KCO History

Under the direction of Gary S. Fagin, the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra was founded to reintroduce people to their musical heritage by performing great music in distinctive downtown venues and by offering innovative educational outreach.

Since its first concert in 2009, the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra (KCO) has performed in Lower Manhattan’s most inspiring performing spaces -- the soaring atrium of the Brookfield Place Winter Garden, the inspiring space of Trinity Church, Pace University's state-of-the-art Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts -- and at smaller venues around Lower Manhattan, including numerous schools. We've featured soloists of world-renown at these performances. Audiences indoors and out have waltzed with us, and children have listened and asked eager questions in their school auditoriums.

Founded by Downtown resident Gary S. Fagin—an accomplished conductor, composer and educator—the KCO is the only professional chamber orchestra based in Lower Manhattan. The KCO is a meshing of the old and the new: classical music played by top contemporary musicians, performed in the fast-growing neighborhoods of old New York, in venues steps away from cobblestone streets and wireless skyscrapers. Until the KCO was founded, there were few programs in Lower Manhattan devoted to the great classical music repertoire.

Highlights of the KCO's presentations include the January 2010 world premiere at the World Financial Center Winter Garden of Mr. Fagin’s composition “And Bold To Fall Withal (Henry Hudson In The New World),” featuring Broadway star Jason Danieley singing the story of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York Harbor 400 years ago. At that same concert, author Neil Gaiman narrated “Peter and the Wolf.” The January 2011 world premiere of Mr. Fagin's music theater work "Robert Moses Astride New York" at the Winter Garden featured visionary performer Rinde Eckert portraying controversial NYC builder Robert Moses. Read The New York Times Arts section cover story about this work.

The KCO has performed three extraordinary concerts at the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Broadway's Marin Mazzie starred in "Music for the Tempest Tost: A Tribute to Emma Lazarus" in June 2012. In May 2013,  "Banished Genius: Emigre Composers in America" at the museum featured singer/actor Henry Stram. One year later, in May 2014, the KCO presented "Pièces de Résistance: Music Celebrating the Polish Spirit," featuring violin virtuoso Shir Levy. In 2015, the KCO presented “Music of the Gilded Age” at Pier A, and in the spring of 2016 the KCO offered two world premieres at Pace University’s Schimmel Center: “Supreme Justice: The Battle for Gay Rights,” music and libretto by Gary S. Fagin, and “Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra” by Michael Bacon.

KCO’s tenth anniversary season was kicked off in February 2018 with “Renaissance & Renewal” in the Winter Garden, featuring Elizabeth Pitcairn and her red Stradivarius playing “A Lark Ascending” by Ralph Vaughan Williams and former U.S. Attorney for New York Preet Bharara speaking the words of Abraham Lincoln in Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait.” The season continued with “Kurt Weill’s Zaubernacht,” choreographed by Jody Oberfelder, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Gary S. Fagin’s “The Struggle To Forgive: Confronting Gun Violence in America” at the Schimmel Center.

In the summer time, the KCO often performs outdoors and invites audiences to waltz, foxtrot and tango with us. You’ve seen us at the Belvedere in Battery Park City, on the cobblestones in South Street Seaport, aboard the tall ship Wavertree, and on Pier 45 in Hudson River Park.