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Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra receives 2024 Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award from JMU

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The Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra is the recipient of the 2024 Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award that was presented at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University on June 20, 2024.

The annual award is co-sponsored by the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, the Arts Council of the Valley and JMU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and recognizes individuals and organizations in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley that enhance and strengthen the cultural community by promoting and advocating for artistic excellence.

The Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award recognizes an Augusta or Rockingham County, Harrisonburg, Staunton or Waynesboro visual or performing artist, arts administrator, arts educator, or organization whose significant and superior accomplishments in the arts have improved the cultural vitality of the Valley.

Since its inception in 1996, the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra has established itself as one of the most vibrant and respected music organizations in the Valley supporting excellent performances and outstanding educational outreach. It offers amateur, student, and professional musicians a unique opportunity to share the joy of music-making while preparing and performing challenging repertoire. The orchestra’s diverse performances range from classical masterworks to modern compositions and American Pops music. The WSO’s commitment to providing accessible music performances free of charge and its work providing free instrument instruction while supporting music appreciation, underscores its impact as this year’s Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award winner.

“Under Peter Wilson’s inspired leadership, the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra has become one of the Valley’s most beloved music institutions,” said Regan Byrne, executive director of the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts. “They are a shining example of what the Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award should honor and have enriched our community’s cultural landscape in positive ways.”

Since 2007, Music Director Peter Wilson has significantly impacted the WSO, encouraging rapid growth in all aspects of this largely volunteer music organization. Starting his career as Concertmaster of the Walt Disney World Orchestra, Wilson is the former senior enlisted music advisor to The White House, where he performed as a Marine violinist for 30 years in support of five U.S. Presidents. He received the Legion of Merit award in 2020 upon his retirement as String Section Commander for “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. Noted by The Washington Post as “first-class,” Wilson has led the WSO to reach new heights, including earning The American Prize in 2021 for “Best Community Orchestra Performance.” Wilson is widely respected by the orchestra players for his positivity and steadfast support. He brings out the best in every musician.

“A symphony orchestra has the power to move people and create life-changing experiences — ones that in turn can deeply affect a community. I have witnessed firsthand the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra having this kind of profound impact on audiences,” said Wilson. His dedication to ensuring the WSO is seen as a teaching orchestra has enabled them to expand their impact in the Valley. In the 2021-22 season they introduced the first Young Artists Concerto Competition, awarding high school musicians monetary prizes and the opportunity to solo in a concert with the WSO.

In the future, the WSO will continue to explore new repertoire, commission new works from contemporary American composers, and actively support young artists while maintaining the excellence the organization has built as an award-winning community orchestra.

 Past Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award Winners:

2023 – Heifetz International Music Institute, Staunton

2022 – Earlynn J. Miller, Harrisonburg

2021 – Harrisonburg International Festival, Harrisonburg

2020 – The Shenandoah Valley Choral Society, Harrisonburg

2019 – Staunton-Augusta Art Center, Staunton, VA, and Shenandoah Valley Art Center, Waynesboro

2018 – Pamela McCray, Shenandoah Civic Dance Company and Staunton Academy of Ballet, Staunton

2017 – Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin, Furious Flower Poetry Center, JMU, Harrisonburg

2016 – American Shakespeare Center, Staunton

2015 – Ken Nafziger, The Bach Festival, Harrisonburg

2014 – OASIS Fine Art & Craft, Harrisonburg

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.