Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra receives 2024 Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award

Recognizing individuals and organizations that enhance and strengthen the Shenandoah Valley’s cultural community


HARRISONBURG, VA, June 21, 2024 – The Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra in Waynesboro, Virginia, under the leadership of Music Director Peter Wilson, is the recipient of the 2024 Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award that was presented at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University on Thursday, June 20. The annual award is co-sponsored by the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, the Arts Council of the Valley, and JMU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and recognizes individuals and organizations in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, that enhance and strengthen the cultural community by promoting and advocating for artistic excellence.

The Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award recognizes an Augusta or Rockingham County, Harrisonburg, Staunton, or Waynesboro visual or performing artist, arts administrator, arts educator, or organization whose significant and superior accomplishments in the arts have improved the cultural vitality of the Valley.

Since its inception in 1996, the WSO has established itself as one of the most vibrant and respected music organizations in the Valley supporting excellent performances and outstanding educational outreach. It offers amateur, student, and professional musicians a unique opportunity to share the joy of music-making while preparing and performing challenging repertoire. The WSO’s diverse performances range from classical masterworks to modern compositions and American Pops music. The WSO’s commitment to providing accessible music performances free of charge and their work providing free instrument instruction while supporting music appreciation, underscores their impact as this year’s Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award winner.

“Under Peter Wilson’s inspired leadership, the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra has become one of the Valley’s most beloved music institutions,” said Regan Byrne, executive director of the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts. “They are a shining example of what the Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award should honor and have enriched our community’s cultural landscape in positive ways.”

Since 2007, Music Director Peter Wilson has significantly impacted the WSO, encouraging rapid growth in all aspects of this largely volunteer music organization. Starting his career as Concertmaster of the Walt Disney World Orchestra, Wilson is the former senior enlisted music advisor to The White House, where he performed as a Marine violinist for 30 years in support of five U.S. Presidents. He received the Legion of Merit award in 2020 upon his retirement as String Section Commander for “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. Noted by The Washington Post as “first-class,” Wilson has led the WSO to reach new heights, including earning The American Prize in 2021 for “Best Community Orchestra Performance.” Wilson is widely respected by the orchestra players for his positivity and steadfast support. He brings out the best in every musician.

“A symphony orchestra has the power to move people and create life-changing experiences — ones that in turn can deeply affect a community. I have witnessed firsthand the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra having this kind of profound impact on audiences,” said Wilson. His dedication to ensuring the WSO is seen as a teaching orchestra has enabled them to expand their impact in the Valley. In the 2021-22 season they introduced the first Young Artists Concerto Competition, awarding high school musicians monetary prizes and the opportunity to solo in a concert with the WSO. 

In the future, the WSO will continue to explore new repertoire, commission new works from contemporary American composers, and actively support young artists while maintaining the excellence the organization has built as an award-winning community orchestra.

Past Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award Winners:

2023 – Heifetz International Music Institute, Staunton, VA

2022 - Earlynn J. Miller, Harrisonburg, VA

2021 - Harrisonburg International Festival, Harrisonburg, VA

2020 - The Shenandoah Valley Choral Society, Harrisonburg, VA

2019 - Staunton-Augusta Art Center, Staunton, VA, and Shenandoah Valley Art Center, Waynesboro, VA
2018 - Pamela McCray, Shenandoah Civic Dance Company and Staunton Academy of Ballet, Staunton, VA

2017 - Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin, Furious Flower Poetry Center, JMU, Harrisonburg, VA

2016 - American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA

2015 - Ken Nafziger, The Bach Festival, Harrisonburg, VA

2014 - OASIS Fine Art & Craft, Harrisonburg, VA

2013 - Stan Swartz - Harrisonburg High School, Harrisonburg, VA

About Forbes Center for the Performing Arts:
The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University is the premier performing arts center for world-class theatre, dance, and music entertainment in the Shenandoah Valley. Audiences of all ages are welcome to enjoy extraordinary performances from internationally recognized artists, renowned JMU faculty members, and emerging young talent from JMU's School of Music and School of Theatre and Dance. Located directly across from Wilson Hall on the west side of South Main Street in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the Forbes Center completes the historic “Quad” on the JMU campus and is comprised of five state-of-the-art performance venues with spaces ranging from 200 to 600 seats.

About the Arts Council of the Valley:
Arts Council of the Valley (ACV) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to cultivating the arts, creating experiences, and connecting communities throughout the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Since it was established in 2000, ACV has grown into a multi-faceted community organization that fosters innovative partnerships among area businesses, civic organizations, schools, and artists. Today, ACV manages Court Square Theater and Smith House Galleries, funds local art projects through its Advancing the Arts grant program (awarding more than $498,300 since 2001), supports public art initiatives, and coordinates monthly First Fridays of the Valley community gatherings.

About James Madison University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts:
The College of Visual and Performing Arts is the center of creativity and arts at James Madison University, housing the School of Art, Design and Art History, School of Music, and School of Theatre and Dance. CVPA focuses on high-level artistic training combined with entrepreneurial action and integration of that practical training with liberal arts studies. The College also houses innovative opportunities through the Office of Creative Propulsion and the Madison Art Collection, and Lisanby Museum. 

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Published: Monday, June 24, 2024

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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