News & Events

Western Piedmont Symphony Kicks Off 52nd Season


Fifty-two. It’s the number of white keys on a concert piano. The number of sacred books Johann Sebastian Bach kept in his personal library alongside his collection of musical instruments. It’s also the number of the opus regarded worldwide as Franz Shubert’s most popular piece. (We’ve come to know Op. 52 No. 6 as the “Ave Maria.”)

These days, the number 52 is music to the ears of classical music lovers throughout Western North Carolina as they celebrate the 52nd season of their beloved Western Piedmont Symphony. There’s so much to celebrate about this hidden gem located in Historic Downtown Hickory NC. It’s the only professional orchestra in a 10-county region, and it’s just a short drive away for residents of The Coves Mountain River Club and all our neighbors in the beautiful foothills NC, one of the best places to find Carolina mountain property.

Together with its in-house youth symphony and resident string quartet (the only one of its kind in the state), the Western Piedmont Symphony offers a combined 70 performances annually to nearly 40,000 concert-goers of all ages. Under the direction of Maestro John Gordon Ross, the Western Piedmont Symphony produces an outstanding series of quality music performances year after year.

The WPS season consists of five Masterworks concerts, four Chamber Classic concerts, two Youth Symphony performances, and one Pops Concert. In addition, WPS offers a variety of outdoor concerts for audiences of all ages – from preschoolers to senior citizens – designed to create a lifelong love and appreciation for classical music. As one of Hickory NC’s finest cultural arts institutions, this esteemed nonprofit has a mission “to provide musical performances of distinction” and “to nourish new audiences.”

To stay true to their mission, WPS offers a variety of programs specifically designed to enrich, enlighten, and entertain classical music lovers and to cultivate new fans of the classics:

Rug Concerts introduce preschoolers to classical music at an early age.
In-School Education Programs present concerts to all public school students in Greater Hickory Metro Area’s six school districts along with a music curriculum (developed by Maestro John) every year for music education teachers.
Youth Symphony introduces young musicians to the full orchestra experience by allowing them to learn, practice, and perform with fellow youth musicians under the tutelage of a professional music conductor/instructor.
Silver Serenades treats seniors living in local assisted-living, retirement, and nursing facilities to age-specific concerts performed by the WPS resident quartet.
Family Concerts encourage families to share an enriching experience that develops an appreciation for classical music and encourages lasting family memories and traditions.

The Western Piedmont orchestra is a cultural arts nonprofit focused on enriching the community, not only through education and outreach, but also through excellence in music performance. The WPS Orchestra is an extraordinary group of musicians, having twice been awarded the American Prize in the Professional Orchestra division (2013, 2015). And they’re committed to making classical music accessible to all.

So if you’re looking for culturally stimulating things to do in Hickory NC, and if you’ve been promising to introduce your loved ones, young and old, to an enriching classical music experience, the Western Piedmont Symphony is a great place to start.

Western Piedmont Symphony’s 52nd anniversary season runs from September 2016 through May 2017. The theme of this year’s series is “Classical Constellations” and promises to include many of your classical favorites in addition to a world premiere called “In Pursuit – A Concerto for Level Harp and Orchestra.” This original composition brings together the talents of world-renowned harpist Maeve Gilchrist with North Carolina’s own Luke Benton, resident composer and violinist with the Western Piedmont Symphony.

Take it from Maestro John Gordon Ross – this Classical Constellation season of beautiful music in the Blue Ridge will have the stars aligning as the WPS brings together dozens of award-winning professional musicians from every corner of the state to “honor the traditional and not so traditional” with a variety of exciting options from each of Western Piedmont Symphony’s four programs:


This season’s WPS Masterworks Series include tributes to the music and visual arts of the past through the 20th century and features the works of Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, and more. Masterworks I, IIII, IV, and V will take place at the newly renovated P.E. Monroe Auditorium at Lenoir Rhyne University in Hickory. Masterworks II will be held at the more intimate Drendel Auditorium on the SALT Block.

Masterworks I: HOMAGE
Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 7:30PM
P.E. Monroe Auditorium at LRU

Featuring guest artist Solomon Eichner on piano and conducted by Maestro John Gordon Ross:

• Trittico Botticelliano (Respighi)
• Le Tombeau de Couperin (Ravel)
• Piano Concerto #3 in D minor, Op. 30 (Rachmaninoff)

Saturday, November 5, 2016 at 7:30PM
Drendel Auditorium | SALT Block
Featuring the award-winning Piedmont Orchestra with music directed/conducted by John Gordon Ross:
• “Flight of the Bumble-Bee” from Tsar Saltan (Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov)
• Symphony #82 in C Major (L’ours, The Bear) (Franz Josef Haydn)
• “Bluebird Pas De Deux” from The Sleeping Beauty (Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky)
• Peter and the Wolf (Serge Prokofiev)

Saturday, February 4, 2017 at 7:30PM
P.E. Monroe Auditorium at LRU

Featuring guest artist Marjorie Bagley on violin:
• Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43a (Ludwig van Beethoven)
• Symphony #4 in B-flat Major, Op. 60 (Ludwig van Beethoven)
• Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 (Ludwig van Beethoven)

Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 7:30PM
P.E. Monroe Auditorium at LRU

Featuring world-renowned harpist/composer Maeve Gilchrist and composer/violinist Luke Benton:
• Tam O’Shanter Overture, Op. 51 (Malcolm Arnold)
• In Pursuit Concerto for Lever Harp and Orchestra (Gilchrist/Benton) **WORLD PREMIERE**
• Symphony #3 in A minor, Op. 56 (Scottish) (Mendelssohn/Bartholdy)

Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 7:30PM
P.E. Monroe Auditorium at LRU

Featuring Baron Fenwick on piano:
• As Waters Cover the Earth: A Tribute to Mozart (Warshauer)
• Piano Concerto #5 in E-flat Major, Op. 78 (Beethoven)
• Symphony #5 in E minor, Op. 64 (Tchaikovsky)


This season’s Chamber Classics series welcomes back the Hickory Metro String Quartet, Tesla, for all four concerts. Performances are held on Saturday evenings at 7:30PM in the Drendel Auditorium.

On Fridays prior to each performance date, the Chamber Classics series presents “Soup, Salad & Strings.” Music is performed by Tesla with lunch catered by a popular local restaurant and served in a casual bistro setting. Ticket prices include the performance, plus lunch with complimentary wine or beer and dessert. Doors and beverage bar open at 11:30AM, and music begins at 12:00 noon in the Keiser Community Room of the West Wing on the SALT Block.

Chamber Classics I
Saturday, September 17, 2016 7:30PM

Soup, Salad & Strings
Friday, September 16, 2016, 12:00 Noon

Chamber Classics II
Saturday, January 21, 2017, 7:30PM

Soup, Salad & Strings
Friday, January 20, 2017, 12:00 Noon

Chamber Classics III
Saturday, March 4, 2017, 7:30PM

Soup, Salad & Strings
Friday, March 3, 2017, 12:00 Noon
Friday, March 17, 2017, 12:00 Noon

Chamber Classics IV
Saturday, April 8, 2017, 7:30PM

Soup, Salad & Strings
Friday, April 7, 2017, 12:00 Noon


The WPS Youth Symphony performs two concerts annually. The first concert of the season is the Fall Concert conducted by Maestro Joby Brunjes. It takes place Monday, November 21, 2016 at 7:00PM, in Drendel Auditorium at the SALT Block and features seasonal favorites by this talented group of young musicians.


Everyone loves a holiday concert. This season WPS is presenting “The Nutcracker Ball” as this year’s Pops Concert. It features the Hickory Jazz Orchestra playing the music of Duke Ellington. The Nutcracker Ball will be held at the J.E. Broyhill Center on Saturday, November 19, 2016. Mark your calendars now and add this to your list of holiday things to do in Hickory NC!

And while you’re at it, be sure to schedule a visit to The Coves Mountain River Club. Located in Lenoir NC, just a quick drive from Downtown Hickory, it’s one of Western North Carolina’s most popular communities of NC mountain homes. At The Coves, you’re treated to five miles of pristine river footage, spectacular scenic mountain views, and the glorious sounds of nature. Living here is music to your eyes and ears, an experience to be enjoyed 52 weeks a year!

The Coves is the first place people turn when they start exploring Carolina mountain property for retirement living. Its close proximity to Hickory and other quaint towns in the foothills NC is just one of the many reasons to explore this scenic-rich, amenity-packed community. Come visit The Coves to take a tour of our custom-built homes and say hello to the neighbors relaxing at Pisgah Mountain Lodge as they enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of the Beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and talk about the events of their day – working out at the state-of-the-art fitness center, fishing along the Johns River, bringing in their harvest from the community garden, or enjoying an afternoon of Soup, Salad & Strings in nearby Hickory.

Call The Coves Welcome Center at 828.754.0700 to schedule your visit.

And be sure to tell us you’re interested in attending a Western Piedmont Symphony performance and other fun things to do in Hickory NC. We’ll be happy to help you coordinate your visit so you can sample the best of Lenoir, Hickory, and all the hidden gems in the foothills NC.

If you’re exploring the area for the first time, ask for your complimentary Western North Carolina Visitor’s Guide. It’s packed 84 pages of information about living in the foothills of North Carolina.

Exploring the area for the first time?

Let us know & ask for our 70 page Complimentary Magazine.

The Coves Mountain River Club magazine