RVS was founded in 1967 by Frederick Palmer who was its first conductor. Then an assistant professor of music at Southern Oregon College, Dr. Palmer had been locating, recruiting and organizing musicians in the Rogue Valley for around two years prior to the first concert which occurred on November 16,1967 at Medford’s Mid-High School auditorium. The orchestra began with some 55 players and an initial budget for the first year of $4500.
For the first few years, the orchestra played four concerts each season, with two performances of each concert rotating among Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass venues. In approximately 2004, under the baton of Arthur Shaw, the orchestra started offering five concert series consisting of three performances in the three communities. Maestro Shaw also began offering holiday candlelight performances in local churches and RVS’ first educational programs: a free Saturday morning Discovery Concert featuring a “petting zoo” of instruments, and the Chamber Players program where five professional musicians traveled to local elementary schools in Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Siskiyou Counties.
Dr. Martin Majkut was hired in 2010 to succeed Arthur Shaw. During his tenure the RVS has more than doubled its annual budget, expanded to six Masterworks series in Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass, initiated the Link-Up education program to bring music education to three grades of children in the Phoenix-Talent school district, and begun the Classical Coaches program which offers professional coaching at the middle and high school levels to augment music education in local public schools. RVS also offers a free student voucher program called Connecting with the Classics, allowing students and accompanying adults to attend performances in Grants Pass and Medford free of cost. In the last several years RVS has been recognized nationally for its innovative programming and commissioning of new artistic works.