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The Williamsburg Symphonia announced at its season finale concert last night the group will be changing its name to the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra, effective immediately.
Just before intermission at Monday’s show, Board of Directors President Ingrid Brown took the stage to announce the name change to the audience – an announcement she will reprise at tonight’s concert.
The decision to change the name from the Williamsburg Symphonia to the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra came about after much consideration about where the orchestra comes from and what it has become.
“To many people, the name Symphonia denotes a small community group of players rather than a talented, notable assembly of high-caliber musicians,” Brown said. “While the playful connotation was appropriate for the initial educational goals of the organization, the word no longer suits the current orchestra.”
The Williamsburg Symphonia League – a volunteer organization that supports the Williamsburg Symphonia through fundraising initiatives – will also be changing its name in conjunction with the orchestra. The group will henceforth be known as the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra League.
In addition to the name change, the rebranded Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra is also launching a new tagline – “Our Symphony!” – and a new website, which will go live April 20.
Fans of the orchestra need not worry that this slew of changes signals a change in direction for the group overall. The musicians, leadership, venues and approach to performing for which the Williamsburg Symphonia has become known over the past decade will all remain intact.
“The name change proclaims what the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra has already become,” Brown said.
When the Williamsburg Symphonia was founded 32 years ago the organization was primarily made up of volunteer musicians and aimed at providing classical music education for children, and the founders felt the use of “Symphonia” was fittingly whimsical and playful for a kid-oriented group.
The debut concert – Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf – was so well received, the founder planned a schedule of concerts for the general public, according to a recent news release from the Symphonia.
From there, the mission of the Symphonia continued to expand and began to include a broader range of classical music offerings. The group named its first permanent music director and conductor, after a string of rotating and guest conductors, by its 10th anniversary.
The appointment of Ruben Vartanyan, an acclaimed conductor with a doctorate from the Moscow Conservatory and 30 years of international experience, signaled a period of expansion for the Symphonia, the release went on to say.
As the organization continued to move toward a more polished, professional version of itself, the group made several major changes, which included expanding its season, branching out to include jazz pops concerts and switching venues from Phi Beta Kappa Hall to the Kimball Theatre.
When Maestro Vartanyan retired in 2003, the group undertook a nationwide search for new leadership that garnered more than 100 applicants. Janna Hymes, a Fulbright scholar who has studied under prominent conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Gustav Meier, Otto-Werner Mueller and Gunther Schuller, was ultimately selected and has been at the helm of the Symphonia since.
Today’s iteration of the group has come a long way from it humble origins, having transformed into a professional, internationally recognized orchestra. While still true to its education-oriented founding mission – the Symphonia’s educational programs reach 7,500 students annually, according to the release – the orchestra has become known for its world-class, professionally trained musicians, all of whom have undergone a competitive audition process to secure their spots in the orchestra.
“Changing our name gives the orchestra credibility within the arts world and will make us more recognizable within our community,” Janna Hymes said. “Our identity will be strengthened, and the wonderful orchestral music we present will gain greater recognition in the Williamsburg arts community and beyond.”