cultivating a love
of the musical arts
In 1965 a group of musicians, led by Florida Southern College professor Dr. Ken Anderson and Lakeland businessman Jay Erwin, decided to organize an orchestra to provide classical music for their community.
With Erwin as conductor, the group called itself the Lakeland Civic Symphony and began with 30 musicians and an audience consisting of family members and a few friends. Their financial base consisted of a large glass jar, marked “donations,” which stood at the concert hall door.
In 1987, the organization changed its name to the Imperial Symphony Orchestra with an intent to better reflect its place in Polk County.
Throughout its history, the ISO has been blessed with enthusiastic and forward-looking volunteer leaders, hard-working staff, and devoted musicians. In 1994, Governor Lawton Chiles publicly saluted this commitment when he presented the ISO with the prestigious Governor’s Award for Voluntarism in the Arts, recognizing its contribution of more than 22,500 volunteer hours in one year alone.
In 2021, the organization was reimagined as the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra and underwent a rebrand to align its look, feel, and message with its purpose and commitment to inclusion.
we are a powerful, stimulating, steadfast, collective harmony.
We are dynamic, auditioned, professional musicians, united to interpret music that moves people.
The symphony is an immersive experience that engages the senses.
We are a resilient presence committed to cultural enrichment and preserving the art for future generations.
We create for everyone.
We connect our community through a shared appreciation for the arts.
At the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra, we create powerful musical experiences that connect our community and enrich our lives. Join us. Find your connection.
The LSO is composed of dynamic, auditioned, professional musicians who draw upon deep reservoirs of passion and skill to interpret music that moves people. We are a catalyst in our community, igniting creativity, provoking thought, inspiring action, and sparking emotion.
Our leaders come together from varied backgrounds to support the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra in its mission to connect, enrich, educate, and entertain. We are led by a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary, with oversight from an advisory board and a board of directors.
Operationally, we’re guided by our Music Director and Conductor, Mark Thielen, and our Executive Director, Ashley Miller, with support from our Orchestra and Office Manager, Christine Collister.
Sal Campisi, Jr.
Sandra Sheets, Esq.
Henry E. Tucker
Mrs. J. Fred (Valda) Guess*
Charles R. Mayer
Robert V. Parker
Dr. F.D. Rumscheidt
George H. Anderson, Jr.
James F. Slutz
Bruce Renfroe, Jr. *
Dale Gardner Jacobs
Dr. Tom McLaughlin*
Thomas K. Mack
Arletta Black Torres
MUSIC DIRECTOR AND CONDUCTOR
Mark Thielen is a 40 year resident of Polk County. Mr. Thielen retired after 30 years of teaching in the public schools where he served as theory, electronic music instructor and orchestra director at the Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland, Florida.
Mr. Thielen’s orchestras have performed successfully at state, regional, and national level festivals and conferences. From 2006-2015, Mark was the orchestra director at All-Saints’ Academy in Winter Haven where he taught string students in grades 6-12. In May of 2015, Mr. Thielen retired from his position at All Saints. He maintains a private studio as well as works with Central Florida schools as a guest clinician/conductor.
Maestro Thielen performs professionally with the Hollingsworth Trio and the Unstrung Quartet. He is a past president of the Florida Orchestra Association. For 14 years, he was conductor of the Honors Orchestra program at the University of Central Florida. Maestro Thielen has been associated with the Imperial Symphony Orchestra for more than 40 seasons. He served as concertmaster and associate conductor for 24 of those years before becoming music director and conductor in 2000.
Ashley’s role with the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra as Executive Director provides her with an opportunity to put her fundraising, relationship building, and communications skills to work. Inspired by her love of music and the community where she was born and raised, Ashley’s greatest desire is to ensure that professional symphonic music is accessible to everyone.
Before joining the LSO, Ashley honed her marketing and advertising skills at MADE Brands as an Account Executive. Prior to that, she spent her career sharing the mission and vision of one of Lakeland’s beloved nonprofits – Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE).
Ashley is a Lakeland native and earned her B.A. in Advertising from Florida Southern College. Many describe her as a bundle of energy always ready to contribute her love for authentic storytelling, and collaborative spirit to the task at hand.
Ashley is a graduate of Leadership Lakeland Class XXXVI, and the recipient of the United Way of Central Florida’s 2017’s Outstanding Partner Agency Employee Coordinator. She lives in Lakeland with her husband, Josh and her son, Jack.
PATRON ENGAGEMENT & OPERATIONS MANAGER
Christine Collister is the Patron Engagement & Operations Manager of the Imperial Symphony Orchestra. Originally from Massachusetts, Christine earned her BFA in violin at Ithaca College in New York. Christine honed both her musical and administrative skills in New York and Connecticut before moving to central Florida in 1999. In addition to classical music, Christine also enjoys performing jazz, folk, Celtic, bluegrass, and country and performs regularly throughout central Florida as a freelance musician. You can see Christine perform with Jon Corneal and his Compadres every Friday afternoon at Noon and 1:30PM at Hillcrest Coffee (corner of Hillcrest/Missouri in Lakeland), and in area venues with the Munn Park Saints and 32 Trees.
Besides music, Christine enjoys crochet, reading, travel, cooking, and trying new and exotic cuisine. Christine met her husband, Davis Collister, in the LSO (he in the bass section, she in the violins) and they live in Kathleen, FL with their son, Daniel.