History of WSSO

The West Shore Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1987 by Janice Young, Conductor, and Joyce Pollard, Concertmaster.  Ms Pollard had previously played with the Kansas City Philharmonic and was teaching at Messiah College.  When the College founded the Messiah College - Community Orchestra, they approached Ms Pollard about a conductor.  She suggested Ms Young, who had previously conducted the Raytown (Missouri) Civic Orchestra and the Suburban Symphony Orchestra in Kansas City, and was teaching in the strings program for the Carlisle Schools.  After four years, the College chose a permanent faculty member to become the conductor.  Ms Young and Ms Pollard decided to found another community orchestra.  With a string quartet, they raised seed money by playing at senior centers throughout the area.

The West Shore Symphony Orchestra began rehearsing in Baughman United Methodist Church in New Cumberland.  The non-student members of the Messiah College – Community Orchestra followed Ms Young and Ms Pollard to the new orchestra.  They performed their first concert November 22, 1987 in the Mechanicsburg High School Auditorium.  Jack Urling presented a Pre-Concert Lecture.  The musical program began with The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave), by Mendelssohn. Charles Long was then the soloist for Haydn’s Trumpet Concert in E flat Major.  The concert closed with the timeless favorite by Dvorak, Symphony No 9 in e minor (From the New World).

The Orchestra has partnered with singers from the Peabody Conservatory, Wednesday Club soloists in The Forum, as well as leading regional choral groups, and ballet ensembles.  Renowned early soloists included cellist Nancy Baun, performing Tschaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme in May 1988; Jonathan Parrish on French horn with Mozart’s Concerto No e in E flat major in February 1991; and violinist Le Zhang, playing Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E Minor in November 1991.  After performing its first two seasons in the Mechanicsburg High School Auditorium, the West Shore Symphony Orchestra opened its 1989 season in The Forum, featuring The Eaken Piano Trio, which was also in its third year.  The Orchestra then performed mainly in the Cedar Cliff High School Auditorium for several seasons, with a few concerts in the Allen Middle School Auditorium, and others in The Forum.  When the Carlisle Theatre was renovated as a performing arts center, Joyce Pollard fell in love with its “wonderful acoustics.”  The Carlisle Theatre has been the principal venue for the Orchestra since May 1994.  The challenges of winter in Central Pennsylvania forced rescheduling of the February 2007 concert to June of that year.

Janice Young conducted the West Shore Symphony Orchestra until she retired for health reasons after the 1998 - 1999 season.  The Orchestra had Donna Deaven, Tina Bakowski, and Robert Wellington Pound as guest conductors in the 1999 - 2000 season.  Dr Robert Wellington Pound of Dickinson College then conducted the Orchestra 2000 - 2003.  When Dr Pound went overseas on sabbatical, guest conductors for the next three concerts 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.  Matthew Hooper conducted the Orchestra November 2012 - November 2016.  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.

The Orchestra played its first Pops Concert in September 1991, with music from West Side Story, Camelot, The Phantom of the Opera, Superman – and “The Muppet Medley.”  Pops concerts by the West Shore Symphony Orchestra are now a summer tradition in various parks in the area. The Orchestra has performed world premieres, such as Garrett Byrnes’ In a Moment of Simple Beauty (For Constantin) in May 2005; and Timothy Robertson’s electric guitar concerto, “Spring Variations,” in May 2016. The Orchestra has performed with such international artists as violinist Myroslava Khomik In November 2016, and acclaimed Canadian pianist and lecturer, Clayton Scott, in November 2002.  Janeanne Karbley (now Wantz), was an early soloist in May 1989, and again a featured flute soloist in February 2016.


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