The smell of rosin in the air, musicians tuning their instruments, the "tap, tap, tap" of the baton.
Then in unison, the first note.
- July 1977
The driving force behind the creation of the Symphony was Mrs. Pinkie Ware, a Toccoa resident and music teacher. Mrs. Ware grew up in the local orphanage run by her parents. Throughout her life she was dedicated to the community and was extremely passionate about music. She was the State President of the Music Educators Association, the first Music Supervisior of the Stephens County School District and was active with many local choirs.
Mrs. Ware reveled in playing the violin and the viola, yet she found that local outlets where she could perform in front of an audience were limited. Moreover, she felt strongly that sympohonic music would be a wonderful cultural offering for the community. So she embarked on a mission to gather musicians to join her orchestra, Evidently she was very convincing (some would say relentless) in her pursuit of musical talent and would not take "no" for an answer.
Through sheer determination and "guts" her vision became a reality and a small orchestra was formed, setting the stage for the full 50-plus member orchestra that we enjoy today.
Mrs. Ware was close to 100 years old when she passed, leaving an extrodinary musical legacy for today and future generations.
OUR CONDUCTOR - PRESENT
Dr. Benji Stegner joins the TSO as Conductor beginning with 2022-2023 concert season.
Dr. Benji Stegner is organist/choir director at First Presbyterian Church, Gainesville, GA, where he also helps coordinate the church’s Fine Arts Series. A native of Toccoa, Georgia, he has served congregations around the country including St. Alban’s Episcopal Church (Waco, TX), All Souls’ Episcopal Church (Oklahoma City, OK), First United Methodist Church (Toccoa, GA) and First Baptist Church (Toccoa, GA).
From 2015-2017, he held a position as Instructor of Music at Piedmont College, where, in addition to teaching, he worked as a collaborative pianist and organist. While at Piedmont, he collaborated regularly with the theatre department, composing original music for Gathering Blue and Hush: An Interview with America and musically directing Hair, Chicago, Merrily We Roll Along, and 9 to 5: the Musical.
Dr. Stegner holds degrees from Baylor University (D.M.A. in church music), Oklahoma City University (M.M. in conducting), and Piedmont College (B.A. in music). His research interests focus on 20th-century American composers of church music. In 2019, he presented research on Calvin Hampton’s hymn tunes as part of the Syracuse Legacies Conference at Syracuse University. His article entitled “For He Is Our Childhood’s Pattern: Nine Lessons and Carols as an Intergenerational Model” was published in the Choral Journal (December 2019). Outside of music,
Benji enjoys baking, going to the movies, and spending time with his dog Piper.
OUR CONDUCTORS - PAST
Wm. David Stufft was the Conductor of the Symphony since 2001. He is also the former Chair of the Music Department at Toccoa Falls College. He initially joined the Symphony as a trumpet player and later led the percussion section before becoming the Conductor. The TSO thanks him for his 29 years of service as a musician and Conductor.
Archie Sharretts was the first Conductor of the Orchestra. At that time, he was also the Band Director of Stephens County High School. The Orchestra continued to grow during his tenure of close to 25 years.