Musicians have been performing at the Hollywood Bowl since its opening in 1922. ‘Bowl Orchestra’ was used as early as 1925 and ‘Hollywood Bowl Orchestra’ appeared on live recordings made in 1928. Leopold Stokowski was Music Director of the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra from 1945 to 1946. During this time, the Orchestra recorded a number of classical works. In the 1950s and 1960s, Capitol Records issued an extensive series of recordings of the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra with a number of different conductors, including Carmen Dragon, Felix Slatkin, Alfred Newman, and Miklós Rózsa, with album titles such as “Rhapsody Under the Stars,” “Chopin by Starlight,” “Fiesta!,” “Marche!” and many others.
From the 1950s on there was no official Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, until it re-appeared in 1991, under the auspices of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, as a completely new ensemble under the direction of Principal Conductor John Mauceri. After retiring from the orchestra in 2006, Mauceri was awarded the lifelong title of Founding Director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra (“HBO”).
In 2008, Thomas Wilkins began an appointment as Principal Guest Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. From June 2014, he became Principal Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, in which position he continues to lead the ensemble each summer in a diverse range of concerts at the fabled outdoor venue.
The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra is comprised of approximately 80 players, an international mix of classically trained musicians who are among the best studio musicians in Los Angeles. Many spend their days on Hollywood’s scoring stages. It might be surprising to learn that there is no overlap between the musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra – another indicator that L.A. has a tremendous pool of musical talent.
From Mozart to Motown, the repertoire of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra is as diverse as Hollywood itself. In a single season, the orchestra may perform everything from Broadway favorites to film music, pop music to jazz, and classical music to world premieres by living composers. In essence, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra does it all.
One of the specialties of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra has been the live performance of film music, much of which previously had been heard only in recorded form on the original soundtracks. Since the early 1990s, the LA Phil / Hollywood Bowl has been exceptionally committed to restoring and performing lost or neglected film scores, many of which have then been performed in concert by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra – Max Steiner’s theme to Gone With the Wind, the “Dream Ballet” sequence from Oklahoma!, the “Born in a Trunk” sequence from A Star is Born (1954), in addition to dozens of others.
In addition, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra recorded its first motion picture soundtrack, for MGM’s That’s Entertainment III, in 1993.
Since 1997, the Bowl’s annual “Movie Night” concerts, in which the Orchestra plays the scores live in synch with film scenes or montages projected on the Bowl’s gigantic screen, have featured some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Major motion picture studios, including Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Animation, MGM/United Artists, and Gracie Films / The Simpsons have worked with the LA Phil / Hollywood Bowl to produce one-of-a-kind, premiere concerts, with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performing the scores. In addition, the LA Phil / Hollywood Bowl has partnered with other non-profit organizations, such as the American Film Institute and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to produce concerts celebrating the art of music in film.