Waynesboro Symphony transcends barriers

The Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra, with director Peter Wilson, center, at First Presbyterian Church in Waynesboro in 2016.

WAYNESBORO — A community group founded in 1996 meets weekly in the city to create beautiful music together. They share their music with the community through several performance opportunities in the Valley.

“The symphony has been growing,” Charles Salembier, the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra’s board president, said.

The group rehearses every Tuesday evening at Kate Collins Middle School.

“And we are very grateful to the local school system, and to the principal at Kate Collins for continuing to make their rehearsal area available to the symphony,” Salembier said.

Eighty percent of the 70 members of the symphony are volunteers, which means the others are professional musicians. They live all over Virginia, but many come from the Shenandoah Valley.

Salembier, who lives in Waynesboro, said that in each rehearsal the musicians encourage each other to grow and learn more about their art. M   embers come from different backgrounds of amateur and professional, and different generations, from 14 years old to their 80s.

The symphony includes violins, a viola, string bass, cellos, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, flutes, trumpets, trombones, French horns, a tuba, an English horn and percussion.

Peter Wilson is the symphony’s music director, and also serves as music director for the Richmond Philharmonic Orchestra and as String Section Commander for the U.S. Marine Corps Band, for which he has been violinist for The White House for 28 years.

“I have to say it’s been so rewarding for me on so many levels to be able to come down to Waynesboro and conduct [music],” Wilson, who lives in Fairfax and became director in the summer of 2007, said.

For Wilson, Waynesboro is a retreat from the intensity of the D.C. area, but the symphony is also challenging.

“It’s made me really dig deep into my musicianship as a conductor,” Wilson said. As a violinist, Wilson plays classical and jazz music.

He said he has a passion for orchestral music, and the family that the symphony has become also draws him to Waynesboro on Tuesday evenings and for performances.

“There’s such a phenomenal chemistry and  camaraderie within the ranks of this orchestra,” as well as a lot of love, Wilson said.

Anne Seaton, the symphony’s development director, said the symphony enriches the community by bringing together people from different backgrounds and generations and giving them an opportunity to network.

“It’s really an interesting community gathering,” Salembier said. He joined the board in 2004 and became board president a year later.

The networking has spilled over into the community in ways such as providing the String Program, free weekly music lessons at the Waynesboro Boys & Girls Club, for 60 children to learn the violin during the school year.

“I feel that music transcends socio-economic class, and many other things that would appear different in our population, we are all people that have the same desire to be loved and respected. Everyone loves to hear the words: ‘You have a lot of potential or you have a gift,’”  Seaton said.

Seaton said violin lessons can be a stepping stone for some children to make “a dream that seemed intangible very tangible,” such as graduating high school and going to college, and provide a support system to achieve those dreams.

Salembier said that studies have shown children who study a musical instrument see their grades in school improve, “and sure enough the Boys & Girls Club receives grades from the school system as part of the deal,” and all of the music students’ grades have improved while learning the violin.

The symphony has been ranked third in the U.S. several times by The American Prize, a nonprofit national competition that recognizes recorded performances of classical music based on submitted applications.

And the symphony welcomes new members.

“We are open to anybody who wants to play with us at the discretion of the music director,” Salembier said.

Seaton said that any organization needs “excellence in performance, and acumen and you need to have an excellent handling of your personnel internally and externally being our patrons and our community.”

“This organization has been a beautiful marriage of all these components,” Seaton, who lives in Waynesboro, said.

She said her goal and heart “is that we leave each person better than the way we found them.”

“My privilege is to let the musicians play beautiful music, and not worry about money,” Seaton said.

Admission to symphony performances is free, so the group relies on donations and fundraising to cover costs.

“This is the most delightful board that we collectively have ever experienced. We have become a family,” Seaton said of the symphony’s board. “We have wonderful, uplifting meetings.”

The Waynesboro’s Symphony Orchestra’s next performance will open its 2018-2019 season on Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 100 E. Frederick Street, Staunton, and Oct. 14, at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 249 S. Wayne Ave., Waynesboro. Music will feature Allen Vizzutti’s Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra by trumpet soloist Rex Richardson, and Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story.”

If you would like to audition to join the symphony, contact Gabriela Dech at  wsomusicva@gmail.com   . For more information, go to waynesborosymphonyorchestra.org.

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