Windsor Symphony Orchestra

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The Windsor Symphony Orchestra is a Canadian orchestra located in Windsor, Ontario. The orchestra performs in South Western Ontario, playing both classical and popular music.


The Windsor Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1941, originally as the Windsor Concert Orchestra. The name was changed to The Windsor Symphony in 1948. The first conductor was Matti Holli, who remained with the orchestra until his death in 1977. From 1977 to 1979 Clifford Evens served as interim conductor and artistic adviser. Laszlo Gati was music director from 1979 to 1985 and is credited with raising the level of the orchestra and consolidating community support.

The most recent Canadian conductor to be appointed music director was Dwight Bennett in 1986. Under Bennett, the orchestra became fully professional but also ran into financial difficulties through unrealized revenue projections and a musician's strike in 1988. He was succeeded by American conductor Susan Haig in 1991.[1] Music director from 2001 to 2012 was American conductor John Morris Russell. During his tenure the orchestra received several awards including two Ontario Lieutenant Governor's awards for the arts. He conducted his last concert as music director on May 12, 2012.[2]

On Feb. 26, 2013, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Robert Franz as their sixth Music Director. Franz is the third American conductor in a row to be appointed to the position. He was chosen from seven other candidates, which were fellow Americans Laura Jackson, Steven Jarvi, Kevin Rhodes and Scott Speck; Irish conductor Kevin Mallon; Canadian Erik Paetkau and Romanian Cristian Macelaru.[3]

The Windsor Symphony Orchestra performs at several venues in the Windsor-Essex County area but, since the beginning of the 2012-13 season, is based at the historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Windsor, a restored former movie house. Several concerts, mainly for smaller ensembles and the orchestra's Chorus, are performed annually at the University of Windsor's Assumption University Chapel.

Music directors[edit]

1947–1977 Maestro Holli
1979–1985 Maestro Laszlo Gati
1986–1990 Maestro Dwight Bennett
1991–2000 Maestra Susan Haig
2001–2012 Maestro John Morris Russell
2013-Present Maestro Robert Franz

Current leadership[edit]

Peter Wiebe[edit]

Assistant conductor Peter Wiebe was named Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra (WSYO) Conductor and Assistant Conductor in January 2005. Wiebe has played cello in the Windsor Symphony Orchestra’s core since 1987. He has also served the WSO at different times as principal and assistant principal cellist, education co-coordinator, concert host, chorusmaster, operations manager, arranger and composer.[4]

Concerts and programs[edit]

Main stage[edit]

Annually, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra stages 4 to 5 programmes with full orchestra in its Masterworks series and 4 to 5 Pops programmes, each performed at the historic Capitol Theatre in Windsor. The WSO also has 4 to 5 chamber orchestra programmes in its Intimate Classics Series performed in Windsor, Leamington and Tecumseh, Ontario.


The Windsor Symphony Orchestra Chorus was created in 1988 as a choral group directly affiliated with the orchestra. Previously, the orchestra would perform alongside the Windsor Classic Chorale and groups from Windsor and Leamington. The Chorus, which is volunteer and by audition, performs several concerts throughout the season at the Capitol Theatre as well as at UW Assumption University Chapel, covering classical as well as contemporary and pop music. The current chorusmaster is Bruce Kotowich.

New Music[edit]

The Windsor Canadian Music Festival is an annual celebration of new orchestral music with a focus on Canadian composers and performers. The WSO collaborates with the University of Windsor, School of Music to showcase up and coming composers and explore the newest trends in musical expression.

Community Outreach[edit]

Community Outreach concerts feature the WSO chamber orchestra and regional soloists in programmes designed for small venues, to help hosting organizations raise funds for a special cause. Gift of Music concerts are performed by string or woodwind ensembles for social service agencies, nursing/retirement homes and non-profit organizations throughout Windsor/Essex County.

Education initiatives[edit]

Music Alive[edit]

The Music Alive concert series involves small percussion, woodwind, brass, and string ensembles, which perform at schools in Windsor/Essex County. Programming is age-specific and designed to correspond with the Ontario school curriculum with the intent of enhancing learning through the arts.

Education Concert Series[edit]

The Education Concert Series consists of three concert programmes designed kindergarten to grade three; grades four to six, and grades seven to twelve. The concerts are developed to be interactive and often feature young performers as soloists. Tied specifically to The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8: The Arts, 1998, concert themes are: language, social studies, geography, science, and math.

One-Community – One Symphony[edit]

The One-Community – One Symphony Project began in 2008, as a season long exploration of a single major symphonic work with high school bands and choirs from Windsor/Essex. The biennial project includes the participation of 10-12 high school bands and choruses representing French, Catholic and Public School Boards. Students rehearse and perform arrangements of the work as part of their regular school music program, with additional master-classes and rehearsals with Maestro Russell. The project culminates with a shared performance with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.

Peanut Butter n’ Jam[edit]

The WSO’s Peanut Butter n’ Jam concert series is an interactive and engaging introduction to music for young children ages 2–6 and their families. Music hosts guide children in exploration of classic melodies, orchestral families, traditional songs, art, story telling and magic. PB n’ J concerts are offered at three different locations in Windsor at a variety of times.

Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra[edit]

Created in 2004, the Windsor Symphony Youth Orchestra (WSYO) rehearses and performs orchestral music by the great masters under professional direction. Students (ages 12–20) audition for membership and develop their talent to realize their full potential through the experience of making music at a high level. It also involves learning about striving for excellence and working cooperatively in a professional environment. The WSYO performs 3-5 concerts annually including Side-by-Side performance with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.

Music Therapy[edit]

The Music Therapy program is a partnership between the WSO, University of Windsor Music Therapy program, Windsor Regional Hospital, and Transition to Betterness. University of Windsor Music Therapy students perform alongside WSO musicians at Windsor Regional Hospital, visiting patients and utilizing music therapy practices to promote wellness and enhance the quality of life while providing an opportunity for students to learn.

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • 2010 – Windsor Endowment for the Arts (WEA) Award to Arts Organizations given to the Armouries Redevelopment Committee; WEA Arts Leadership Award for Performing Arts to John Morris Russell; Herb Gray Harmony Award to John Morris Russell in recognition of the WSO's programming and outreach activities that consistently support and celebrate the region's cultural diversity; A recording by CBC Radio 2 of the Windsor Canadian Music Festival performance by the WSO of composer Jordan Nobles' work Aurora Borealis selected to represent Canada at the International Rostrum of Composers in Lisbon.
  • 2008 – Juno Award nomination for the recording of Peter and the Wolf & Last Minute Lulu; Orchestras Canada Betty Webster Award presented to persons who, over the long term, make a difference in the Canadian orchestral community, given to former Executive Director Mina Grossman Ianni.
  • 2007 – Vide Peene Fund Orchestra Award [5]
  • 2006 – 5 out of 5 stars from Rick Phillips, CBC’s Sound Advice for Peter and the Wolf & Last Minute Lulu
  • 2004 – Gold World medal, New York Festivals Awards for Television and New Media
  • 2004 – Gemini Award nomination for performance on CBC’s Opening Night
  • 2001 & 2003 – Ontario Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for the Arts [6]


World premieres[edit]

The Windsor Symphony Orchestra has presented over 40 World Premieres since 2001. This includes 29 works commissioned by the WSO (made possible through a grant by Canada Council for the Arts).[7]

Year Composer Piece Premiere Commissioned
2000-01 Grossi, Jason Gestures Canadian Premier
2000-01 Kovarik, Christopher Morning Commute World Premier
2000-01 Kuzmenko, Larysa Concerto for Piano & Percussion World Premier
2001-02 Kovarik, Christopher Sinfonietta World Premier WSO Commissioned
2001-02 Malcom, Trevor One Hundred Thirty Something Point 5 World Premier WSO Commissioned
2001-02 McIntrye, Paul Requiescantin Pace World Premier
2003-04 Currie, Neil Sentiment Number 3 World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Hatch, Peter Crystal Fragments World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Lee, Brent Voca me cum benedictus World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Lee, Brent Like Breath World Premier
2003-04 Lee, Brent Last Minute Lulu World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Lee, Brent Gatineau River World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Palmer, Juliet Swerve World Premier
2003-04 Rosen, Robert Art of Aqueducts World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Wiebe, Peter Movimento for Strings World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Yzeiri, Besnik Potpuri World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Currie, Niel Sentiment Number 3 World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Hatch, Peter Crystal Fragmanets World Premier WSO Commissioned
2003-04 Rosen, Robert Art of Aqueducts World Premier WSO Commissioned
2004-05 Frehner, Paul Tightrope: For 3 Accordions and Orchestra World Premier WSO Commissioned
2004-05 Lee, Brent Selvage for Orchestra and Midi World Premier WSO Commissioned
2004-05 Lee, Brent Iron Horses World Premier WSO Commissioned
2004-05 Lee, Brent Stone and Star World Premier
2004-05 Lee, Brent Equinox Below World Premier WSO Commissioned
2004-05 Roi, Micheline Tengo Que Decir World Premier WSO Commissioned
2005-06 Korndorf, Nikolai Let the Earth Bring Forth North American Premier
2005-06 Lee, Brent Symphony No. 1 (Chorea) World Premier WSO Commissioned
2005-06 Lee, Brent Trance Phatty Acid World Premier WSO Commissioned
2005-06 Lee, Brent Arcadia World Premier WSO Commissioned
2005-06 Lee, Brent Luminous Night World Premier
2005-06 Morlock, Jocelyn Music of the Romantic Era World Premier
2005-06 Yusupova, Iraida On My Way to Damascus World Premier
2006-07 Abram, John Kitchenette World Premier WSO Commissioned
2006-07 Godin, Scott O Sweet Spontaneous World Premier WSO Commissioned
2006-07 Oesterle, Michael Perennials World Premier WSO Commissioned
2006-07 Oliver, John Face in the Abstract World Premier WSO Commissioned
2006-07 Smith, Linda Burnt Umber World Premier WSO Commissioned
2008-09 Kuster, Kristin Beneath this Stone Canadian Premier
2008-09 Lee, Brent Ruck N' Roll for Electric Viola and Orchestra World Premier WSO Commissioned
2008-09 Marwood, Shelley Of Such Ecstatic Sound World Premier WSO Commissioned
2008-09 Plowman, Michael Richard Journey to the Center World Premier WSO Commissioned
2008-09 Santos, Erik Symphony No. 1 "Shards" Canadian Premier


External links[edit]