Thank you for celebrating JoAnn Falletta’s 20th Anniversary with us!

Click through the photos below for a look back on this historic day and celebration at Hotel Henry.
Photography by Cheryl Gorski

October 18 has been proclaimed “JoAnn Falletta Day”!

BPO Trustees and 20th Anniversary Celebration Co-Chairs Peter Eliopoulos and Cindy Abbott Letro, Maestro JoAnn Falletta, Deputy Erie County Executive Maria Whyte, and Mayor Byron W. Brown.

This morning, Mayor Byron W. Brown and Deputy Erie County Executive Maria Whyte proclaimed that October 18 shall henceforth be known as “JoAnn Falletta Day” in recognition of JoAnn and the BPO’s remarkable contributions to the Western New York region. Brava!

History of JoAnn Falletta and the BPO

Leonard Bernstein and JoAnn Falletta, 1985 (Photo: Louis Brunelli)

Growing up in the borough of Queens in New York City, JoAnn first fell in love with music when she was just 7 years old and began studying classical guitar. She went on to study music at the Mannes College of Music and The Juilliard School where she studied conducting under Sixten Ehrling and George Mester, and received coaching in master classes by the great Leonard Bernstein. She served as music director of the Denver Chamber Orchestra from 1983 to 1992, and as associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 1988. From 1986 to 1996, she served as music director of the Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic. She was music director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra from 1989 to 2000. In 1991, Falletta was appointed the eleventh music director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

In 1999, following a lengthy international search, JoAnn Falletta was appointed music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the first female conductor to lead a major American ensemble. Since that time, note by note, measure by measure, JoAnn has given hope to the thousands of BPO patrons that have entered through Kleinhans’ doors over the past 20 years. She has built a remarkable following and brought the BPO to new levels of acclaim. Under her leadership, the BPO has become America’s most recorded orchestra on the NAXOS label. She has been dubbed a “Maestro for the people,” noting the camaraderie she shares with the world-class musicians of the orchestra, its dedicated staff, and its incredible patrons and supporters.


JoAnn is appointed as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, becoming the first female conductor to lead a major American ensemble.


JoAnn helps to establish the BPO’s own recording label, Beau Fleuve.

JoAnn receives an honorary Doctorate from Canisius College.


Under the direction of Maestro Falletta, the BPO releases its first recording with NAXOS.

(Photo: Mark Dellas)
(Photo: Eliese Theuer)


JoAnn is the recipient of the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductors Award for exceptionally gifted American conductors.

JoAnn receives an honorary Doctorate from Niagara University.


JoAnn is instrumental in hiring Daniel Hart as Executive Director of the BPO. The Orchestra’s budget has since grown by 25 percent, and subscriptions have reached record levels.

JoAnn leads the BPO in a return to Carnegie Hall.

JoAnn and the BPO establish the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition in partnership with WBFO/WNED, with Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio as artistic directors.


JoAnn is inducted into the Western New York Women’s Hall of Fame.


JoAnn receives the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies Award for outstanding leadership in the Marcel Tyberg Musical Legacy project.


JoAnn receives the Human Relations Award from the Buffalo/Niagara Chapter of the American Jewish Committee.


JoAnn receives the Red Jacket Award from the Erie County Historical Society for outstanding community service and the Theodore Roosevelt Exemplary Citizenship Award.


JoAnn and the BPO win two GRAMMY Awards for John Corigliano’s “Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan.”

JoAnn receives an honorary Doctorate of Music degree from D’Youville College.

JoAnn leads national and international broadcasts of BPO concerts on NPR’s Performance Today and From the Top, SymphonyCast, and the European Broadcasting Union.


The BPO celebrates its 75th anniversary.

JoAnn is inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.


JoAnn and the BPO receive their first ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.

JoAnn receives the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, the University at Buffalo’s highest award.


JoAnn is named Buffalo’s Most Influential Civic Leader.

BPO at Carnegie Hall, May 2013 (Photo: Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times)


JoAnn and the BPO receive their second ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.

JoAnn leads her second BPO concert Carnegie Hall as part of the Spring for Music Festival.

JoAnn receives an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hilbert College.


JoAnn and the BPO receive their third ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.

JoAnn receives The National Federation for Just Communities Citation Award.


JoAnn is named World’s Favourite Conductor in an online poll for Bachtrack.


JoAnn is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, joining an esteemed roster that dates to the Academy’s founding in 1780, including America’s founding fathers and more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners.

Under JoAnn’s leadership, the BPO’s education programs surpass reaching 50,000 Western New York students for the first time.


JoAnn is voted #4 on the YourClassical list of the top 20 conductors of all time.


The BPO makes its first international tour in three decades, performing at Warsaw’s prestigious Beethoven Easter Festival, where JoAnn made history as the first female American conductor to lead an orchestra at the Festival.

The BPO performs in Warsaw, Poland, 2018
JoAnn Falletta, Macy's Remarkable Women Campaign 2018 (Photo: Macy's)

The BPO achieves the goal of its Crescendo Campaign, bringing the endowment past the $50 million mark and ensuring the longevity of the orchestra for generations to come.

JoAnn receives a SUNY Honorary Doctor of Music from Buffalo State College.

JoAnn is featured in Macy’s Remarkable Women ad campaign, which showcased six women from different professional backgrounds, bound together by their talent, leadership and achievements.


As of the fall of 2019, the BPO has released 24 recordings with NAXOS.

The BPO releases their 50th recording under JoAnn’s leadership.

JoAnn receives her third GRAMMY Award for a collaboration with composer Kenneth Fuchs and the London Symphony.

JoAnn is honored with a 2019 ATHENA Award® from the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, which recognizes contributions made by individuals to advance the status of women in the Buffalo Niagara region.

JoAnn celebrates the remarkable milestone of 20 years as Music Director for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kenneth Fuchs and JoAnn Falletta pose with their award at the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards (Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

A special thank you to the steering committee:

Cindy Abbott Letro (Co-Chair)
Peter Eliopoulos (Co-Chair)
Tom Emmerling
Suzanne Fatta
Nickole Garrison
Jim Iglewski
Karen Sperrazza
Christine Standish

Thank you to our sponsors:

Honorary Event Co-Chairs
James M. and Michal Wadsworth
John R. and Carolyn Yurtchuk

Commemorative Sponsor
Scott R. and Rachel Stenclik

Tribute Sponsors
Cindy Abbott Letro and Francis Letro
Karen and Clement Arrison
Baird Foundation
BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York
Bond, Schoeneck and King, PLLC
Mark and Mariana Botero Chason
Anthony J. and Barbara Cassetta
Peter and Maria Eliopoulos
Angelo and Carol Fatta
Largo Capital, Inc.
M&T Bank
Joseph V. and Carole Sedita
Christine Standish and Chris Wilk

Individual Guests
Eileen and Erik Anderson
Douglas Bean and Elisa Kreiner
Linda and James Beardi
Catherine M. Beltz
Sebastian and Marilyn Ciancio
Michael P. D’Ambrosio
Warren and Carol Emblidge
Peter and Ilene Fleischmann
Otis Glover
Dan and Barbara Hart
David and Eva Herer
Bruce and Gail Johnstone
William P. Keefer
Ronald H. Luczak and Michael Boland
The Honorable Ann T. Mikoll
Douglas B. Moreland and Svetla Sokolova
Erin M. Peradotto
Christye Peterson and Paul Grogan
Joseph and Linda Priselac, Jr.
Mary Anne Rokitka
Roger B. and Joan Simon
Karen and Daniel Sperrazza
Janet Wisbaum

Honorary Donations
Vanda and Paul Albera
Robert J. and Doris Drago
Luella Johnson

A special thank you to our in-kind sponsors
The Copy Store
Hadley Exhibits, Inc.
Hotel Henry
Premier Wine & Spirits