History of the West Virginia Symphony League
The female volunteer organization of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, named the Women's Committee, was formed in 1942 with fifty-nine members. The prime purpose was to promote ticket sales for the concerts. They rapidly took on other projects including the establishment of scholarships to continue the musical training for orchestra members, a library fund, supplying dresses for the female members of the orchestra, promoting community interest in the orchestra and selling tickets.
The first children's concert (Youth Enrichment) was held in 1951. The first of several auctions was held in 1950. This project is now a WVSO Board project. The first ball was held in 1954 by the CSO Board, and this was taken over by the Women's Committee in 1956. The first fashion show was in 1958. The Women's Committee financially supported the Kanawha County Youth Orchestra (WV Youth Symphony) in its early years.
The Women's Committee joined the American Symphony Orchestra League in 1960, winning numerous awards in the following years for various projects. Talent auditions were held for young WV musicians, with the winner performing with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. In 1964-65, the news publication took on the name "The Score."
In 1970 the committee and the City of Charleston co-sponsored a pops concert in observance of the city's 175th anniversary. In 1972, Starlight Dinners were added to the fundraising efforts. "Symphony Singers" (auditioned members) made their debut during the 1974-75 season and continued into the 1980's. A Designers' Showcase was added in 1976.
In another first, the CSO accompanied the WV Dance Company in a presentation of the "Nutcracker" in 1981, promoted by the volunteer group. The first Symphony Sunday, the outdoor popular musical festival held each year at the University of Charleston, was held in 1982 and attended by some 6000 for the evening concert, fireworks and cannons. The 1982-83 season saw the establishment of the first string quartet. The Charleston Town Center opened with a gala sponsored by the Women's Committee and Fund for the Arts, netting the League $17,000. "Symphony Notes" was introduced as a fundraiser. The Women's Committee sponsored the newly formed string education in the Kanawha County Schools.
In 1984-85 the Women's Committee gave risers for the brass and woodwind sections and chairs for the string section. The 1985 season "Capsule" History of The West Virginia Symphony League opened with Mahler's Symphony No. 1 and the Women's Committee provided the orchestra male members with white bow ties. The Charleston Symphony Chorus premiered in November 1985 with music folders from the volunteer group.
Life membership was added in 1982. The Women's Committee sponsored "La Traviata", the First CSO fully-staged opera in 1986; three males became life members and the WC acquired an office at the CSO office, giving status to the volunteer organization as a vital part of the orchestra family.
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra was changed to the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in 1988 and the Women's Committee became the West Virginia Symphony League. 1989-90 was a year of "Grand Celebration" as the WVSO celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a concert at the Kennedy Center in DC.
The 1999-2000 year found the addition of an elegant garden party, called Artisans Rendezvous. Guests strolled the gardens of Terra Salis in Malden and nibbled on gourmet delights as artists presented their works.
The League established an endowment in 2001 for the WVSO Assistant Principal Cello Chair, a long-term commitment of $100,000. While projects take on new and different directions, the League has a history of always rising to meet the needs and challenges of the orchestra.
2002 was the 20th anniversary for Symphony Sunday and the 60th anniversary of the volunteer organization.
Membership has fluctuated from the original fifty-nine members to over 350 members at its peak. Members join for various reasons: love of music, friendships, the desire to promote music education in the county school system and the WVSO in WV. Whatever the reason, the common knowledge is that "Music is nutrition to the soul" and "Music is in the head and the heart, it can never be taken away".
The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences opened in July, 2003, and the WVSL was thrilled to open an office in the Clay Center. We are enjoying this wonderful new center, and support to the WVSO remains the focus of the WVSL.