The Tuscarawas Philharmonic

A History From 1935 to Present

1935

At 7:30 on Monday nights, musicians from 12 to 70 headed for the weekly rehearsal of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic Orchestra. Coming from all over the county, they were attracted by the young conductor and violinist, Gilbert Roehm, graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory. Roehm, had visited a friend in Tuscarawas County and feeling that the musical talent of the area was not being fully developed, decided to stay. By organizing small orchestras in several towns, he was able to create a full symphony, drawing from high school students, clerks and secretaries, beauticians and school teachers, music teachers and a few professional musicians who had turned to other occupations.

From 1935 - 40, the orchestra gave benefit concerts for civic groups and women's clubs. Members helped build a library of music scores by contributing 10 cents a week! Coming to the attention of civic leaders in Dover and New Philadelphia, and with the help of friends, they formed the Philharmonic Society of Tuscarawas County.

1940

As the orchestra grew to seventy members, concerts were increased to six a year. Community funds of Dover, New Philadelphia, Uhrichsville and Dennison helped support the group.

Summer Camp

Through the efforts of Bryce Browning, the Society was able to acquire an abandoned N.Y.A. camp at Leesville Lake and start the first summer camp for orchestras in Ohio. Called Camp Muskingum, music‑ oriented campers were able to gain wider experience, camping and music skills for a fee of $15.00 per week. Over 200 were registered each summer and orchestra rehearsals were held each morning and evening under the direction of Roehm. Sight reading, interpretation and technical skills were given special attention by James Baker, teacher in the choral section. Arts and crafts were supervised by Vernon Beddoes and various stage crafts were taught by Betty McCreary in the drama group. The camp continued until 1965. Click here for more information about the Summer Camp.

The Ohio Story

Beginning in 1947 Frank Siedel, with the sponsorship of Ohio Bell Telephone Company, produced a radio series called "The Ohio Story." The program, which was broadcast from Cleveland 3 times a week, aired for about 20 years on stations throughout Ohio. In 1947 the broadcast crew came to record the Tuscarawas Philharmonic in the Dover H.S. (Band) Rehearsal Room. (In those days, the orchestra was known as the Tuscarawas County Philharmonic.)

Gilbert Roehm, who founded the orchestra and conducted it for 27 seasons, was interveiwed as part of the broadcast. The program that was recorded in 1947 was preserved on a 78 rpm record. Recently Kurt Roehm, son of Giblert Reohm, sent us excerpts from that program. Kurt stated that he transferred the program from 78 rpm record many years ago and has since upgraded to tape, cassette, and CD. His biggest problem was not having an old record player, and not being able to add enough weight to the needle (stylus) of the player arm to keep it from bouncing off the record. He, like us, found the commercials to be entertaining.

Listen to excerpts from Offenbach's La Belle Helene, Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, and Bizet's Carmen which made the final cut. The interview and Thais excerpt were done live at the time of the broadcast

1950

A new organization, to be known as the Women's Committee of the Tuscarawas County Philharmonic, Society, was created by the Board of Directors in 1950. Mrs. John Ross of Newcomerstown was appointed president. Under the aegis of the Women's Committee, special children's concerts, receptions for guest artists, arrangements for the annual summer camp, ticket sales, stage decorations, a program of music appreciation for county schools and the celebration of the orchestra's 15th Anniversary were organized.

1960

With the resignation of Roehm in 1964, the Society selected Eugene Kilinsky of Cleveland Heights as the new Conductor and Musical Director of the Orchestra. For four years he commuted between his duties as Professor of Music Education at Western Reserve University and the Philharmonic, combining the talents of a performing musician and conductor.

In 1968, Robert Cronquist, Music Director/Conductor of the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra, took the leadership of the Orchestra and commuted for seven years, combining his work here with that of the Lakeside Symphony and teaching at a branch college in Mansfield. Under his baton, ballet and opera-in-concert were added.

1975

Margery Kent Henke, graduate of the Peabody Institute Conservatory of Music and a pioneer in her career, assumed the leadership of the orchestra. Her credits included conducting the Akron Symphony, Canton Symphony, Canton Ballet, Akron Youth Orchestra and Director of the Suzuki Association of the Canton String Program. As Music Director and Conductor of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic, she guided the Philharmonic to an extended season, a regular “Pops” concert, quality guests artists and added both adult and children's choruses. During her leadership the orchestra became incorporated April 28, 1977. Grants were applied for and received to bring orchestra appreciation into the elementary schools and to purchase new seats for the orchestra, also to be used by the Dover High School Orchestra. Introducing more challenging repertoire for the pleasure of both musicians and audiences, the orchestra celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1985. Henke led the orchestra until her death in 1996.

1997 to Present

During Henke’s illness, Eric Benjamin stepped in at the request of the Board to serve as guest conductor, completing the 61st Season, following the program Henke had begun. Benjamin was named Music Director/ Conductor of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic in August, 1997, beginning the 62nd consecutive season of the orchestra.