The predecessor of what is now Brevard Philharmonic was founded in 1976 by Jackson Parkhurst. In creating the Brevard Chamber Orchestra, Parkhurst gave outstanding local musicians the opportunity to make music together, at the same time further enhancing the reputation of Brevard as a place known for its music-making. Thirty-eight years later, Brevard Philharmonic has become a vital part of Transylvania County’s musical identity.
When Parkhurst left Brevard to join the North Carolina Symphony in 1980, Virginia Tillotson, Chair of the Music Department at Brevard College, took over the leadership of the orchestra. During her 21-year tenure as conductor, what began as a chamber ensemble playing in various community venues several times a year became a full orchestra presenting an annual series of concerts at Brevard College to a loyal community following.
Upon Tillotson’s retirement in 2001, Vance Reese, Tillotson’s associate conductor, was named Brevard Chamber Orchestra’s principal conductor. In 2003, management of the orchestra was taken over by Brevard College and BCO became its Orchestra-in-Residence. Due to a change in administration at the College and a new set of priorities, the orchestra was disbanded the following year. However, the Brevard Chamber Orchestra Association refused to give up, believing that Brevard’s music-loving public valued its community orchestra and that there was a brighter future ahead. This proved to be true in 2005 when the Board of Directors and Dr. Emerson Head joined resources to revive the orchestra, changing its name to Brevard Philharmonic.
Dr. Head put down his baton in 2007, and since then Maestro Donald Portnoy has been the Artistic Director and Conductor of Brevard Philharmonic. In the last five years the orchestra has flourished and grown, as noted by a Classical Voice of North Carolina reviewer this past season, “ … having Maestro Donald Portnoy shape this orchestra has yielded great results… confident features of a very good orchestra of which the community should be justifiably proud.”
The upcoming Brevard Philharmonic season boasts a roster of world-renowned guest artists performing great works from classical giants, in addition to American composers and songwriters. Brevard Philharmonic has the distinction of performing their five-concert season in Scott Concert Hall of the Porter Center for the Performing Arts at Brevard College, which has earned a reputation as one of the finest performance halls in the South.