The Winona Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1908 by the eminent composer Carl Ruggles (right). Later in his career Ruggles was associated with the group of modernist American composers known as “The American Five,” which included Charles Ives and Henry Cowell. The WSO has also championed contemporary composers by presenting premieres of compositions by James Hoch and Dan Maske.
The WSO disbanded during the Great Depression but was revived in 1965 and has performed every season since then. Its concerts are presented on the campus of Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota.
Dr. Donald Lovejoy served as WSO’s Music Director from 2009 – 2018. He was also the founding director of Chamber Music Winona and the Director of Bands and Coordinator of Brass Studies at Winona State University during this time. Dr. Lovejoy brought a valuable level of professionalism to WSO and raised the standard of performance. His choices of repertoire were widely received by the musicians and audiences. WSO’s final concert of the 2017-2018 season marked the organizations 110th anniversary and the retirement of Dr. Lovejoy.
In July 2018 WSO welcomed new Music Director, Erik Rodhe (left). He maintains a diverse career as a conductor, violinist, and educator, and has performed in recitals and festivals across the United States and in Europe and Asia. In addition to his duties with WSO, Rohde is the Director of String Activities and Orchestra at Indiana State University where he conducts the Indiana State University Symphony Orchestra and teaches violin, chamber music, and Suzuki pedagogy. He is also the artistic director of the Salomon Chamber Orchestra, an orchestra dedicated to promoting the works of living composers and of Haydn and his contemporaries.
A committed advocate for contemporary music, he has premiered many new works, and is constantly seeking to discover new compositional voices. At Indiana State University he helps host the annual Contemporary Music Festival – now running for over 50 years. He also performs with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, the Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra, the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra, and is the violinist in the new music duo sonic apricity.
In his native Minnesota, Rohde has served as the Music Director of the Buffalo Community Orchestra, conductor and violinist for the Contemporary Music Workshop, Camarata Suzuki orchestra conductor for the MacPhail Center for Music, String Ensemble conductor at the Trinity School, and first violinist of the Cantiamo and Enkidu String Quartets. He has taught courses at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, conducting for the Campus Orchestras and Opera Theatre, in addition to guest conducting appearances with the Symphony Orchestra. Rohde holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Conducting from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where he studied with conductors Mark Russell Smith, Kathy Saltzman Romey, and Craig Kirchhoff and violin pedagogue Mark Bjork. He also holds degrees in Violin Performance and Biomedical Engineering.