The predecessor of what is now the 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. Forty-two years later, the 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.
After Tillotson’s retirement in 2001, Vance Reese was named conductor and the orchestra became Brevard College’s Orchestra-in-Residence. However, the Board of Directors and Dr. Emerson Head joined resources to revive an independent orchestra in 2005, changing its name to the Brevard Philharmonic. Following Dr. Head, Maestro Donald Portnoy led the Brevard Philharmonic for 10 years, transitioning it from a local volunteer ensemble to a regional professional orchestra drawing musicians from upstate South Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and western North Carolina – including many from Transylvania County.
The 2018-2019 season saw the beginning of a new chapter for the Brevard Philharmonic as Maestro James Fellenbaum ascended the podium as our new Artistic Director/Conductor. Jim’s energy and excitement are contagious, and he has been enthusiastically welcomed by audiences and musicians.
The Brevard Philharmonic has the distinction of performing 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.