The Gateway Festival Orchestra of St. Louis was established in 1964 by William Schatzkamer (see bio below), then Professor of Music at Washington University, three members of the St. Louis Symphony (Alexander Lydzinski, Henry Loew and Jerome Rosen) and community leaders Kenneth Billups, Lily Kaufman and Martin Lanznar. At that time, the season of the St. Louis Symphony lasted only six months, leaving the summer devoid of symphony concerts and St. Louis Symphony musicians in need of musical employment. With support from the two locals of the American Federation of Musicians, the Gateway Festival Orchestra was created to provide free summer concerts performed by an orchestra of 50 professional musicians playing great music from the symphonic repertoire.
The first season of the Gateway Festival Orchestra was held on the levee of the Mississippi River, near where the Gateway Arch was being built. Its 50 musicians came from Local 2 of the American Federation of Musicians and included eleven black musicians from Local 197. Since 1970, the Gateway Festival Orchestra has performed in the open-air shell of the lovely, grassy Brookings Quadrangle on the campus of Washington University.
Each of the summer concerts includes a major symphonic work and two or three smaller works. The informal atmosphere and free admission encourages family attendance.
William Schatzkamer was born in New York City and received his musical training at the Juilliard School of Music. He was a fellowship student in piano under Alexander Siloti, the celebrated Lisztian and teacher of Rachmaninoff, from 1934 through 1940. In 1941, Schatzkamer was chosen from amongst 60 pianists to play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at New York’s Lewisohn’s Stadium with a National Youth Administration Orchestra. He then began playing regular engagements with the Cleveland and other major American orchestras.
From 1948 through 1950, Schatzkamer made recital and concert tours of the United States, Canada and Mexico under the direction of Columbia Artists Management. During these years, he played a total 175 concerts and recitals in all parts of North America, including three very successful recitals in New York’s Town Hall. Immediately after the first of these Town Hall recitals, he signed a contract with RCA Victor.
In 1951, he joined the faculty of the Music Department of Washington University in St. Louis. In 1956, William Schatzkamer made his debut with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He retired from the University faculty in 1987.
Schatzkamer was the founding conductor of the Gateway Festival Orchestra of St. Louis. He retired from that position in 2002. He has also served as the conductor of the Washington University Orchestra, the Northwest Plaza Orchestra, the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra, and the University City Symphony Orchestra.