The National Symphony Orchestra: 79 Years and Still Going Strong

Years of musical success that grows over time

The National Symphony Orchestra of our country, also known as OSN, is a Costa Rican public cultural institution, attached to the National Music Center, part of the Ministry of Culture and Youth of Costa Rica. It is headquartered in the city of San José.

It is currently considered one of the best orchestras in Latin America and in November 2017 was awarded the Latin Grammy in the category of “Best classical music album” for its album “Música de Compositores Costaricenses Volumen 2”. Also, the albums “Bossa Nova Sinfónico” and “Música de Compositores Costaricenses Volumen 1” were nominated for the Latin Grammy in 2013 and 2014.

In 2019 it has a scheduled presentation with great artists such as Russian-Israeli violinist Shlomo Mintz, German cellist Leonard Elschenbroig, soprano Tracy Cantin and pianist Fei Fei Dong, as well as with Directors such as José Serebrier, John Nelson, Yoav Talmi, Rossen Milanov and the Costa Rican Gabriela Mora.

The OSN is made up of 74 professional musicians, 87% are Costa Rican and most studied in the orchestra’s Youth Program. It has made national and international tours in Asia, Europe, North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The group performs about 80 concerts a year, has 11 record productions and is one of the most prolific cultural institutions in the country.

In 2018, more than 35 thousand people attended the presentations that the orchestra offered in various Costa Rican stages. Also, it has performed with the well-known Italian singer Andrea Bocelli, cellist Gary Hoffmann, and pianist Markus Groh, as well as with the Directors Giancarlo Guerrero, James Judd, and Mark Laycok, among others.

The first symphony orchestra in Costa Rica was founded in 1940, created by the Uruguayan conductor Hugo Maniari and the Costa Rican Alfredo Serrano. It was subsidized by the government of President Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia and was part of the Ministry of Public Education. It was reorganized in 1970 with the creation of the Ministry of Culture and Youth, being President José Figueres Ferrer. This reorganization was conducted by the then minister and deputy minister of these portfolios, the writer Alberto Cañas Escalante and Guido Sáenz González, respectively, whose main objectives were to increase the quality of the training of national musicians’ members for the NSO, in addition to the purchase of instruments and the organization of an educational program attached to the orchestra. Under this new structure, the OSN gave its first concert in October 1971.

A new restructuring of the orchestra took place under the first government of Óscar Arias Sánchez, which allowed the OSN, under the direction of maestro Irwin Hoffman, to reach a high level of performance, with successful presentations in countries such as Spain, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Taiwan.

In 1994, the OSN recorded two CDs with music by Costa Rican and international composers. In 2004, Japanese director Chosei Kumatsu replaced Hoffman as the main director. The following year, the OSN toured Japan, where it performed successful concerts in several cities with music by Costa Rican composers such as Benjamín Gutiérrez and Eddie Mora.

Between 2001 and 2014, the NSO toured internationally in Japan, Nicaragua, the United States, Mexico, and Cuba. Carl St. Clair took the position of the main director in 2014 with a concert at the “Melico Salazar” Theater. Between 2013 and 2014, the OSN recorded four albums, two of which were nominated for the Latin Grammy (2013). In 2015 and on the occasion of its 75th anniversary, the OSN held concerts at seven Costa Rica provinces.

Mission and Vision of the OSN


To be the state institution in charge of promoting in the public the appreciation for the musical arts, through programs of professional academic training, execution, and dissemination of the different musical manifestations.


To be the leading institution in terms of academic training and execution, and a reference in the dissemination of all musical manifestations nationally and internationally.

Values of the OSN

Excellence, Dedication, Discipline, Quality, Equity, Inclusion,

The general objective of the OSN.

To generate policies that lead to concrete actions for the strengthening, teaching, execution, and dissemination of musical arts in all its manifestations.

Specific objectives of the OSN.

To perform musical activities through institutional programs in all regions of the country.

To promote inclusively, the teaching and practice of music.

To generate opportunities for the promotion of Costa Rican music.

SOURCEOsmary Torres
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