Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Symphony groups have a long history in the community. From the Wagon Wheel’s founder, Herbert Petrie, holding band camps in Winona Lake in the 1950s to Grace College’s music department, and the Masterworks Festival. Over time, different groups have morphed and transitioned into what became the Symphony of the Lakes in 2005.
Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts acquired Symphony of the Lakes in 2015 and at that time, Thomas Stirling was music director of both the Wagon Wheel and Symphony of the Lakes.
The Symphony performed under Stirling’s direction until his untimely and sudden death on December 23, 2018, at age 45. Jason Thompson, Professor of Music at Indiana Wesleyan University, had been a previous guest director fo the Symphony and was asked to direct several concerts following Stirling’s passing. Thompson was named principal conductor and artistic director of the Symphony of the Lakes in 2021.
The Symphony has come full circle in recent years with the formation of the Classic Arts Coalition, a volunteer committee composed of staff and volunteers from Grace College’s Music Department, Classic Arts Programs, and Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts.