Our History-51 Years Young

On May 21, 1968, a group called the Kent County Community Orchestra presented a concert at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware.  This group was organized through the efforts of several local musicians, including violinists Alex Apostolina and Dr. Winfried Mroz, and a local journalist with a strong interest in the arts, Joyce Mullins.  Thomas Flynn, who moved to Pennsylvania that summer, conducted the orchestra's first concert.  That fall the group was renamed the Dover Symphony Orchestra and Ron Shomo, who was band director at Dover High School, became the conductor.  Don Winslow was the first President of the new orchestra, which was incorporated in 1970.

The first Young People's Concert was presented in 1972, the first of many such concerts narrated by Betty May Hamilton, who also served as President from 1972 to 1988.  During this time, the orchestra obtained IRS status as a charitable (501-c-3) corporation.  In 1989, the orchestra members and Board welcomed their new conductor, Donald Buxton, who was chosen after Mr. Shomo's resignation was reluctantly accepted. Maestro Buxton has been our conductor for the past 26 years.  Cynthia Witt succeeded Mrs. Hamilton as President during this time as well. 

The concert season was gradually expanded in the 1990's, with a Fall Classical Concert added in mid-October. A few years later a Pops Concert was incorporated into the local Dover Days festivities.  The Pops Concert has been repeated in Smyrna and Milford in recent years as well.  Robert Moyer succeeded Mrs. Witt as President in 2002.  Maureen McDermott Cannon and Laura Rogers succeeded him, and then, Nancy Pikulik became President in the winter of 2008.        

Concerts were performed in the community auditorium of Central Middle School for many years. We moved to the Schwartz Center when it opened in October 2001.  We were proud to showcase the well-known actress Linda Hamilton as narrator of Copland's Lincoln Portrait for our opening concert that fall, which was the second event held in the refurbished facility.  Over the years, we have hosted many other vocal and instrumental soloists and coordinated with various local musical groups at performances, including bell choirs and choral groups. 

Literally hundreds of local and regional musicians have played with the DSO since its founding.  Today approximately 55 to 70 members participate in one or more of the concerts each season.  Players are drawn from all walks of life, including both professional musicians, music teachers, and those who are dedicated amateur performers. While the majority of players come from the Central Delaware area, a significant number also join us from northern and southern Delaware, Maryland's Eastern Shore, and Pennsylvania.  Ages of our players range from students to senior citizens.

Rehearsals are held weekly from August until the Pops Concert in May, however soloists, groups and ensembles from the DSO are available for performances year around.  Music can be provided for weddings, social events, entertainment at nursing and retirement homes, and wherever else live classical music is welcomed.

The Dover Symphony Orchestra is a non-profit organization and, as such, all contributions to the orchestra are tax-deductible.  Our annual budget is funded through grants from the Delaware Division of the Arts and other community organizations, donations from our patrons and friends, sale of concert tickets, and revenue from performances of our ensembles. Our Bake Sale, held at every concert, has been overwhelmingly successful and provides additional funds that aid in expanding our music library.  Every effort is made to spend our income wisely. We are proud that ticket prices have only been increased a few times during our 40+ year history and that the DSO has always been financially solvent.  As a result of recent budgetary revisions, we are able to admit students to all of our concerts without charge, as long as a paying adult accompanies them.

We hope this introduction to the DSO prompts you to join us at our upcoming concerts.