Our History


The Rockbridge Symphony came into being in 1975 through the vision of Charlene Jarrett and a small group of dedicated local musicians. It was initially established as a partner with the Rockbridge Chorus and performed concerts with that group for many years. These were the first adult performing groups to be organized by Fine Arts In Rockbridge following the Summer FAIR founding in 1971.

On April 15, 1975, Jarrett, founder and president of FAIR, called together seven friends who were already actively involved in the musical life of the community. The members of this first steering committee were Gordon Spice, choral director at Washington & Lee University, Robert Stewart, head of the Music Department at W&L, Chuck Harer, Rae Hickman, Gordon Williams and Maxine Foster. Financial support came from the United Virginia Bank. When Harer, Jarrett, and Williams consulted William McCorkle, Sr. about the possibility of funding through the bank, he was enthusiastic. The happy result was an annual gift of $6,000 for the next thirteen years.

The orchestra flourished for four years under the direction of Rob Stewart. He was followed by Gordon Spice. Subsequent conductors were: Karen Deal, now conductor of the Illinois Symphony; Ben Wright, then director of the J.M.U. Symphony; and Barry Kolman, former director of the University Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra.

In 1987 Washington & Lee became the co-sponsor of the Orchestra. Given this new affiliation, the Orchestra was renamed the University Rockbridge Symphony Orchestra. In 1992, W&L became the sole sponsor, which resulted in the name of the orchestra being changed to University Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra.

In 1999, the orchestra separated from W&L and became the Rockbridge Community Symphony Orchestra. It was organized under the direction of William Claytor. In 2010, the RCSO became the Rockbridge Symphony.

Today, the Rockbridge Symphony is composed of different generations of Rockbridge musicians: some advanced young string, wind, and brass players, some professional instrumentalists; and experienced adult members from various walks of life in and around the area.  Mark Taylor, professor and orchestra director at Southern Virginia University, has directed the symphony since 2005.

August 2012