The Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana was created in 1951 through a legislative decree of the Sicilian parliament, but only in 1958, completed the hiring of musicians, and began an intense concert activity destined to markedly influence Sicilian and National musical life. Today, after the closing of three of the four National Italian Radiotelevision orchestras, the Sicilian orchestra can only be compared with the Orchestra Nazionale della Rai (National Italian Radiotelevision Orchestra) in Turin and with the Orchestra Nazionale di S.Cecilia (National Orchestra of S. Cecilia) in Rome for importance of size (92 musicians) and an affinity of purpose and activity.
The first symphonic concerts took place in Palermo and were conducted by Georges Sebastian and Jean Martinon. Immediately after, the Orchestra took part in the century anniversary celebrations for Puccini at Torre del Lago. One year after the first concert, the artistic director, Ottavio Ziino, created the "Giornate di Musica Contemporanea" (Contemporary Music Days) furnishing an important contribution to the culture and musical taste of Palermo audiences. In 1960 a collaboration with the "Settimane Internazionali di Nuova Musica" (International New Music Weeks) began that during the 1970's made Palermo the international center for the forefront post-Darmstadt movement.
The Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana participated annually in the "Settimane di Musica Sacra" (Sacred Musica Weeks) at Monreale and at the "Orestiadi di Gibellina", at the "Taormina Summers", at the "Luglio Musicale Trapanese", at the "International Festival of Dublin", at the "Festival dei Due Mondi" in Spoleto, at the "Festival of Wiesbaden", at the "Bach Festival" in Oxford, at the Festival of "Nuova Consonanza" in Rome, at the "Biennale of Venice". Success with the public and with the critics enabled the Orchestra to gain tour invitations under conductor Gabriele Ferro (principal conductor from 1979 for more than 15 years) to the Prague International Festival (1993), to Japan and to China (spring 1996). The Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana was the first orchestra to perform in Peking. In 1998 the orchestra performed at the International Piano Festival of Bergamo and Brescia and in 2000 at the International Festival of Ravello.
The Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana has been conducted by important composers from the past such as Igor Stravinskij and Darius Milhaud and by great conductors such as Herbert Albert, John Barbirolli, Ernest Bour, Aldo Ceccato, Sergiu Celibidache, Antal Dorati, Vittorio Gui, Efrem Kurz, Ferdinand Leitner, Pierre Monteux, Herman Scherchen, Riccardo Muti. In recent years guest conductors have included, Rudolf Barshai, Gary Bertini, Riccardo Chailly, Janzug Kakhidze, Emanuel Krivine, Alain Lombard, Peter Maag, Daniel Oren, Zoltan Pésko, Georges Prêtre, Hubert Soudant, Franz Welser Most, Fruhbeck de Burgos, Michel Plasson, Gunther Neuhold, Yuri Temirkanov, Lothar Koenigs.
An important contribution to the variety and enrichment of the orchestra's repertory was guaranteed under the long artistic direction (from 1970 through 1995) of Roberto Pagano. The two terms of Francesco Agnello as the orchestra's president (respectively the 1960's and the 1990's) gave impulse to an unusual opening up to a younger audience, to important cultural initiatives and to prestigious international and national tours. The particularly refined choices during the 1996-97 Season entrusted to the direction of Mario Messinis guaranteed national attention by Radio Tre. Concert series such as those dedicated to Maurice Ravel, Anton Webern or to Karlheinz Stockhausen remain in the annals of Italian musical activity as examples of extraordinary cultural commitment.
In 2002, the Ente Autonomo Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana was transformed into a Foundation, in accordance with the specific designs contained in article 35 of the regional law 26/03/2002 n. 2 and in respect of legislative decree 29/06/1996 n. 367.