Happy 90th Birthday, Dr. Peterson!

Dr. Douglas Peterson, Music Director of the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society, celebrates a landmark 90th birthday on February 8th, 2016. Dr. Peterson is in his 48th season as music director of the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society. The Society this year celebrates its 53rd season, and is the oldest performing arts organization in Nevada.

Dr. Peterson has been very generous to the Southern Nevada Community. He literally grew the choral-orchestra culture in Southern Nevada through his decades of choral/orchestra concerts while music professor at UNLV (1967-2003) and as music director of the SNMAS (1968-present), the distinguished non-profit choral-orchestra society dedicated to performing classical masterworks. In addition to conducting several hundred Society concerts through the years, he prepared the Musical Arts Chorus for performances under music greats Robert Shaw, Helmuth Rilling, Jerold Ottley, and Jester Hairston

A Look Back

The fall of 1967, Douglas Peterson became the new choral director at a very young Nevada Southern University in Las Vegas. Dr. Howard Chase, department chairman, taught music theory and Keith Moon, instrumental music. The newly created music department was located in NSU's Social Science Building. Doug had been promised 60 singers for his university chorus, but there were just 24 singers in the choral program the first year.

The new music department held classes in a campus social science classroom while a nearby auditorium served both as a rehearsal and performance venue for choral classes. Doug was eager to build the choral program which added a second ensemble known as the Chamber Singers. Doug especially remembers the NSU campus as being very barren with a gravel road leading to the campus about this time.

In 1968, Doug Peterson accepted an invitation to become music director of the Las Vegas Musical Arts Workshop, the largest community choral group in town at that time (today called the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society). That decision was to play an extremely important role in his future.

Doug surely could never have imagined back then that 48 years later he would experience the thrill of conducting the Society's Musical Arts Chorus and Orchestra in a memorable 53rd season performance of J. S. Bach's "Magnificat" and Mozart's "Great Mass in C Minor" in UNLV's Ham Concert Hall on Nov. 29, 2015. The Hall wasn't yet around in those very early days, but Doug still is, and he celebrates his 90th birthday on February 8th, 2016.

Mission Statement

The Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community organization whose purpose is the promotion and performance of quality choral and orchestra masterworks, musical productions, and chamber concerts consistent with a strong community and educational outreach in Southern Nevada.

The Conductor

Dr. Douglas R. Peterson is in his is in his forty-eighth season as music director of the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society. He was honored as one of three Generations of Leaders in the Arts with a "Legend Award" by Nevada Arts Advocates at the 14th Annual NAA Gala on Friday, November 1, 2013. He was commended by Governor Gibbons for his many contributions to the Arts in Nevada in November, 2007, and was selected as a "Local Hero" award recipient through Bank of America's Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Program in November, 2006. He received the Governor's Arts Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1987 and in 1992 was recognized by Governor Bob Miller and Senators Richard Bryan and Harry Reid for his significant contribution to the Arts in Nevada. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce awarded Dr. Peterson its annual Community Achievement Award in Arts and Entertainment in 1998 and the Musical Arts Society honored him at its recent 50th Anniversary Banquet "in appreciation of his 45 years of excellence in musical artistry and leadership." The Nevada Music Educators Association also took the occasion to bestow on him its "Steve Maytan Service to Music Education Award." Dr. Peterson retired as Emeritus Associate Professor of Music at UNLV in 2003, having taught at the University for 36 years.

Three Performing Groups

SNMAS is the umbrella organization for three performing groups: the Musical Arts Chorus, a large community chorus; the Musical Arts Singers, a vocal chamber ensemble of semi-professional singers; and the Musical Arts Orchestra, comprised of professional instrumentalists.


Now in its 49th season, the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society is a Nevada cultural institution of long standing, having been founded in 1963 as the Las Vegas Musical Arts Workshop. Its name was changed in 1980 to reflect the larger area that it serves. Dr. Douglas R. Peterson has served as Music Director since 1968.

High Quality Programs

The Society's annual season typically includes the performance of choral-orchestra masterworks by the Musical Arts Chorus, Orchestra, and guest soloists; chamber concerts by the Musical Arts Singers; and a "pops" concert by the Musical Arts Chorus, featuring the music of Broadway composers. The Society's classical programming ranges from J.S. Bach's monumental Mass in B Minor to David Fanshawe's exciting twentieth century masterpiece, African Sanctus.

High Standards of Performance

Performances in the past decade have evoked rave reviews. Hal Weller, director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, praised the Society's 2007 performance of Mendelssohn's Lobegesang for its beauty, excellent soloists, chorus, and orchestra. Tom Martin hailed the Society's Verdi Requiem performance as "the kind that could go on tour or on PBS television," while reviewer Arthur Mancini called the Society's Mozart Requiem "one more crown jewel in the season's presentations." About the St. Matthew Passion, Julia Osborne of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, wrote "the gospel of St. Matthew was brought to life in an uplifting performance that might have made even an avowed atheist into a true believer." Review-Journal's Carolyn Warble described the Society's Gershwin program as a "wonderfully entertaining evening of Broadway show tunes" and noted that "choral renditions were performed with skill and clarity."

Administration, Grant, Financial Support

The organization is administered by a Board of Trustees comprised of representatives from the business community and Society members. The Society is funded by ticket sales, contract performances, season memberships, private and business donations, grants, and advertising in concert programs. Supporters of the Society include Wynn Resorts,Target Stores, Thomas & Mack Company, Klai-Juba Architects, Lochsa Engineering, and the Nevada Arts Council.

Grant Awards

During its lifetime, the Musical Arts Society has been the recipient of four grants from the prestigious National Endowment on the Arts based on the excellence of its programs. The Society's high quality programs reach several thousand listeners annually.

During its lifetime, the Musical Arts Society has been the recipient of four grants from the prestigious National Endowment on the Arts based on the excellence of its programs. The Society's high quality programs reach several thousand listeners annually.

Guest Conductors

Guest conductors for the Society have included the late Robert Shaw, Helmuth Rilling, Jerold Ottley, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, JAC Redford, prominent American composer, and the late Jester Hairston, composer and arranger of African American spirituals. The Musical Arts Singers vocal ensemble represented the Musical Arts Society and Las Vegas at regional and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association.

Performing Venues

The Society's performances are scheduled at various venues throughout the community in an effort to bring programming to the broadest range of constituents. Such locations include University of Nevada, Las Vegas; the College of Southern Nevada; Summerlin Library and Performing Arts Center; Winchester Cultural Center; the Charleston Heights Art Center; Centennial Library; and the Sammy Davis Jr. Festival Pavilion at Lorenzi Park. Society singers have performed at local hospitals, sung the National Anthem at Cashman Field, and gone Christmas caroling.

Community Outreach

The Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society ventures into the community, performing at local functions, community centers, and concerts. The Musical Arts Chorus performs with the renowned tenor, Andrea Bocelli, in his Christmas Shows at the MGM Grand Garden Arena annually. The Musical Arts Chorus recently had the privilege to perform with the renowned tenor, Andrea Bocelli in his Christmas Show in the Garden Arena at the MGM Grand on December 12. The Society's 70-voice Musical Arts Chorus accompanied Andrea Bocelli in selections by Giuseppe Verdi and songs of the Christmas season. Other appearances have included performances at UNLV's 40th Anniversary Educational Outreach Celebration, the Del Webb Retirement Community Center in Henderson, and St. Mark's Square at the Venetian Hotel. It should be noted that the Society strives to keep tickets affordable for the entire community.

Educational Outreach

The Society offers a student singer apprentice program annually. Students earn their scholarships by rehearsing and performing in Society concerts. The Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society's educational outreach program includes performances by the Musical Arts Singers in the area's elementary and middle schools. CCSD groups appearing on Musical Arts Society programs in Ham Concert Hall have included Thurman White Middle School and the Las Vegas Academy Singers, a mong others. Complimentary and discounted tickets to Musical Arts concerts are made available through the Clark County School District. In April, 2007, Randy Pagel, distinguished choral clinician and music educator, directed the newly-formed Las Vegas Youth Choristers in SNMAS's spring concert accompanied by the Musical Arts Orchestra.

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