FolkLib Index - Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra History

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          This page has important historical information about the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra which has been permanently removed from their Web site.

About Us
Yuliya Smead, Concertmaster - OSO History
Dr. William LaRue Jones, Music Director and Conductor (10/2003 - 5/2008)


Yuliya Smead, Concertmaster
Lives in Larson, WI with her husband, Bob Smead.
[written sometime before July 2006]

Concertmaster: Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra
Assistant Concertmaster: Green Bay Symphony Orchestra
Assistant Concertmaster: Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra
Violin Professor (full-time): Lawrence Academy of Music

Yuliya moved to the United States in 1999 from Ukraine.
Concertmaster: While in Ukraine, State Chamber Orchestra Trembita & Symphony Leopolis.
Two-time winner of the Young Talents State Competition in Ukraine.
2nd place winner of the Guitaralia Chamber Music Competition in Poland.

Yuliya has performed in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany and Poland. She appeared as a soloist with the Lviv Philharmonia Orchestra and Symphony Leopolis in Ukraine and Belgium. Yuliya played first violin of Ensemble of Modern Music Cluster for five years. The ensemble performed throughout Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.

One of Yuliya's biggest passions (other than the violin) is cooking. She is especially fascinated with Japanese and Korean cuisine, and loves sushi. Spicy Salmon hand rolls are her favorite! Yuliya enjoys gardening and hopes to do more of it in the future. She and her husband have a huge menagerie of animals at their country home (3 cats, 1 dog, 2 hawks, 2 turkeys, 7 rabbits, a goose, 5 ducklings, and a lamb (with chickens and guinea fowl arriving soon!). Her favorite among them is her cat, Pushkin, named after Yuliya's favorite Russian poet.


Oshkosh Civic Symphony: 1942-1968 - Discography
Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra: 1968-date - Discography

The History of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra
by Laura Rooney
[written sometime during the tenure of Jun Wang (1997 - 5/2002), and updated sometime before 5/2008]

The genesis of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra began with Harold W. Arentsen, who came to Oshkosh from Minnesota in August of 1941 as Supervisor of Music in the Oshkosh Public Schools. Although Oshkosh for generations had supported choral groups and wind bands, Arentsen firmly believed it necessary to provide an opportunity for string players to perform, and to increase interest in the community for musical arts through the presentation of symphonic music. Given the potential of the community, he felt strongly that "Oshkosh would welcome and support a community orchestra".

The Oshkosh Civic Symphony had 30-40 members; its first public appearance was in a concert with combined area choirs in the spring of 1942. Following rehearsals in the music room of the Beach Building, it opened to 1942-43 season with a schedule of three concerts held in the Recreation building. These were often referred to as "Victory Concerts", under the black cloud of World War II.

With the growth of the orchestra in the seasons that followed, concerts were moved to The Grand Theater, until further growth lead to its present home in the Alberta Kimball Auditorium. Mrs. Gertrude Arentsen was an invaluable help to the orchestra through her work as Concertmaster and with the Oshkosh Women's Symphony Guild.

Maestro Arentsen retired in 1967 after a tenure of 26 years. He continued to serve as Business Manager of the orchestra for the next five years.

In 1968, the baton was passed to Henri B. Pensis, a native of Luxembourg who became a member of the UW Oshkosh music faculty. In that same year, the orchestra became an affiliate of the Oshkosh Recreation Department and also changed its name to the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra. It also held its first advisory board meeting in September of that year. In 1974, the OSO became incorporated as a separate body, but kept its home in the (then titled) Civic Auditorium.

Highlights of Maestro Pensis' tenure include the many world-renowned guest soloists engaged, beginning with Robert Merrill of the Metropolitan Opera. Large symphonic-choral works were performed, among them Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Two commissions by composers Virgil Thomson and Lukas Foss were world-premiered. Recordings were made of these performances which are still aired on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Carol Niendorf, past OSO Manager, recollects a memorable Isaac Stern / Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert in Oshkosh on Friday, March 18, 1983, during the biggest blizzard in years. The violinist Stern and the MSO conductor were late to the concert, but all went well and Isaac played an encore of "Happy Birthday" to his friend, Henri Pensis, honoring their past collaboration with the OSO.

In 1982, the American Symphony Orchestra League ranked the OSO in the top ten orchestras nationally in regard to the acquisition and management of funds. Also during this time, the American Advertising Federation took examples of OSO programs and posters for nationwide exhibition, and for two seasons the OSO won the Addy Award for programs and posters.

During Pensis' time, the orchestra featured area soloists as well as those of world stature, and the orchestra membership grew to over 80 players. Mrs. Patricia Pensis served as Principal Second Violinist of the orchestra. Maestro Pensis resigned in 1996 after a tenure of 28 years.

Jun Wang was the next Music Director of the OSO, and also served on the music faculty of UW Oshkosh. A native of China, Maestro Wang was an enthusiastic and dynamic conductor who brought with him great musical skill and visions for the future of the OSO. Mrs. Yonglin Wang is an accomplished violinist and specializes in native Chinese instruments. Maestro Wang resigned in 2002.

Nicholas Palmer was chosen by the symphony to be Artistic Director during the 2002-03 season, and a nationwide search was instituted for a new conductor and music director.

Dr. William LaRue Jones is the present [was until Spring 2008] Music Director and Conductor of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra. Originally from Texas, Dr. Jones is concurrently Director of Orchestral Studies and Graduate Conducting at the University of Iowa. Susan Sondrol-Jones is an accomplished vocalist and a professor at the University of Iowa.

Special mention must be made of the three major women's groups which over the years have been instrumental in securing funds necessary to support the orchestra. The Oshkosh Women's Symphony Guild was formed in 1962, and was followed by the Oshkosh Symphony Association and the Oshkosh Symphony League. Also, The OSO Board, Managerial staff and (of course) musicians are a critical factor, and the orchestra is grateful to the community which is our audience.

In the writing of this biography, special thanks is given to the late Roger P. Dennis, UW Oshkosh Professor of Music, Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra board member and archivist. Also, thanks is extended to the Oshkosh Public Library and to Carol Niendorf and Henri Pensis for their time.


Dr. William LaRue Jones
Conductor and Music Director (10/2003 - 5/2008)
[written sometime during the 2004-2005 Season]

Dr. William LaRue Jones is one of the most active and versatile symphonic conductors in America today, conducting over 100 concerts annually. Dr. Jones, a Texas native, holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin, University of Iowa and Kansas State University, with additional studies at The Juilliard School of Music and the University of North Texas. He has worked extensively with a wide variety of ensembles including professional, festival, collegiate, and student ensembles throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. His work experiences range from the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minneapolis Pops, to the Penang (Malaysia) Symphony, the Antofagasta (Chile) Symphony and the Symphony Orchestra of Lucerne (Switzerland).

In 1972, Dr. Jones founded the Greater Twin Cities' Youth Symphonies (MN), which he guided to international acclaim during a 25-year tenure. The program became a model for youth symphony structures worldwide, comprised of eight full orchestras involving over 1000 students annually.

For his untiring work on behalf of music and arts education, he has been honored with the David W. Preuss Leadership award, the American String Teachers Associations Exceptional Leadership and Merit Award, the Sigma Alpha Iota Musician of the Year Award, WCCO Radio "Good Neighbor Award" and the State of Minnesota Governors' Proclamation of "Dr. William LaRue Jones Day". He is also listed in International Who's Who in Music (which edition? He is not in 1977(8th), 1980(9th), 1988(11th) or 1996/97(15th), the only editions I own).

In 1997, Jones became Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies at The University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. He holds the titles of Founder and Conductor Laureate of Greater Twin Cities' Youth Symphonies, and Conductor Emeritus of the 3M Symphony. Dr. Jones is also currently a member of the conducting faculty of the International Workshops where he serves as conductor of the International String Orchestra, and is founding Artistic Director of the critically acclaimed Conductors Workshop of America.

In January of 2003, Dr. Jones was named Artistic Director of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Subsequently named Conductor/Music Director of the Oshkosh Symphony, Dr. Jones took the OSO podium on Oct. 11, 2003 in his debut concert with the internationally acclaimed Ahn Trio. The Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra is enjoying its 64th year in the 2004-2005 Season.

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