History of the Virginia Symphony Society

In 1996, Williamsburg resident Bert Aaron saw that the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (VSO) was struggling in Williamsburg. Fearing that the community might soon lose the opportunity to experience and enjoy the symphony’s first-class, live orchestral music, Bert endeavored to do something about it.

Together with his wife, Gladys, Bert worked with a small group of friends that included Dr. Les Dubnick, Dr. Mil Maloney, and others to create the Virginia Symphony Society of Greater Williamsburg (VSSGW) – a local support arm for the VSO. From a small gathering of five in Bert’s home in 1996 to today, the VSSGW’s numbers have swelled to well over 200 members.

The VSSGW brings local music lovers together for a variety of fellowship and live performance events year-round and has raised over $200,000 to date through hugely successful annual fundraising galas that helped secure the Symphony’s continued presence in the greater Williamsburg area. Thanks to the hard work of the VSO’s Dan Hart, Society members Larry and Eileen Mitchell, and many others, seats filled at performances at William & Mary’s Phi Beta Kappa Hall, St. Bede, and Crosswalk Community Church and free performances are widely attended at the Williamsburg Regional Library and the Lake Matoaka Ampitheatre.

In 1998, The Jefferson Legacy Year, the VSSGW arranged for James City County, York County, the City of Williamsburg and the Governor to proclaim Sept 5-12 as Virginia Symphony Week. That year, the VSO toured the Commonwealth. Members of the VSSGW traveled with the VSO when it performed in Carnegie Hall in New York City and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

As VSSGW membership and volunteer commitments grew, the board became increasingly poised to expand its efforts to conduct music outreach in our community. Thanks to a board initiative headed by Alice Herring, the VSSGW coordinates and funds yearly student outreach events that bring professional symphony musicians into area middle and high school music classrooms to offer local student musicians high-level enrichment experiences.

An integral part of the local arts community, the VSSGW is an entirely volunteer organization. We pay no fees to our officers and Board. Our membership offers their varied talents to help us in our mission of furthering the VSO here in Williamsburg – and we have a great time together enjoying both private and public performances by talented VSO musicians, and also planning and executing events that support the symphony and the building of fellowship among fellow residents that share a love for professional orchestral music.

Top: Bert and Gladys Aaron at the 2018 gala.

Bottom: Gladys is recognized for her longtime support of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

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