The Windham Orchestra was founded by Windham College Music Professor Joseph Schor in 1969 – 1970 as a performing group for Windham College students and community musicians, amateur and professional. The ensemble rehearsed and performed at Windham College’s Fine Arts Center and at Vermont Academy through 1976, specializing in early classical repertory such as Bach, Handel, Mozart and Haydn. In 1975 the orchestra incorporated as a non-profit to “to pursue existence independent of its Windham College origins,” and moved rehearsals and concerts to Brattleboro venues such as Brattleboro Union High School and West Village Meeting House. When Joe Schor left the area to return to NYC in 1976, David Golub became the conductor for a season, inviting his friend Emanuel Ax to perform Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with the orchestra at a memorable concert at BUHS in December, 1976.
Between 1977 -78 the orchestra had several guest conductors, including Nathan Randall, music director of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Jan Swafford, a distinguished musicologist, and Blanche Moyse, violinist /conductor and founder of the Brattleboro Music Center. This is when the orchestra affiliated with the expanding BMC, joining the Blanche Moyse Chorale and Community Chorus under their organizational umbrella. Blanche featured the orchestra in a stirring performance of the Brahms “Requiem” that included singers from 4 different choruses.
In 1980 Joe Schaff, Music Director at Putney School, took over as conductor. He held that post until March, 1984, when Zon Eastes, cello teacher and administrator at BMC stepped onto the podium to take over for an ailing Schaff.
When Zon left the area to work in Washington state in 2006, the orchestra held conductor try-outs for a year, which culminated in appointing David Runnion, once cello soloist with the orchestra, as the new conductor for nearly 3 years.
Hugh Keelan took over the baton in 2010 and introduced the orchestra to staged performances of opera such as “Rigoletto”, “Tosca” and “Turandot” at the Latchis Theater, now the orchestra’s regular home.
On April 3, 2020 the orchestra, governed by a new set of bylaws, once again became an independent organization under the new name Windham Philharmonic.