West Virginia Symphony Orchestra began on September
19, 1939 , when 55 musicians
gathered for their first rehearsal as the Charleston Civic Orchestra.
Under the direction of William R. Wiant, their first concert was
given at Charleston 's
Municipal Auditorium on November
14, 1939 . During Wiant's years
as conductor, the orchestra gave its first children's concerts,
pops concerts, and first performances of opera and ballet. The orchestra
was incorporated and an Executive Board and Women's Committee were
formed to support its efforts.
conductor William R. Wiant left Charleston
for military service in the
fall of 1942, Antonio Modarelli, conductor of the Wheeling Symphony
Orchestra, was called upon to become the new conductor. Modarelli
retained this dual conductorship for five years before moving to
on a full-time basis. Prior to coming to Wheeling
in 1937, Modarelli had led the
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for seven years.
spite of the hardships of the war years, the orchestra managed to
grow, eventually instituting a series of double concerts at the
Shrine Mosque. In a unique partnership, the orchestra and local
chemical plants joined forces to bring musicians to Charleston
. The industries, particularly
Union Carbide, made an effort to search for qualified applicants
who were also musically talented. This cooperative effort eventually
placed over 40 musicians from local industry in the orchestra. In
1943, the Charleston Civic Orchestra was re-named the Charleston
Symphony's first General Manager, Helen Thompson, began her duties
in 1943. Mrs. Thompson also helped found the American Symphony Orchestra
League, the professional service organization for symphony orchestras
in the United States ,
and later served as that organization's first Executive Director.
Antonio Modarelli's untimely death in 1954, Geoffrey Hobday became
conductor. His conductorship was marked by an award from the Alice
M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University
that funded a guest appearance
by composer Stanley Wolfe conducting his Third Symphony. Donald
Voorhees, conductor of television's Bell Telephone Hour, also appeared
as guest conductor. Hobday was succeeded by Charles Gabor, whose
tenure lasted only one season (1964-65).
He was replaced by Charles Schiff, who led the orchestra from 1965
to 1977. Under Schiff the orchestra became more cosmopolitan in
scope, booking nationally recognized guest artists on a regular
basis and presenting more challenging orchestral works than in the
past. An expansion of the children's concerts eventually led to
the first set of quadruple Young People's Concerts being performed
in 1968, a tradition which continues to this day.
next conductor, Ron Dishinger, continued the development of the
orchestra's education program through an expanded Student Enrichment
Program in the elementary schools. Dishinger served as conductor
from 1977 to 1979.
Rothstein, Music Director from 1980 to 1984, began a period of artistic
growth that continued throughout the 1980s. In his first season,
Rothstein greatly expanded the orchestra's schedule and performed
the first Super Pops concert at the Charleston
. The following season he formed
the orchestra's first resident string quartet and the first "Symphony
Sunday" was presented.
the appointment of Thomas Conlin as Artistic Director & Conductor
in 1984, a new era began for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
The season expanded in size to 8, then 9, then eventually to 12
concerts including pops. Touring and run-out concerts around the
state were also greatly increased. In recognition of its new status
as a true regional organization, in 1988, the name of the orchestra
was changed to the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
the 1989-90 season, the orchestra celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
The highlight of the year-long observances was a five-concert tour
culminating in a performance at the John
for the Performing Arts in Washington
29, 1989 . Included in the program
was a new piano concerto by composer Tomas Svoboda commissioned
by the West Virginia Symphony in celebration of the occasion. Throughout
his tenure, Maestro Conlin collaborated with world-renowned guest
artists, including Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Alicia de Larrocha,
James Galway, Marilyn Horne, Kathleen Battle and Yo-Yo Ma. Other
achievements under Maestro Conlin include the founding of the Symphony
Chorus, the establishment of a summer festival at Snowshoe, and
the launch of a subscription pops series.
December of 1999, Thomas Conlin announced his intention to step
down from the WVSO podium in 2001, concluding an extraordinary 17-year
tenure. After an extensive search process that attracted almost
200 applications from around the world, the WVSO named Grant Cooper
as Artistic Director & Conductor of the WVSO in March 2001.
Upon the selection of Grant Cooper as his successor, Thomas Conlin
accepted the title of Conductor Laureate, in recognition of his
extensive accomplishments with the WVSO.
West Virginia Symphony Orchestra held its Inaugural Concert for
the Maier Foundation Performance Hall, part of the Clay Center for
the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia, on July 15, 2003. The
new hall offers world-class acoustics, excellent sight lines, and
improved amenities for artists and audiences alike. The
WVSO is now in the midst of its fourth season at the Clay Center.
WVSO seasons have included collaborations with such world-renowned
artists as violinist Midori, soprano Deborah Voigt, pianist Andre
Watts, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Concert repertoire has included such
challenging works as Richard Strauss's Don Quixote and
Mahler's Symphony No. 5. Under the leadership of Artistic Director
& Conductor Grant Cooper, the WVSO has risen to a new level
of excellence and has been hailed for exciting, dramatic concerts.
In addition to its Charleston series of six symphonic and four pops
the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra tours the state each year and
has recently presented concerts in Beckley, Elkins, Fairmont, Martinsburg,
Lewisburg, Hurricane, Monroe County, Parkersburg, and other West
West Virginia Symphony Orchestra maintains a significant commitment
to music education by supporting education programs in Kanawha County
Schools, bringing Young People's Concerts to thousands of West Virginia
elementary school students annually, and providing support to the
West Virginia Youth Symphony. With the assistance of the Segal &
Davis Family Foundation, the WVSO has also issued a series of educational
CD-ROMs, designed to integrate the Young People's Concert experience
into the regular school curriculum. This education initiative has
drawn nationwide attention.