Introducing the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra
Whether you’re a first time visitor or a long-time season subscriber, you will thoroughly enjoy an evening with the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra. Audience members are delighted each year by the classical and pops concerts presented by the orchestra, which includes 65 to 70 experienced musicians from around the Cape Fear Region. Founded in 1971, the WSO is one of the region’s distinctive cultural treasures.
The Wilmington Symphony Orchestra has established a unique artistic profile and civic stature in southeastern North Carolina. What distinguishes the Wilmington Symphony is its distinct identity as a local cultural arts group that showcases local talent. The WSO’s 47 year tradition of service enhances the quality of life in the Cape Fear Region starting with great music-making showcasing the considerable talents of our area’s own musicians, and extending through a host of vibrant and vital educational programs for all ages. The musicians are local instrumentalists, and gifted students and faculty, selected each year by audition. Now beginning his 32nd year as conductor of the Wilmington Symphony, Dr. Steven Errante is also Professor of Music at University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
In addition to a series of concerts for its audience, the Wilmington Symphony provides both performance opportunities and an array of unique educational programs for Wilmington and Cape Fear Region residents that includes the Wilmington Symphony Youth Orchestra, a Free Family Concert, the annual Richard R. Deas Student Concerto Competition, Artist-in-Residence Programs in area schools, and the Wilmington Symphony Birthday Club for young children.
The Symphony’s Impact on the Cape Fear Region
A symphony orchestra is a sign of a mature, forward-thinking and comprehensive community. A local symphony helps improve the quality of life and attractiveness of a community, and a community with the widest variety of cultural amenities has the edge in attracting and retaining businesses, in enhancing images and community relations, in attracting top notch employees and their families, in drawing tourists and conventions, and in creating markets for new business.
The Wilmington Symphony has grown into a multi-faceted asset for Wilmington and the Cape Fear Region providing value in cultural arts and entertainment, music education, economic development, identity and image, pride and prestige. The Wilmington Symphony is local art that creates community connection, aids in economic development, strengthens our region's shared identity and adds significantly to the quality of life in southeastern North Carolina.
The Wilmington Symphony's concerts provide a gathering point of community pride for residents to be involved, engaged and connected with one of our region’s distinctive local cultural treasures. Educational initiatives contribute to the life-long learning opportunities available to residents, especially for area youth.
A Brief History
In 1971 Wilmington violinists Gaile Zack and Virginia Kusler delivered a home-made cherry pie to a skeptical music librarian named Spike Feenstra. Mr. Feenstra had belonged to a local orchestra in the 1930's. When the orchestra was disbanded he was entrusted with the remaining musical scores. Persistent but gentle urging had not persuaded Mr. Feenstra to lend his orchestral scores to these two earnest musicians. A cherry pie was their final attempt to win the music they needed to assemble Wilmington's first community orchestra. Fortunately, it worked.
Mrs. Zack and Mrs. Kusler had labored for months to establish the interest and support needed to build a successful orchestra. Once the music was available, Dr. Richard Deas, then Chairman of UNC-W's Music Department, and music professor William Adcock were eager to contribute their talents. Thirty-three volunteer musicians under the direction of Professor Adcock became the UNC-W Community Orchestra. The orchestra presented its first concert to the public on February 20, 1972. The free performance took place at Kenan Auditorium.
Over the next decade, the number of performances doubled from two to four per season. The sophistication of the music and the technical skill so the musicians grew as well.
After more than 10 years as the spiritual leader and musical director, Conductor William Adcock died on April 7, 1982. The baton was passed to Dr. Joe Hickman who led the orchestra through four more years of growth and improvement.
In 1986, Dr. Steven Errante took over as conductor of what had become the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Errante's keen understanding of orchestral interpretation introduced a new era of performance standards. Many performances later, the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra continues to grow and thrive under Dr. Errante's artistic direction.
In 1971, the enlightened persistence and expert culinary skills of Gaile Zack and Virginia Kusler persuaded one reluctant man that live classical music would make Wilmington a better place to live. Today, we are all convinced.