Symphonic Blues

Siegel, William Russo, & Maestro Seiji Ozawa - Chicago Symphony at Ravinia - July 1968

Siegel, William Russo, & Maestro Seiji Ozawa - Chicago Symphony at Ravinia - July 1968

Street Music - on Deutsche Grammophon -Winner of the Grande Prix Du Disque Award

Street Music - on Deutsche Grammophon -Winner of the Grande Prix Du Disque Award

Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra - Deutsche Grammophon recording

Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra - Deutsche Grammophon recording

“When Corky Siegel cupped his harmonica and the pavilion microphone together and began a half saxophone half blues trumpet wail, even the least conservative Chicago Symphony Orchestra member might have shivered at the hand-writing on the crumbling walls.” – Chicago Tribune – Chicago Symphony – 1968

“A grand success in a multitude of ways; box office, new audience, and artistically … A remarkable virtuoso, a refined musician with imagination … I would go as far as to call him a poet … The music he makes is like witnessing a miracle.” – La Presse – Montréal – Orchestre Symphonique De Montreal – 1999

“American Bluesman Corky Siegel was the hit of the evening. Certainly, the pathos and poetry of Siegel’s opening harmonica sighs were a tough act to follow. The second movement, however, with Siegel dishing up the blues from the Steinway with the strings was edge-of-the-seat stuff.”– New Zealand Herald – Auckland Philharmonic – 2015


In 1968 Corky Siegel brought blues harmonica to ornate concert halls with ground breaking compositions and world class symphony orchestras. Thanks to Seiji Ozawa, William Russo, and Corky Siegel, Symphonic Blues was born and continues through today. The historic recordings on Deutsche Grammophon were among DG’s biggest sellers, and the continuing symphonic performances provide a large and growing audience for Chamber Blues

William Russo’s Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony was recorded on the paramount of classical labels, Deutsche Grammophon with the San Francisco Symphony, Seiji Ozawa and the Siegel-Schwall Band in 1971, and prompted a second release by William Russo with Ozawa and the San Francisco Symphony in 1979 with Siegel as soloist titled: Street Music: A Blues Concerto. Phil Ellwood, critic for the San Francisco Examiner, describes the collaboration as: “Magnificent. An adventure in rhythm, harmony and solos. It is a memorable musical joy ride.”

With the mentoring of Seiji Ozawa, William Russo, and the support and inspiration from the blues masters like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Corky Siegel began adding his own compositions to this blues/classical repertoire.  In 1975 he was offered a commission from the San Francisco Symphony, followed by the National Symphony & multiple commissions from the Grant Park and Lancaster Symphony Orchestras. The latest commission [Symphonic Blues #7] was premiered May of 2017.  

“One of the thrills of attending the world premiere of a major composition is the possibility that it will go on to become an international hit. This may be the case with Siegel’s [Symphonic Blues #6]. We heard an artist of the highest caliber lead the orchestra in an extraordinary piece of music ..”– Lancaster News – 2007

This recording below of Symphonic Blues #6, Corky Siegel's 5th symphonic commission, is for archival purposes only. This work has been performed around the world most recently in 2016 in Mexico and New York. (Latest commission, Symphonic Blues #7 premiered in 2017.)

Partial list of symphonies with Corky Siegel as guest soloist

New York Philharmonic
Lincoln Center

Chicago Symphony

Boston Symphony

Philadelphia Orchestra
Saratoga Springs PAC

National Symphony
Kennedy Center

San Francisco Symphony
San Francisco Opera House & Civic Center
& Zellerbach Auditorium - Oakland

Suisse Romande
Grand Theatré
Genevé, Switzerland

NHK Symphony
Tokyo & Nagoya, Japan

Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal
Montreal, Canada

Belgrade Symphony Orchestra
Belgrade, Serbia

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
Winnipeg, Canada

Miami Symphony Orchestra
Miami, Florida

Phoenix Symphony Orchestra
Phoenix, Arizona

Rochester Philharmonic
Rochester, New York

Mendocino Symphony
Mendocino, California

Grant Park Symphony
Chicago, Illinois

Milwaukee Symphony
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Sinaloa National Symphony Orchestra

Buffalo Symphony Orchestra
Buffalo, New York

Camellia Symphony Orchestra
Sacramento, California

Kentucky Symphony Orchestra
Covington, Kentucky

Orquestra Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico

Tilburg Festival Orkest

Auckland Philharmonic
Auckland, New Zealand

Australian Experimental Orchestra
Melbourne, Australia

Boston Pops - Arthur Fiedler
PBS - TV Great Performances

Orchestra Experimental de Repertorio
Sao Paulo, & Campos do Jordao, Brazil

Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa
Lisbon, Portugal

Minnesota Orchestra
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Colorado Symphony Orchestra
Denver, Colorado

Neue Lausitzer Philharmonie
9 performances throughout East Germany

Ecole Nationale de Musique
Mantes la Jolie, France

Univ. of Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra
Guanajuato, Mexico

Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec
Quebec, Canada

Alabama Symphony Orchestra
Birmingham, Alabama

Lancaster Symphony Orchestra
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Arpeggione Kammerorchester Hohenems, Austria


Seiji Ozawa
Stephen Gunzenhauser
Charles Dutoit
Arthur Fiedler
Jean-Marie Oberson
George Cleve
Eckehard Stier
Jamil Maluf
Doc Severinsen
David Amram
Gordon Campbell
Kenneth Schermerhorn
Allan Pollack
Eric Kunzel
Miguel Graca Moura
Patrick Flynn
William Russo

Other Symphonic Blues Compositions by Corky Siegel

San Francisco Symphony - 3 short works for Arthur Fiedler - performed at the Civic Auditorium - 1975
Grant Park Symphony and National Symphony - 5 short works - performed at Grant Park and Kennedy Center - 1985 & 1986
Grant Park Symphony - Blues for a Green Planet - 1994 (or was it 1991)
Lancaster Symphony Orchestra - Symphonic Blues #6 - 2007
Lancaster Symphony Orchestra - Symphonic Blues #7 - Workshop Preview August 2016 - World Premiere - May 2017

Current News

Corky has just finished a 12 week global tour with symphonic performances including the Auckland Philharmonic in NZ, which culminated in a Chamber Blues concert at The Grand Teton Music Festival.


Headline: They Love Corky Siegel in Lincoln Center. - Cheers rang through Philharmonic Hall - New York Times, Harold C. Schonberg

A clear success. The Siegel-Schwall Band played expertly in symphonic context. The audience loved them and surely loved the piece. It moves, it has something to say, and it was exciting to hear. - The Chicago Sun Times

Siegel appeared in a recent New York symphony subscription concert, and it took a week for a jumping Philharmonic Hall to settle back on it's foundation.  - Chicago Tribune

An instant standing ovation and a tremolando encore. - San Francisco Examiner

Note: Corky Siegel is the winner of the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Meet the Composer National Award for Chamber Music composition.