Our History

We are proud to be part of a robust, exciting musical history – a history that is one of the oldest in Wisconsin. Starting in 1898, with the first concert of orchestral music, local musicians have come together to perform instrumental music for our community and to raise the level of musicianship in the greater Central Wisconsin region.

In 1895, William Wilke (a local newspaper publisher) brought the virtuosic violinist Jacob Reuter up from Milwaukee to perform in Wausau. Several months later, Reuter decided to relocate to Wausau, to teach music lessons. For the next thirty years, Reuter would be the driving force behind orchestral music in Central Wisconsin; both through his musical instruction and through his organization of orchestral music.

By 1898, there was enough musical talent in the area that Reuter organized the first performance of the Wausau Philharmonic Society. Over the next thirty years or so, there was enough interest and support that Reuter continued to pull together the string players in the community (frequently his own students) to perform a few times a year, eventually under the name the Wausau Symphony Orchestra.

Photo courtesy of the Marathon County Historical Society.

By the end of the 1930s, a new group of people took over the mantle of orchestral music from Jacob Reuter. In 1941, the Wausau Civic Symphony Orchestra was organized. The group was supported by the Wausau community, including the Tuesday Music Club (a group of prominent women of Wausau who had been meeting since 1896 to perform and promote “cultured” music in their community) and the Wausau Vocational School.

By the 1970s, the Symphony expanded to include a wider group of musical groups under the Wausau Symphony League, including Wausau Civic Chorus (led by Sterling Anderson until it disbanded with his retirement in the late 1980s).

Photo courtesy of the Marathon County Historical Society.

In 1979, the orchestra was reorganized to create the Wausau Symphonic Band, as a wind ensemble to give more non-string players the chance to perform.  And in 1985 the Wausau Jazz Ensemble was established.

Today the Wausau Symphony and Band continues to be made up of local musicians who perform quality instrument music in several concerts each year. Daniel Larson has directed the orchestra since 2003 (taking over from Patrick Miles), and Dr. Patrick Lawrence has directed the concert band and jazz ensembles since 2012 (after Ted Aarrestad retired).

History written by Ben Clark.