The Little Rock Wind Symphony was created in 1993 to recognize the outstanding heritage of the wind band in Arkansas. We are dedicated to the performance of wind band music, including a variety of compositions and transcriptions that inspire our audiences, challenge the players, and preserve the wind band tradition.
LRWS is an important outlet for the wind and percussion musicians in the central Arkansas area. The approximately 48 professional and semi-professional musicians are selected by audition and participate for personal development and enjoyment and as a service to the community.
Six concerts are performed annually in Little Rock, with frequent runouts to other communities. The orchestra has performed statewide, from Texarkana to Cherokee Village, Harrison to Wynne.
“A Cold and Windy Night” was the title given to the first LRWS concert. It was, however, anything but cold at Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, on February 8, 1994, when the Wind Symphony performed its first public concert. The house was packed, hot, and muggy. Regardless of the almost unbearable, record-setting heat, the concert was a sounding and resounding success.
The Wind Symphony thus undertook its role as a major contributor to the growing interest in symphonic band music in Arkansas and in the nation.
The first Board of Directors of Little Rock Wind Symphony, Inc., was a group of wind musicians who were dedicated to assembling a first-rate musical group with a top-notch music director. This was found in the person of Wendell Evanson, former Director of Bands and former Chair of the Music Department at Henderson State University. His great interest in this project was evident from the outset. In the ensuing years, his leadership and outstanding musicianship enabled the group to mature into the excellent ensemble that it is today. Talented symphony members are joined by outstanding soloists to produce performances of superb quality.
LRWS performs masterworks concerts each fall, winter, and spring in addition to its vastly popular Christmas concert in December. All concerts are held at Second Presbyterian Church. Another annual seasonal highlight is the "Stars and Stripes Celebration" in honor of Flag Day, held outdoors in June in historicMacArthur Park.
LRWS has performed in cities throughout Arkansas. Out of town concerts are usually sponsored by arts and education groups. The LRWS is a participant of the Arkansas Arts Council's Arts On Tour program.
LRWS is supported financially by donations received from concert attendees and from individuals' and corporations' concert sponsorships. The musicians donate their time, effort, and talent as a gift to the city and to the audiences who hear them perform.
Wendell O. Evanson was the founding music director of the Little Rock Wind Symphony and served in that capacity until his retirement in July 2005.
Maestro Evanson is Professor of Music Emeritus at Henderson State University where he served as Chairman of the Music Department and Director of Bands until his retirement from that position. Prior to his 30-year tenure at Henderson, Evanson spent eight years in the public schools of Arkansas teaching instrumental music. After retirement, he remained active as an adjudicator and clinician for wind instrumental organizations throughout the United States. His bands performed for regional CBDNA and MENC conventions and toured Japan, Korea, and the Philippines as well as the Panamanian and Caribbean military bases. In 1991, he was awarded the "H" Award for meritorious service to Henderson State University and in 1998 the HSU Board of Trustees voted to name the band rehearsal hall in his honor.
He is a member of the American Bandmasters Association, the Arkansas Bandmasters Association, and the Arkansas Bandmasters Hall of Fame. He holds life memberships in Phi Beta Mu National Bandmasters Fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and the College Band Directors National Association.
Maestro Evanson received Music Degrees from Hendrix College and the University of Michigan. He studied conducting with Dr. William D. Revelli and Dr. James Neilson while at Michigan, and Angelo Brusilov at North Texas University. He performed under the baton of Joseph Blatt, Maynard Kline, and Robert Shaw.
In 2006, Dr. Karen Fannin was appointed as the LRWS's music director, and held the postion until the end of the 2014 season.
During her eight-year tenure with LRWS, Dr. Fannin established the Diversions chamber music concert series and further established the tradition of featuring outstanding soloists with ties to Arkansas. Under her leadership, the orchestra grew and matured musically.
While serving as our music director, Dr. Fannin was also Director of Bands and Assistant Professor of Music at Hendrix College, where she conducted the wind ensemble and taught conducting and low brass. In 2008, she founded the Festival of Winds Honor Band for high school musicians.
Fannin holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting and Literature from the University of Colorado, where she studied with Allan McMurray. She received a Master of Music in Conducting from Northwestern University, where she was a student of Mallory Thompson, and a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Northern Iowa, where she studied euphonium with Jeffrey Funderburk.
Prior to her studies at CU, Dr. Fannin served as Director of Bands at Lockport Township High School in suburban Chicago, where she instituted a composer-in-residence program. A native of Iowa, Dr. Fannin also held the position of Director of Bandsin the Lynnville-Sully Community Schools.