Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra – 37th Season

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 32 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 was present at every orchestra event and is credited with linking the orchestra with other Hilton Head Island organizations and businesses.  Gloria retired in 2015.

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 a venue 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 community outreach program, and a jazz connection, all of which operate under the auspices of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra.

Today with Board Chairman, Tim Ridge, 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 HHSO will continue with the new project begun last season entitled Music Bridges.  The goal of this project is to bring musicians to the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in the Beaufort School System, over 1,000 students, and give them an opportunity to meet professional musicians, learn about musical instruments, and hear an orchestra perform.

The 36th season, “American Mosaic”, opened with a special performance, Mozart Fest and Gala with Emanuel Ax in Concert on Monday, September 18, 2017.  The regular season will commence in October with Music Director and Principal Conductor, John Morris Russell, now in his 6th season with the orchestra .  In 2010 he began his tenure as Conductor Designate with The Cincinnati Pops, and having completed a 10 year tenure with the Windsor Symphony, where he was honored with the title of Conductor Laureate.  He is widely considered North Americas leader in orchestral educational programming and from 1997 to 2009 conducted the “LinkUP” educational concert series at Carnegie Hall made famous by Leonard Bernstein.

There is a continuing emphasis on nationally known young artists as soloists for the yearly concerts, educating local children to music, musical instruments, and offering reduced tickets for concerts to youngsters accompanied by an adult.

New season subscriptions are available by calling the HHSO office at 843-842-2055 and requesting a subscription brochure for the new season.  Single tickets for concerts are available after September 1 every year.