The Huntington Symphony Orchestra is a “child” of the first orchestra organized in West Virginia in the late 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). This orchestra grew and thrived well into the mid-1950s, playing concerts of interest to the community and hosting great artists. Some of the greatest musicians include the New York Philharmonic with Arthur Rubenstein, William Kappell, Jose Iturbi, Risa Stevens, Yehudi Mhenuin, Sergi Rachmaninoff, and Laurence Melchoir- all either playing with the orchestra or performing at the Keith Albee Arts Center in Huntington. At this time, it was said that Huntington was considered 'the major cultural performance stop' between New York and Chicago.
After a 20 year dark period, Dr. Paul W. Whear (an accomplished composer and Chairman of the Marshall University Music Department) envisioned a group of talented musicians providing classical music for the citizens of the tri-state area. In 1970, he gathered a group of 35 plus musicians from Marshall University and the local area that entertained for the love of music. On May 2, 1971 these musicians, with Dr. Whear as conductor, performed the inaugural concert for the dedication of the Grace Rardin Doherty Auditorium at the Huntington Galleries. It was after this concert that he and Dr. Paul Balshaw formalized what became known as the Huntington Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra grew out of a commitment by these musicians to cultivate classical performing arts in the tri-state area. The Huntington Chamber Orchestra Association was originally chartered December 17, 1970 and performances were held at the Huntington Galleries in the Grace Rardin Doherty Auditorium.
In May of 1997 at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Huntington Chamber Orchestra, the members voted to change its name to the Huntington Symphony Orchestra Association. It became official in 2003. To carry on the mission of the symphony’s historical predecessors, the HSOA focuses on three main areas of operation: classical performances, pops performances, and community and educational outreach programs. The HSOA is a professional orchestra composed of an average of 50 musicians who are paid for their time based on union scale. Currently, a twenty-one member volunteer board of trustees guides the symphony.
The HSOA has served the Cabell and Wayne counties of W. Va. and Lawrence county of Ohio through the Education For Future Orchestra Related Tradition (EFFORT) program as a supplement to the schools’ music education programs for the past 30 years. The EFFORT program brings live performances into the schools. Janet Bromley carefully nurtured the school programs over the years and the name was eventually changed to the “Janet E. Bromley Educational Outreach Program".