The Kansas City Symphony is one of the youngest among American big-city orchestras, having been founded in the early 1980s. An earlier Kansas City Symphony existed from 1911 to 1917, but was dissolved due to wartime shortages of personnel. It was replaced by the Kansas City Philharmonic, founded in 1933 and dissolved in 1982 after a series of musicians' strikes. The present-day Kansas City Symphony was founded shortly after that. Its formation was spearheaded by R. Crosby Kemper, Jr., the president of UMB Bank and part of a family long associated with philanthropy in the Kansas City area. He marshaled a group of other top Kansas City executives, including Hallmark CEO Donald Hall, Sr. and H&R Block co-founder Henry Bloch, to organize financial support for the new orchestra, which has since been funded in part through social events mounted by a group of seven auxiliaries.
The symphony has had four music directors, of which the most recent is Michael Stern. It has 80 members, playing a 42-week season, and has made six recordings on the Reference label. The group's debut, American Voices, appeared in 1995, and a recording of works by composer Adam Schoenberg received two Grammy nominations in 2017. The Kansas City Symphony has undertaken several novel technological experiments: in 2002 audiences served as testers for the Concert Companion cellphone app, and in 2014 a Kansas City Symphony performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, was recorded by four Google Glass devices under the auspices of Engage Mobile Solutions. The symphony's performances take place at Kansas City's Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.