Waverly, Iowa has proudly supported a semi-professional symphony orchestra for well over a half-century. Founded in 1952, the Wartburg Community Symphony is comprised of Wartburg College students and community and professional musicians. The Symphony performs orchestral favorites but also presents new and innovative music, garnering recognition for its state, national, and world premieres.

Mozart and Mendelssohn:
A Reformation Celebration
Saturday, Oct. 14, 8 p.m.
Featuring Natasha Korsakova, violin
Celebrate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 (“Reformation”), Mozart’s sublime Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, with Russian violinist Natasha Korsakova, and the world premiere of a new work by WCSO Music Director, Jacob Tews.

Suites for Christmas
Saturday, Dec. 9, 3 p.m.
Enjoy the sounds of the season at our “build-an-orchestra” workshop! First, each section of the orchestra will be featured alone in successive pieces by Gabrieli, Mozart, and Parry. Then, we’ll put the whole group together for a piece by our featured composer, Maurice Ravel, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, and other holiday favorites.

Transformation: Vaughan Williams, Ravel, and Pictures
Sunday, Feb. 11, 3 p.m.
Featuring Jessica Nilles, piano and Erik Rohde, guest conductor/clinician
Alumna Jessica Nilles returns to Wartburg to perform Ravel’s sparkling Piano Concerto in G. The program, conducted by Dr. Erik Rohde, Director of Orchestras at Indiana State University and Music Director of the Salomon Chamber Orchestra, will also include Vaughan Williams’s lush Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus and Ravel’s famous orchestration of Mussorgsky’s colorful Pictures at an Exhibition. This concert will be a side-by-side performance with high school musicians from around the region, as the culmination of our annual Meistersinger Honor Orchestra Festival.

Stars of Wartburg
Saturday, April 14, 7:30 p.m.
Featuring solo and composition competition winners
To complete our exploration of the music of Maurice Ravel, the WCSO will offer his charming Mother Goose Suite, which will be paired with music performed and written by our student concerto/aria and composition competition winners. The concert (and the 2017-18 seasons) concludes with the next step in our multi-year Beethoven Project: the sunny Symphony No. 2 in D Major.


Ticket Office Hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Please call for regular hours.

Adults: $16.50 | K-12 Youth: $6.50
Children under 5: Free | Wartburg ID: Free

$46 Individual Season Tickets
$88 Individual+1 Season Tickets (2 Adult)
$104 Family Season Tickets (2 Adult + 2 Youth)

Postponed/Cancelled Concerts
All concerts are held in Neumann Auditorium on the Wartburg campus. In the event that weather or other situations require a concert to be postponed or cancelled, tickets will be honored at other symphony events. To request a refund, please e-mail wcs@wartburg.edu.


To provide a more professional experience for our patrons, we are now using the Wartburg Ticket Office to process concert tickets including individual and family season tickets. Association memberships now begin at $150 and are available at the door or can be purchased in advance by completing and mailing the membership form (PDF).

Your season membership helps the symphony:

  • Offer innovative programs
  • Feature outstanding soloists
  • Enrich the cultural life of Waverly and the Cedar Valley

Membership Levels

  • GOLD BATON $1,000-$5,000
  • MAESTRO $500-$999
  • VIRTUOSO $250-$499
  • PRODIGY $150-$249 

Association members at the Prodigy level and above will receive a complimentary family season package of up to two adult and two youth tickets for each concert. Members will be given priority reserved seats and tax-deductible gift credit (minus the cost of the tickets).

Please make checks payable to the Wartburg Community Symphony Association. To be listed in the first program, your membership must be received by September 15.

Please mail the membership form to: Wartburg Community Symphony | P.O. Box 3 | Waverly, IA 50677


Wartburg students have the opportunity to play alongside professional musicians to create truly magical musical moments.



The Wartburg Community Symphony Association invites community members to donate musical instruments to the association’s petting zoo.

An instrument petting zoo is an opportunity for people of all ages to experience the feel and sound of musical instruments. Included are stringed, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments.

The association has sponsored instrument petting zoos at Waverly’s Art Fair the past three years and the Waverly Public Library and has served as cosponsor of instrument petting zoos at the College Hill Arts Festival, Cedar Falls.

These zoos have borrowed instruments from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony. Because of the popularity of instrument petting zoos in Waverly, the Wartburg Community Symphony Association would like to obtain its own collection of instruments for the public to try.

Persons wishing more information or who are willing to donate a musical instrument should email Jon Tehven, symphony association president, or phone Elaine Main, 319-352-1629.


The passion that marks the Wartburg Community Symphony flows from its conductors. Those eight talented musicians have molded a music organization whose future is bright.

The Wartburg Community Symphony began, because a new Wartburg professor, 38-year-old Ernest Hagen, wanted a symphony to conduct. Passionately. After all, he had studied conducting in Berlin under the conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He directed a 60-man army chorus and played in the army band, whose performances were recorded and broadcast. His Sumner (Iowa) High School vocal and instrumental groups earned first division ratings at state contests.

Hagen conducting Symphony

In the Fall of 1952, having completed a master’s degree at the University  of Iowa, Hagen joined the Wartburg College faculty and brought his young family to Waverly. Soon after he arrived, the “finest thing that has ever happened to Wartburg’s music department” was announced—accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Music. However, there was no orchestra.

So Hagen began recruiting players. “He recruited tirelessly,” said Carla Larson, long-time symphony supporter and wife of tenor Dr. C. Robert Larson, who joined the faculty the same year as Hagen. “He fervently visited area towns and communities and got together quite a respectable group.”

The symphony appeared first as a chamber orchestra in the 1952 Christmas at Wartburg performance. Accepted into the American Symphony Orchestra League, the orchestra played its first concert in Knights Gym Sunday evening, May 24, 1953. Musicians—16 college students and 38 community members—wore “a glittering array of formals and tuxedos.” They came from Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and 14 Iowa communities to play a program that included Bach, Grieg, and Schubert. The Waverly Chamber of Commerce presented a certificate of merit to the orchestra during intermission, and more than 500 people applauded enthusiastically.

Hagen moved on in 1959, becoming director of the Casper (Wyoming) Civic Symphony, organizing the Casper Youth Symphony and founding the Jackson Hole Fine Arts Festival (now the Grand Teton Music Festival) and several festival orchestras. Tragedy struck in 1973. Hagen lost his eyesight as he was composing an opera based on the novel “Giants in the Earth.” With the aid of special magnification devices, Hagen orchestrated the opera, which has been performed in concert version but awaits a fully-staged performance. Hagen died in 2000.


Seven passionate conductors followed Hagen.

Dr. Robert E. Lee (1959-64) smiled when he recalled taking the podium for the first time. The program was ambitious, perhaps too ambitious, with a Beethoven concerto, a Shostakovich prelude, and a Bizet symphony. Lee didn’t know it was one of the first complete symphonies the orchestra had performed. During the second movement, he called out rehearsal letters to get everyone on the same page.

“…I didn’t know the orchestral repertoire that well,” said Lee, whose background was band. “We made it through that first concert and continued to build the orchestra and play some nice things.”

Before Lee left the podium, he arranged for Hagen to return to conduct a tenth anniversary concert of Grieg, Haydn, Mozart, and Vivaldi, on February 2, 1964.

Dr. Franklin Williams (1965-79, 82-84) faced conducting challenges with insight.

“My first shock was that we barely had enough strings to make a quartet at rehearsal. But musicians would come from all over to play on Sunday, so we’d have a rehearsal before we played the concert. I always said it was coronary time for me.”

His first concert featured Rossini; the second, Shostakovich in a strenuous, sometimes raucous piece.

“I kinda’ went off the deep end. With small strings you can’t do the large romantic pieces because you can’t balance the winds and strings. I love Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach, but I wanted to do something different.”

Lathon Jernigan (1979-82, 85-87) drove from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls to conduct the orchestra. He led the musicians through challenging and rare pieces, including Bach’s “Concerto for Four Harpsichords.”

“It was tricky finding four harpsichordists,” Jernigan said, “but we had two from Wartburg and two from the University of Northern Iowa. The community really seemed to appreciate those programs.”

Dr. Janice Wade (1987-2011) founded and conducted the Des Moines Community Orchestra and served as concertmaster of the Bijou Players, a silent-film touring group before arriving in Waverly. She created memorable Wartburg Community Symphony concerts using the silent film of “Phantom of the Opera” and films starring Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino. Another concert performed Holst’s “The Planets” to a 3D video of NASA planet photos. Using professional and semiprofessional musicians, Wade strengthened the quality of the Wartburg Community Symphony and arranged two cruise bookings.

John Bentley (1964-65) and Walter Temme (1984-85) each served one year as conductor.

Dr. Daniel Kaplunas (2011-2015) formed the Wartburg Chamber Orchestra as an avenue for students and community members to perform and grow, then become members of the Wartburg Community Symphony. He inspires students as musicians and composers. Audience numbers are increasing as Kaplunas draws local artists and music groups into concert programs. At his strong suggestion, the board established a Wartburg Community Association Endowment Fund to ensure the symphony’s future.


The Wartburg Community Symphony Association’s mission has always been to provide symphonic music to the greater Waverly community and professional experience for music students. Association membership is open to all dues-paying individuals. The association’s board of directors consists of college and community members. Although the conductor/music director is responsible for musicians and music goals, directors are involved in things such as budget, development, event management, fundraising, membership, and publicity. This governance structure distinguishes the Wartburg Community Symphony from the college’s other music organizations.


Jacob Tews

Director-in-Residence of Orchestras and Strings