of the iconic, mid-century, jazz-classical hybrid, Miles Davis' "Birth of the Cool" at Clef Club for Jazz. A second concert was performed at the Mummer's Museum.