The North Sydney Symphony Orchestra was the first orchestra to be established on Sydney's North Shore. It was founded in 1947 by the late Dr Alan Bellhouse M.A. who conducted it from its inaugural concert until shortly before his death in 1980. Dr Bellhouse was a distinguished mathematician, teacher, musician and author of many musical textbooks. Together with his wife, Dulcie Holland, his aim was to form an orchestra which would enable student and amateur musicians to gain orchestral playing technique while experiencing and learning some of the huge repertoire of classical music. Dulcie Holland was an active member of the orchestra and composed many frequently heard orchestral pieces. She was a well-known music educator and was patron of the orchestra until her death in 1999.
In 1946, following his discharge from the R.A.A.F. after the Second World War, Dr Bellhouse approached North Sydney Council for help in forming an orchestra. The then mayor of North Sydney was sympathetic to the idea and provided financial assistance from the Council to establish a combined orchestral and choral group. This was to be the first ever orchestra on the north side of Sydney.
The newly-formed North Shore Symphony Orchestra and the North Shore Choral Society held their first rehearsal on 14 February, 1947 in St Thomas Hall, North Sydney. The first concert was given on 20 June, 1947.
The orchestra principally accompanied the choir, which continued until 1950 when the first purely symphonic concert was given in the old Council Chambers Hall. This was a great step forward. Although the orchestra still worked with the choral society, it was now on the way to becoming an independent body. Early in 1953 the choir and orchestra decided that each was best served by being independent.
In July 1953 the first in a series of free concerts was arranged with the orchestra performing without the choir and with financial support from North Sydney Council. This established the orchestra and its concert series as a regular feature in the musical life of the North Shore. In 1986 the orchestra was incorporated under its current name to distinguish it from other orchestras which had since been established on the North Shore.
The orchestra has featured on numerous special occasions including the celebrations marking the opening of the Sydney Opera House. It continues to receive an annual grant from North Sydney Council, providing the opportunity for talented local soloists to perform with an orchestra and to further the appreciation of fine orchestral music within the community through presenting concerts at affordable prices.