Matti Holli

Matti Holli is an award-winning musician and maestro. He is best known as the founder of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO), which has been entertaining audiences since 1947.

Holli began his musical career with the WSO as a violinist with its precursor, the Windsor Federation of Musicians Philharmonic in 1941.

Matti Holli

Matti Holli (standing), 1949. Photograph from

Holli took over as musical director when its conductor, Ernest Rennie, became ill in 1947. The Federation was an amateur group of musicians that performed philanthropic concerts in the community, but Holli proposed that it become a professional orchestra. When he took over at its music director, Holli changed the name of the group to the Windsor Federation of Musicians Symphony Orchestra, hired more professional musicians, and secured financial support from city council, local newspapers, and Windsor residents. They performed their first show as a professional orchestra on November 16, 1947. Over his 30-year career as the WSO’s musical director, Holli established the orchestra as a cultural bastion in the community and founded the Windsor Junior Symphony (now the Windsor Youth Symphony Orchestra) in 1957 to help develop young musical talent.

Holli was born in Tampere, Finland on December 12, 1916. The Hollis were one of a few Finnish families who immigrated to Windsor in the 1920s. Holli established an orchestra at his school, Ada Richards Elementary, when he was in Grade 6, and later studied music theory and performance at the Ursuline School of Music in Windsor. In his adult years, he also directed the church choir and served as vice-chairman at St. Mark’s (Finnish) Lutheran Church.

Holli’s achievements extend far beyond the local community. In fact, he was an internationally-renowned maestro and performed with a number of orchestras around the world including the Mexico National Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the CBC Orchestra in Toronto, the NBC “Symphony on the Air” in New York, the Michigan Symphony Orchestra, the Lahri Symphony Orchestra in Finland, and the Dijon Symphony in France. In addition to this, Holli served at the conductor of the International Youth Symphony which he founded in 1966.

For all his achievements, Holli was awarded a number of accolades, including the Centennial Medal in 1967 for his cultural contributions to Canada. Holli passed away on November 11, 1977.


Hall, Frederick A., Kevin James, Lynn Mcguigan.  “Windsor Symphony Orchestra.” The Canadian Encyclopedia (August 5, 2008).

The History of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.” Windsor Symphony Orchestra (n.d.).

Magee, Joan. “A Cultural Influence in the Community,” in A Scandinavian Heritage: 200 Years of Scandinavian Presence in the Windsor (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1985),  Pp 91-98.

Shaw, Ted. “Windsor Light Music Theatre Windsor Symphony Orchestra @ 60.” Windsor Star, 17 Jan 2008, B6.