The gift of music transcends financial measure. David Stahl, entering his 25th year as music director and conductor of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, has given our community that gift in abundance. But our superbly talented maestro has given us more than glorious music. He has served as a dynamic force on behalf of all the arts.

Tonight's opening of another CSO season brings a fresh reminder of Mr. Stahl's contributions, which echo far beyond the magic he makes while conducting on the concert stage. His CSO tenure is appropriately linked with the rise of Charleston as a major cultural center since it took on its triumphant role as the U.S. home of the Spoleto Festival in 1977.

The New York City-born son of German-Jewish refugees made his Carnegie Hall debut at 23 and eventually became assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic under his mentor, the great Leonard Bernstein. Like so many Charlestonians born elsewhere, Mr. Stahl found something special about this place when he performed here during the 1981 festival. The folks who were picking a new music director for the CSO in 1984 found something special in him, too.

When Mr. Stahl took over, the CSO had only 13 full-time musicians playing a very limited schedule. Today, it has 46 playing a very busy schedule. Back then, Charleston had a nice municipal orchestra. Today, the city is a mecca for the arts, thanks in no small part to an orchestra that has earned a reputation, as The Post and Courier's Adam Parker writes, for being "full of world-class players."

For more than a decade, Mr. Stahl has occasionally recharged his creative batteries as music director and chief conductor of Munich's renowned Staatstheater am Gartnerplatz — a high honor reflecting his lofty reputation.

So celebrate this grand silver anniversary. If you're among the unfortunate few who don't know just how wonderful our orchestra is, wait no longer. Check out the varied CSO schedule — one that appeals to a wide range of tastes — at (or telephone 723-7528), and then hear for yourself what David Stahl means to Charleston.