Celebrating 52 years!
The real story —-
When the 50th Anniversary brochure came today, I realized I never have put pen to paper as to just how, the instant, Western Piedmont Symphony began.
Via the mailbox of Kayser Roth Hosiery, a letter came from Albert Chaffoo to the fledgling Hickory Arts Council of which I was President at the time.
My father-in-law, Ted Kramer, head of Kayser Roth operations in Hickory and Maiden was deeply interested in the arts, but used his newly minted son-in-law (second in mill command) as front man. He pushed me to get footing for the local arts organizations, so we put together the Arts Council based on the Winston-Salem model. That found me as the Arts Council President, still using the Kayser Roth mailbox.
Chaffoo propsed putting together a Hickory symphony similar to the one he was leading in Asheville. I thought it absurd and took the letter to my father-in-law. I showed it to h ime, expected a laughing response. He put the letter down and, dead serious, said “Do it.” “Get the Arts Council to organize it and I’ll underwrite it.”
At that moment the Symphony was born. We did it. And he did it. His cost? $50,000
It is a cliché, but by God, the rest is history!
—Charles Jeffers (March 5, 2014)
The Western Piedmont Symphony of Hickory, NC, was organized in 1964; the first rehearsal was held on the Lenoir-Rhyne University campus under the direction of the founding Music Director and Conductor Albert Chafoo. The Western Piedmont Symphony Society, Inc. was legally incorporated on November 3, 1972 in the State of North Carolina. The upcoming 2016-2017 season marks our 52th anniversary.
Martin Bellar, the Western Piedmont Symphony’s second conductor, was responsible for founding the Western Piedmont Youth Symphony. Richard Hughey, the symphony’s third conductor, established the Western Piedmont String Quartet. He also conducted the Western Piedmont Symphony’s first Family Concerts during the 1988-89 season. In 1991 John Gordon Ross was selected as the fourth Music Director and Conductor.
WPS has been extremely fortunate to have a resident string quartet in place. Frye Street Quartet was the first resident quartet, followed by the Degas Quartet and La Catrina Quartet. During the 2009-2010 season, WPS once again auditioned quartets from across the country to fill the the three year residency position. The Kontras Quartet was selected for a three year residency. The Kontras Quartet agreed to extend their residency one more year. Following another “Battle of the Bows” competition, the Tesla Quartet was selected to be our next quartet-in-residence. They are in their second year of residency.
At the end of the 2006-2007 season, WPS was pleased to debut five new timpani purchased through the support of the Lyerly Charitable Remainder Trust and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.
The finale of the 44th season was a special May 2nd concert combining the Western Piedmont Symphony, Youth Symphony, Piedmont Percussion Ensemble, pianist John Cheek and composer J. Mark Scearce at a special Family Side-by-Side Concert at P.E. Monroe Auditorium. The Masterworks season featured the world premieres of the “Tubman Songs” by Nkeiru Okoye and “Terra Terribilis” by Laura Kaminsky.
Our 46th season of concerts featured a lively weekend of concerts with DBR (Daniel Bernard Roumain) who made improvisers out of several of our WPS and WPYS members. The Youth Symphony and Symphony Orchestra presented a Side by Side concert for area 7th graders and DBR presented a club concert complete with DJ on Friday evening. We also presented a concert that featured the shofar or ram’s horn as a solo instrument. That concert helped garner another spot for WPS in the finals of The American Prize. During our 47th season WPS went out of this world with a magnificent production of “Star Wars & The Planets.”
The 49th season opener was another night of lively entertainment and talent, featuring the Kruger Brothers as they performed with the orchestra. The season will end with the final performance of the Kontras Quartet. Yet another year of Well Crafted Music!
The 50th season opening will feature Grammy Award winning Banjoist–Bela Fleck. He will perform his concerto “The Impostor” with the orchestra. This milestone year will also feature a Valentine’s Day concert with “Romeo & Juliet.” The final concert will unite the WPS orchestra and the Hickory Choral Society as they perform the dynamic “Resurrection” by Mahler. This performance won First Place in the Professional Orchestra Division of The American Prize competition.
During the 51st season, WPS was pleased to present the classical music sensation Time for Three. Time for Three brought their great talent as musicians and communicators to our Masterworks series and also presented an anti-bullying program to area middle-schoolers.