History of the WSO...

50 years and counting!


In the fall of 1966 a notice was published in the Warwick Adult Education Bulletin that read, “Warwick Civic Orchestra—The Warwick Adult Education Program now offers talented citizens the opportunity to enroll in the beginning of a Warwick Civic Orchestra. All musicians interested in this program are urged to enroll.” 


The idea was George Low’s. He was supervisor of music in the Warwick (RI) Public Schools and it was an idea he had been considering for some time. He said, “It seemed a waste of time to teach these kids so much in high school and then see so many of them give it up.” Some continue to play in college, he noted, “but stop after they get married. Playing an instrument is something like riding a bicycle. Once you learn it, you never forget it.” About twenty people showed up for the first rehearsal, but by the time of the first concert on December 15th, the number had grown to thirty. The Warwick Civic Orchestra was a reality.


In 1987 the name was changed to the Warwick Symphony Orchestra, to reflect the increase both in the number of players and its capability. Today there are approximately twice as many members as there were at that first concert in 1966.  Fifty years later, the orchestra has evolved from an ensemble aimed “to bring together non-professional musicians who have no other organized groups with which to perform” to a touring regional volunteer orchestra with players from all walks-of-life.  One of many arts organizations in the State of Rhode Island, it is one of few dedicated to bringing high quality live music into the community.


Following Low’s retirement in 1985, Vincent Mattera and Daniel Coyne led the orchestra for brief periods.  Then in 1990, Dinarte Ferro became the orchestra’s interim director. This interim term lasted twenty-one years and in 2011, he announced his departure from the organization with the completion of the spring concert series. In June 2011 he handed the baton over to Catherine Gagnon, the orchestra’s fifth and current music director and conductor.


As it has from its inception, the orchestra performs at a variety of accessible locations including community and recreation centers, schools, centers of worship, and public parks, and moderately-sized theaters and music venues. 

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