THE HISTORY OF THE FOUNDATION OF
SURABAYA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
By :
Suwadji Widjaja
Chairman
Back to several years ago when I was having a conversation with Solomon Tong, I mentioned about symphony orchestra. This conversation made me discerned about one thing ; he believes that the biggest impediments of establishing a symphony orchestra are the musicians and the fund. Any symphony orchestra is the dream of every musician indeed, however to build one is not a simple matter. Since that moment, I always put his words in my mind and prayed for it. I talked about the same thing to Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong, I accompanied him also to the United States of America, and some other countries. He gave me a lot of inputs.

Solomon was right : before founding a symphony orchestra, the two biggest impediments should be surmounted. Every government or private symphony orchestra is sponsored by big enterprises, entrepreneurs, holding companies, or banks. In USA, New York Symphony Orchestra is sponsored by EXXON oil company and banks. Singapore Symphony Orchestra is sponsored by Singapore Air Line (SQ), banks and big entrepreneurs ; otherwise they will not survive.

Symphony orchestra is the most elite and the highest achievement of art music appreciation that consists of three types of musical instruments (or more) played by a large group of musicians : string musical instruments, woodwind & brass musical instruments and percussion (some even played by hundreds of musicians), oblidged to rehearse intensively and continually. This elite appreciations requires continuation of fund because it always suffer a financial lost and need to be formed by well-known people in music.

In 1994, on our way to a theological seminary (STT-IAA), Rudy Setiawan, Solomon and I were discussing about symphony orchestra. Solomon believed that, he is the right person to build one for he has good relationship with a lot of good musicians and possesses good reputation among church music society. Ten million rupiahs was the minimum amount needed for one month operational cost. If this was covered, problem was solved. At that very moment. Rudy Setiawan agreed to support at the figures mentioned. We then prayed for this. And in the middle of Visi & Misi Foundation meeting in February 1996, when we were discussing about the second anniversary of Visi & Misi Foundation in June, an idea came to my mind : performance of a symphony orchestra for the event. This would be remarkable. I started to contact some businessmen and they supported the idea and were willing to sponsor. Rudy Setiawan agreed as well. Three of us became the founder of this symphony orchestra and we proposed this to Visi & Misi Foundation meeting and got the approval.

In mid of March 1996, Solomon began to gather five senior musicians in Surabaya, then invited more than thirty musicians for a lunch gathering on 19 March 1996 for a discussion. On this afternoon we proclaimed the foundation of Surabaya Symphony Orchestra, and fixed a weekly rehearsal schedule at Abdiel Christian Church of Elyon. As soon as the approval to use their building for rehearsal was given, starting from 21 April 1996 until today, rehearsal have never been stopped and have been going on very well. It takes two to two and a half hour for every rehearsal and the fund was given on time.

All thanks be to God for preparing the fund, some of the businessmen gave 1 million rupiah, some give 4 million rupiah every month and the total reached the number of 11 million rupiah. Aside from that, Chen Huang Hwa and Rudy Setiawan donated millions of rupiah to buy a timpani instrument and uniforms for the musicians. Herman Tanihaha also donated to buy oboe instruments, and other sponsor companies were printed on 1996 Visi & Misi Foundation year book. Surabaya Symphony Orchestra was officially founded. Lindratini and Rudy Setiawan were the president and vice-president of the foundation and Solomon Tong is the residence conductor.

At first we only had thirty-five musicians, after a selective approach to musicians, some senior musicians joined us. Now we have fifty-one permanent musicians, and later on we persuade some senior musicians playing some rare instruments, for instance double bass, viola, french horn and fagotte to complete the orchestra and to be the role model for church music to proceed to the orientation of elegant music, creating quality of church music and possessing an everlasting value as well as influencing music, culture, church and society element to go back to the right trail and to be a blessing to many people.

People say that there are a number of symphony orchestra groups in Indonesia, most are in Jakarta, but lately they are in a difficult situation that only one of them survive. Why does it happen ? This happen because they are only ?a group of organizations? without clear visions and missions. Also they do not own permanent musicians, not even one. Musicians are invited some times before the performance of one group. The commission received is used to pay the invitee musicians. There is only one good symphony orchestra, that is ISI Jogjakarta, the orchestra of ?Institute Seni Indonesia? of which musicians are lecturers and senior university students with high music techniques. This orchestra has become man-power to other orchestra groups. The majority of orchestra groups in Jakarta has been doing the same thing. Our symphony orchestra only invite them when we need some rare musical instruments in the orchestra to add that fifty-one members of ours.

Until the year of 2006, with the support of so many and also under God?s providence, Surabaya Symphony Orchestra has done forty-eight concerts. We are hoping that we will be able to do much more in order to bring music to the society in the future. Hopefully, Surabaya Symphony Orchestra could bring positive differences in to our lives.