The 2004/05 Gewandhaus season saw the founding of the Mendelssohn-Orchesterakademie under the joint auspices of the Gewandhausorchester and the University of Music and Theatre "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" Leipzig. The Orchestra Academy's creation has served to enhance the deep, long-standing bond between Germany's oldest conservatoire and the world's oldest civic orchestra, originally initiated by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy himself.
The Academy represents a symbiosis of Leipzig's concert and educational institutions, the roots of which can be found in the establishment of the Konservatorium - the current University of Music and Theatre. Gewandhauskapellmeister Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was founding father and the first Director of Studies of the conservatoire, members of the Directorate of the Gewandhaus sat on the Board of Governors of the conservatoire and, last but not least, professorial duties were undertaken primarily by principal players of the Gewandhausorchester - a tradition upheld to this day.
The collaboration between these two flagship musical institutions was fuelled by the jointly-held objective to provide the most talented young musicians with the opportunities necessary to enable them to reach the standards expected by the most elite orchestras. In addition, prime objective has always been the propagation of the musical ideals and culture of playing of the Gewandhausorchester within the next generation of players.
Membership of the Mendelssohn-Orchesterakademie is granted for a period of two years during which the young musicians gain intensive experience playing with the Orchestra in the Gewandhaus, the Leipzig Opera and St. Thomas's Church, as well as on concert tours worldwide. The musicians receive instrumental tuition and chamber music coaching from members of the Gewandhausorchester. This, along with the regular opportunity to perform in chamber concerts in the Gewandhaus and the Mendelssohn-Haus, affords the Akademisten a broadly faceted education encompassing all aspects of life as a performing musician.
Numerous graduates of the Mendelssohn-Orchesterakademie have since been appointed members of the Gewandhausorchester. Many other alumni can be found in principal and tutti positions in orchestras both in Germany and throughout the world.