The Old Post Road Orchestra began in the spring of 1986 from the vision of founder and cellist Malita Brown. While serving as a musical production pianist and vocal coach at Wilbraham-Monson Academy, Ms. Brown became concerned for a number of students who had dropped their musical interests after enrolling in the academy. She decided to start an orchestra for academy students and sought adult players from the community to fill out the ranks.
First rehearsal was April 4, 1986 at Chamberlain Hall and Ray Drury, from East Longmeadow, served as conductor. In July, the orchestra moved rehearsals to the United Church of Wilbraham, then to Wilbraham Middle School, and then on to Stony Hill School in Wilbraham.
After the first concert in November of 1986 at the Monson Town Hall, Paul Coffil, a teacher and saxophonist in Springfield, became the group’s second conductor and directed the second concert program given at Palmer High School in May of 1987. That summer the group’s name officially changed to the Old Post Road Orchestra so to better represent the communities which were supporting the orchestra. Subsequent concert season programs were presented in many local communities, including Ludlow, Monson, Palmer, Wilbraham, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, and West Springfield. Under Mr. Coffil’s direction, the ensemble’s membership grew past 45 and performances greatly improved.
During the 1996-1997 season, the orchestra selected Neal Schermerhorn as its new conductor. With Mr. Schermerhorn’s direction and encouragement the orchestra enjoyed continued growth as an ensemble and organization. Under Mr. Schermerhorn’s leadership, the OPRO began offering an annual family concert geared towards young people. This family-friendly event included activities for children and a musical instrument zoo.
During 2001 OPRO officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, offering free concerts and educational programs.
In 2008, Juli E. Sansoucy was selected as OPRO’s new Music Director. Ms. Sansoucy’s talent, knowledge, and good humor has steadily raised the level of musicianship displayed by the orchestra. OPRO now draws a multi-generational membership of close to 70 musicians.
Today OPRO remains a volunteer community orchestra dedicated to continuing its musical contributions and to enriching the cultural vitality of Western Massachusetts.