History of WSSO


The West Shore Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1987 by Janice Young, Conductor, and Joyce Pollard, Concertmaster, initially as a collaborative effort with Messiah College.  When Messiah's orchestra became student focused, Young and Pollard formed a string quartet that grew into a full community orchestra, raising seed money by playing in senior centers in the region.  The WSSO's first full orchestra concert was presented on November 22, 1987 in the Mechanicsburg High School Auditorium with Pre-Concert Lecture by Jack Urling.  Repertoire of that historical program was The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave), by Mendelssohn, Haydn’s Trumpet Concert in E flat Major featuring soloist Charles Long, and Dvorak's New World Symphony.


In 1989, the WSSO opened its season at the Forum, then moved to Cedar Cliff High School.  In 1994, following the renovation of the Carlisle Theatre, the WSSO began regular performances there, as well as occasional concerts at the Pollack Center and Trinity Lutheran Church in Camp Hill.  In 1991 the WSSO gave its first outdoor pops concert.  Summer programs are now a regular part of our season with concerts in  Boiling Springs, Harrisburg, and various parks & churches in the region.  Family Concerts became significant offshoots of Masterworks concerts under the baton of Maestro Timothy Dixon.  Under Jennifer Sacher Wiley's leadership, family programming became even more intentional, now presenting free scripted "concert dramas" for our youngest audiences, in partnership with Education Director Martha Palmquist who served in this capacity for the WSSO from 2015-2020.  


Following Janice Young, guest conductors included Donna Deaven, Tina Bakowski, and Robert Wellington Pound as guest conductors in the 1999 - 2000 season.  Dr. Pound of Dickinson College then conducted the Orchestra 2000 - 2003.  Guest conductors that followed were Tina Bakowski, Dr Timothy Dixon, and Priscilla Howard.  Dr Timothy Dixon of Messiah College was the Music Director and Conductor 2004 - 2012, and continues as Conductor Laureate.  LaShae Willits conducted our 25th Silver Anniversary Concert in February 2012.  As Conductor Laureate, Dr Timothy Dixon led the Orchestra November 2106 through May 2017.  Dr Jennifer Sacher Wiley of Susquehanna University became the fourth permanent Music Director and Conductor of the West Shore Symphony Orchestra in June 2017.


We stayed safe but active during the 2020-21 pandemic!

Watch our mini-documentary from Fall, 2020 


Renowned early soloists included cellist Nancy Baun, horn soloist Jonathan Parrish, violinist Le Zhang, and The Eaken Piano Trio.  Violinist Myroslava Khomik and Canadian pianist Clayton Scott have also been on the WSSO solo roster.  In recent years, soloists have included violinist Gregory Fulkerson, soprano Corinne Byrne, violist and Carlisle native Ofir Tomer, and harpist Robin Gordon-Cartier.  Under the leadership of Jennifer Sacher Wiley, collaborations have extended beyond soloists to include the Harrisburg Choral Society, community narrators such as Aji Abraham (Capital Cross Blue Shield), and the Capital Area Music Association, and Sankofa African American Theatre Company.  The WSSO now holds annual Concerto Competitions for high school and undergraduate students in the region, featuring winners on spring programs.


The Orchestra has performed world premieres, such as Garrett Byrnes’ In a Moment of Simple Beauty (2005,) Timothy Robertson’s electric guitar concerto, “Spring Variations,” (2016),  "City" by jazz bass soloist & composer Joshua Davis (2018) and "Two Scenes for Orchestra" by Erin Graham (2021).  Other living composers whose music has been performed by the WSSO are Hilary Tann, Patrick Long, Deborah Henson-Conant, and Tan Dun.


Joyce Pollard  1987-1999 • Mabel Tang  1999–2001 • LaShae Shearer Willits  2003-2013 • Margeaux Katz-Sgrignoli since 2014