The EOS Orchestra in a short time established a reputation as one of the leading American orchestras specializing in new, unusual, and neglected repertory.
The orchestra's founder was conductor/composer Jonathan Scheffer, a native New Yorker who attended Harvard University, studying with Leonard Bernstein and Leon Kirchner. While there he wrote the traditional Hasty Pudding Show. While continuing his musical studies at Juilliard in New York with Renée Longy and Michael Czajkowski he began working as a pianist and coach in New York Theater.
This led to film composing, which required him to take up conducting. After recording three soundtracks with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra he took up concert symphonic conducting, debuting with the San Diego Symphony in 1991, was assistant to Michael Tilson Thomas with the London Symphony Orchestra and L'Orchestre National de France in 1992, and had further studies with Jorma Panula, Tsung Yeh, Yuri Simonov, and Harold Farberman, and conducted various major national and international orchestras.
He founded the EOS Orchestra in 1995, becoming its Artistic Director. The orchestra's focus is on innovative programming, collaborating with other artistic disciplines besides music, developing a diverse audience, and the discovery of new works and rediscovery of neglected ones.
Its first three concerts, September 19-21 1995, were on the works of American composer-novelist Paul Bowles, including some works by other composers and choreography. The orchestra assembled again on July 15, 1996 by invitation to appear at the Lincoln Center Festival of that year in a "Hyperinstruments Trilogy" (Hyperinstruments are musical instruments with include sensors and telemetry so that the player can, while playing, also convey command to computers to generate additional sounds or to alter the electronic output of the instrument itself.
In 1996 EOS Orchestra began playing a regular subscription series of around five concerts a year. The orchestra's concerts and sometimes short concert series are almost always based on a theme. These have included such topics as "Music Written for [Choreographer] Merce Cunningham," "Minimalism and the Baroque," "The Concerto Grosso from Corelli to Schnittke," "Music Composed for the 1939 World's Fair," and "Six Ten-Minute Operas."
The orchestra itself is made of up to sixty-five of the leading freelance musicians of New York City. It ordinarily performs at the New York Society for Ethical Culture Auditorium or at Alice Tully Hall of Lincoln Center. It has made four recordings on the RCA Victor label: "Music of Paul Bowles," "Music for Merce," "George Gershwin: Works for Piano and Orchestra," and "Celluloid Copland," a set of three Copland film scores never previously recorded for home listening.
It has appeared on NPR's Performance Today and on the Arts & Entertainment cable channel and, in November 2000 was scheduled to appear on PBS in an all-Copland concert. The EOS Orchestra has played at the While House, and has received the Japan Music Award.
It is typical for EOS Orchestra concerts to include visual performance elements. In addition to carrying out its concerts, the organization also published books of essays and images on some of its musical topics. In 1999, it recorded the score to the MGM film Flawless starring Robert DeNiro. As part of its educational outreach program it opens some of its rehearsals in Manhattan and Queens to school classes. It is supported by contributions from over 400 donors, including the National Endowment for the Arts, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Virgil Thomson Foundation, The New York State Council on the Arts and the new York City Department of Cultural Affairs, BBC Music Magazine, and the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust.