History of Western Piedmont Symphony

The Western Piedmont Symphony of Hickory, NC, was organized in 1964; the first rehearsal was held on the Lenoir-Rhyne University campus under the direction of the founding Music Director and Conductor Albert Chafoo. The Western Piedmont Symphony Society, Inc. was legally incorporated on November 3, 1972 in the State of North Carolina.

Martin Bellar, the Western Piedmont Symphony’s second conductor, was responsible for founding the Western Piedmont Youth Symphony. Richard Hughey, the symphony’s third conductor, established the Western Piedmont String Quartet. He also conducted the Western Piedmont Symphony’s first Family Concerts during the 1988-89 season. In 1991 John Gordon Ross was selected as the fourth Music Director and Conductor. The 2017-2018 season will be the Maestro's 27th and final season with the Western Piedmont Symphony.

WPS has been extremely fortunate to have a resident string quartet in place for many years. Every three years, a year-long Battle of the Bows competition determines which quartet will win the three-year residency. Frye Street Quartet was the first resident quartet, followed by the Degas Quartet, La Catrina Quartet and the Kontras Quartet. The Tesla Quartet fulfills their third year of residency with the 2017-2018 season.


Our History Through the Eyes of Charles Jeffers

When the 50th Anniversary brochure came today, I realized I never have put pen to paper as to just how, the instant, Western Piedmont Symphony began.

Via the mailbox of Kayser Roth Hosiery, a letter came from Albert Chaffoo to the fledgling Hickory Arts Council, of which I was President at the time.

My father-in-law, Ted Kramer, head of Kayser Roth operations in Hickory and Maiden, was deeply interested in the arts, but used his newly minted son-in-law (second in mill command) as front man.  He pushed me to get footing for the local arts organizations, so we put together the Arts Council based on the Winston-Salem model.  That found me as the Arts Council President, still using the Kayser Roth mailbox.

Chaffoo proposed putting together a Hickory symphony similar to the one he was leading in Asheville.  I thought it absurd and took the letter to my father-in-law.  I showed it to him, expecting a laughing response.  He put the letter down and, dead serious, said "Do it."  "Get the Arts Council to organize it and I'll underwrite it."

At that moment the Symphony was born.  We did it. And he did it.  His cost?  $50,000

It is a cliché, but by God, the rest is history!

- Charles Jeffers  (March 5, 2014)