Our History

The Westerville Symphony at Otterbein University evolved from the Otterbein Orchestra, a predominantly student ensemble within Otterbein University’s Department of Music. Although instrumental groups involving string players have existed at Otterbein University since the nineteenth century, the Westerville Symphony modern era dates from 1964 when a music faculty member organized a string ensemble of twenty players.

During the 1970s and into the early 1980s a succession of conductors led the group as more and more community members joined to fill chairs that were not occupied by students. A pattern of performances was established: the orchestra performed two or three full concerts and in annual opera and musical comedy productions co-sponsored by Otterbein’s Theatre Department.

In 1980 the Otterbein Department of Music secured a grant from the Ohio Arts Council to engage a consultant from the League of American Orchestras whose findings confirmed the direction the group was already taking: broaden the scope of the Otterbein Orchestra and transform it into a true community arts organization. Potential board members from both the community and college were recruited, and the organization was incorporated under the name the Westerville Civic Symphony at Otterbein College.

Our current Music Director and Conductor, Peter Stafford Wilson, joined the Symphony in 1992. A Westerville resident, Maestro Wilson brought the prestige of national and international recognition to the Symphony. In addition to conducting the Westerville Symphony, Wilson serves as Associate Conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra and Music Director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

In 2008, a gift from Westerville philanthropists Ernest & Neva Fritsche permitted the Westerville Symphony to hire its first Executive Director. This change has brought the professional growth and development needed to better serve our community and patrons. Current Executive Director Hild Peersen joined the Symphony in August 2017.

Now in its 35th season, the Westerville Symphony at Otterbein University is comprised of more than 80 professional and semi-professional members plus students from Otterbein University. The orchestra's centerpieces are the three Masterworks concerts, as well as our annual Sounds of the Season holiday concert. Additionally, several concerts are performed each year in cooperation with various community groups including the Tunes & Tales children's program in collaboration with the Westerville Public Library.