The Wallingford Symphony Orchestra is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing high-quality orchestral music to the greater Wallingford area. Our mission is to enrich the community through music, education, and cultural experiences. With a talented group of musicians and a commitment to excellence, we strive to bring joy and inspiration to our audiences.
The Wallingford Symphony Orchestra History
The Wallingford Symphony Orchestra (WSO) was the brainchild of Philip T. Ventre and the late Terence Netter. In 1974 Maestro Ventre, Music Director and teacher at Choate Rosemary Hall, and Mr. Netter, Director of the Paul Mellon Arts Center at Choate Rosemary Hall, wanted to honor our nation’s bicentennial by creating a symphony orchestra comprised of Connecticut’s finest professional musicians, private music teachers, college students and rising amateur musicians.
They brought their idea to the Wallingford Bicentennial Commission and its Horizons Committee endorsed and funded the WSO’s first concert in December of that year. Professional musicians from both the New Haven and the Hartford Symphony Orchestras, Connecticut-based private
music teachers, and gifted college and high school musicians were brought together under the Direction of Maestro Ventre.
Nikolai Sikorsky, the son of helicopter inventor Igor Sikorsky, served as the WSO’s first lead violinist (Concertmaster). Also of important note is that the Associate Concertmaster, Jeanne Switzer, was a Wallingford music teacher who studied with Dr. Suzuki in Japan and brought his Suzuki method of violin instruction to the United States. She played with the WSO for many years to follow.
After the first year, Choate Rosemary Hall took over the funding of the WSO until it was incorporated in 1978 as a professional symphony orchestra. John Shulga, a local prominent
businessman and community leader, was the first President of the Board of Directors. The WSO continues its purpose of enriching the cultural lives of nearby residents each year with four indoor classical concerts.
The season kicks off in October and includes a holiday concert that is enhanced by local singers and choirs. The spring concert reaches out to Wallingford students through the Uria and Johanna Manfreda Fishbein Children’s Concert Series, a program started in 1980 and given its name in 1998. During the summer the WSO performs a free outdoor pops concert on the St. John Chapel lawn to celebrate the Fourth of July. At this concert, the audience will hear anything from Boston Pops classics to Broadway and Hollywood themed music. The WSO has performed in ten Connecticut communities, including since 1993 the Madison Cultural Arts July 4th Pops Concert on the Madison Green.
The WSO also supports surrounding communities through outreach programs. One such program is the Elizabeth Mitchell String Concerto Competition. This program offers high school students in New Haven County the opportunity to compete for a scholarship and the chance to perform with the Orchestra at the Spring concert.
Over the past 49 years many esteemed musicians have performed with the orchestra as well as opera singers, jazz and pop vocalists and ballet dancers. Among them are jazz legend Dave Brubeck, American Ballet Theater’s prima ballerina Julie Kent, violinists Stephanie Chase and Livia Sohn, violoncellist Raphael Bell, pianists Ayako Tsuruta, Kariné Poghosyan, Péter Toth and opera singers Maria Spacagna, Jerry Hadley, Maxim Ivanov and Susan Yankee. The WSO has welcomed many outstanding Connecticut performance groups to its stage, including the Hartford Chorale, the New Haven Chorale, the Fairfield Chorale and Connecticut’s finest middle school and high school public and private school choruses.
Performers have come and gone since that first concert almost 49 years ago at the Paul Mellon Art Center on the Choate Rosemary Hall campus. There are two, however, who still remain. Founder and Director Philip T. Ventre and Janice Setzer, a first section violinist, continue to grace the stage. They and their fellow musicians will bring the WSO into the future with the start of the WSO’s 49th season.
Keep the music alive!
A volunteer Board of Directors oversees the operation of the orchestra; meeting monthly to monitor the budget, plan and approve the concert season, and organize fund raising.
William Dickinson, Jr.
Rosalind F. Gallagher