History

wcfsymphony was founded in the fall of 1929 by G.T. Bennett, Director of the East Waterloo High School Orchestra; Ralph Pronk, director of the West Waterloo High School Orchestra; Cressy Whalen, then president of the Waterloo Musicians Union; and the late Myron Russell, emeritus head of the School of Music at the University of Northern Iowa. Our first name was ‘Waterloo Symphony Orchestra’.

Since our inception community resources have proven essential in ensuring our success. Our very first sponsors eight decades ago included the University Women’s Club, the Business and Professional Women’s Club, the B Natural Club and the Waterloo Supervisor’s Club, and early supporters included Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Optimist, Y-Men’s Clubs, American Legion and the Chamber of Commerce. The tradition of community giving has continued and grown over the 84 years since, and hundreds of businesses, foundations and individuals have been added to the list of original patrons whose generosity and civic pride have supported this outstanding ensemble in the communities of Waterloo and Cedar Falls.

Our first concert was held at East High School, Thursday, February 6, 1930, with Mr. Bennett as conductor, sharing the honor with Mr. Pronk. This first concert featured two soloists: Mr. William E. Hayes, tenor and Myron Russell, English horn, both from Iowa State Teachers College. Today the orchestra performs at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center and at venues throughout the Cedar Valley under the direction of Jason Weinberger.

We have had sixteen conductors since our founding. G.T. Bennett and Ralph Pronk conducted the first two concerts and Dr. Edward Kurtz, the head of the Orchestra Department at Iowa State Teachers College, was made official conductor in 1931.

  • Edward Kurtz 1931-1935
  • George Dasch 1935-1944
  • Jeanette Sheerer 1944-1947
  • Otto Jelinek 1947-1955
  • Matys Abas 1955-1958
  • Myron Russell 1958-1971
  • Donald Wendt (Acting Music Director) 1971-1972
  • Lathon Jernigan (Resident Conductor) 1972-1974
  • Joseph Giunta (Music Director and Conductor) 1974-1992
  • Elizabeth Schulze (Music Director and Conductor) 1994-1997
  • John LoPiccolo (Music Director and Conductor) 1998-1999
  • Jack Graham (Acting Music Director and Conductor) 1999-2000
  • Richard Rosenberg (Music Director and Conductor) 2000-2001
  • Jason Weinberger (Artistic Director and CEO) 2002-present

Our players include professional musicians from the Cedar Valley and across Eastern and Central Iowa and Southern Minnesota. Our many soloists in the twentieth century included Janos Starker, Gyorgy Sandor, Rafael Druian, Josef Gingold, Victor Borge, Peter Nero and Robert Merrill.  In more recent years The King’s Singers, Isaac Stern, Doc Severinsen, Sharon Isbin, Simon Estes, Yo-Yo Ma, Peter Schickele, Chris Thile and Nadja Salerno-Sonenberg have joined us onstage for unforgettable live performances. We are also uniquely devoted to living American music – nearly a third of our repertoire over the past 10 years has consisted of new or recent music from Iowa and across the country.