Mission & History

The Westerville Symphony at Otterbein University provides exemplary symphonic performances to audiences in Central Ohio, and music education in Westerville and surrounding communities.  We do this through a working relationship with Otterbein University; a strong partnership with surrounding communities and organizations, schools and businesses; the continuous development of funds; and the dedication and commitment of Westerville Symphony staff, board and volunteers.

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 1970’s and into the early 1980’s 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 a direction already undertaken; 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 the organization was incorporated in 1983 under the name the Westerville Civic Symphony at Otterbein College.

Current Music Director Peter Stafford Wilson joined the Symphony in 1992.  A Westerville resident, Maestro Wilson brings the prestige of national and international recognition to the Symphony. 

In 2008, a gift from Westerville philanthropists Ernest & Neva Fritsche permitted the Westerville Symphony to hire its first Executive Director.  This change brings professional growth that better serves the mission and community.  Current Executive Director Hild Peersen joined the Symphony in August 2017.

Today the symphony, known as the Westerville Symphony at Otterbein University, is made up of 80-plus professional & semi-professional members plus students from Otterbein University.  The symphony performs three Masterworks concerts annually in addition to the “Sounds of the Season” holiday concert.  The remainder of the concerts for the symphony are part of the education and community outreach program which include the Tunes & Tales concerts for children, the  Young People’s Concert for all Westerville 5th grade students, the 4th of July outdoor “Sounds of Freedom” concert and the “Sounds of Summer “concert, all of which are free of charge.

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