Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra
Bringing World-Class Music To The Lowcountry
The bridge was built, the land developed, and people came to Hilton Head Island. Some of them brought their musical instruments. As early as 1982, a group of these new islanders wanted to get together and play classical music. “Chamber Music Anyone” said the flyer. Fourteen musicians responded including Frank Pape, who would become the first president of the soon-to-be orchestra. Pape credited Pat Rose as the person who brought everyone together, and Dorothy and Miles Mauney who inspired them all with their playing and teaching. That was 28 years ago.
That small group of musicians has developed into the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra with 70 musicians under contract and world renowned soloists appearing at many concerts. Today the orchestra is said to be "a vision that stays ahead of the curve", and is satisfying its diverse audience with Classical Music as well as Pops and Jazz. The Orchestra, with widespread financial support and many hours of volunteer time, has attracted thousands of devoted followers.
Early conductor Dick Camp “inspired spirit and a touch of showbiz” into the orchestra, said Margaret Greer who wrote the book Making Music, The First 25 Years of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. In 1990, with Camp retiring after 8 years as conductor, then Board President Willis Shay is quoted as saying, “No one has contributed more to the advancement of the cultural arts on Hilton Head Island than Dick Camp. His talent, devotion, and sparkling air have brought us artistically from infancy, through adolescence and toward enduring maturity.”
John Gosling, music director from 1990-1997, is credited with transforming the Orchestra from a group of amateurs to a full-fledged symphony orchestra. Gosling, a Julliard graduate, brought nationally recognized musicians to play with the orchestra, and according to former Executive Director Gloria Daly, Gosling made the orchestra “one of the leading cultural organizations on the Island”.
Under Willis ‘Bud’ Shay’s leadership (1988-1993), the Board of Directors became more of a corporate entity with the orchestra becoming one of the bigger businesses on a small island. Under his leadership, and Gosling’s proposal, the Hilton Head Island International Piano Competition came into existence and became prominent in the country’s piano competitions. Shay is still very actively involved today in fostering the event worldwide.
It was during Shay’s office that the Reverend John Miller added a great deal to the prestige of the orchestra when he incorporated space for the orchestra in the plans for a new Presbyterian Church sanctuary. Shay’s hiring of Gloria Daly is considered one of his best decisions. The widely known and respected Program Director, Gloria is present at every orchestra event, then and now, and is credited with linking the orchestra with other Hilton Head Island organizations and businesses.
No history of the orchestra is complete without noting prominent persons who were involved with its growth. Charles and Ellen Taylor were people dedicated to the arts on Hilton Head. Charles served the orchestra board in one capacity or another for over eleven years. Ellen was instrumental in developing the League of the Hilton Head Orchestra, a fellowship of people who love music and support the organization with their time, talent, and resources.
Bob Rada, president from 1999 to 2003 is credited in bringing Mary Woodmansee Green to Hilton Head as Music Director and Conductor, she served as Maestra for 13 years during which she helped bring unprecented growth to the orchestra. Walt Graver served as President from 2003-2005, while Fred Caswell served from 2005 – 2008. Under their leadership the orchestra continued to grow and expand to a organization with a one and a-half million dollar budget. Mr. Graver continues to work today in an effort to establish an auditorium that would serve the needs of the Orchestra, as well as the requirements of other art groups and businesses.
Throughout the years, along with the International Piano Competition and the League of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, the organization developed a youth orchestra program, an education and outreach program, and a jazz connection, all of which operate under the auspices of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra.
Today with Board Chairman, Ed Parish and President and CEO, Mary M. Briggs, the orchestra is reaching out to all the other musical and art organizations in a spirit of cooperation. Working together with the Chamber, the Arts Center, musical and choral groups, and local schools, they hope to foster new relationships and work together to bring recognition of all the arts and culture available on the Island. Brigg’s plan to work with the Boys & Girls Club and the local schools to foster music in the youth of the community is meeting with great success.
The 31st orchestra season, “The Excitement Continues", introduces our new Music Director and Principal Conductor, John Morris Russell, previously having served as the HHSO Principal Guest Conductor last season. In 2010 he began his tenure as Conductor Designate with The Cincinnati Pops, and just recently completed his 10 year tenure with the Windsor Symphony being honored with the title Conductor Laureate. He is widely considered North Americas leader in orchestral educational programing and from 1997 to 2009 conducted the "LinkUP" educational concert series at Carnegie Hall made famous by Leonard Bernstein.
Our 31st Season also also brings new offices for the HHSO. We are now located at 2 Park Lane, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928. It also brings a new logo design which represents a conductors four count. See our home page for the new design. New season subscriptions are available today by calling the HHSO office at 843-842-2055 and requesting a subscription brochure for the new season.