Roberts Wesleyan College-Community Orchestra

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Paul Shewan, conductor

For over 30 years, our symphony orchestra has enjoyed a rich collaboration between the Roberts Wesleyan College Department of Music & Performing Arts and highly skilled musicians from surrounding communities. As we engage, educate, and excite students and community members, our orchestra is constantly reaching new levels of musical excellence and programming. That may be the best thing about this ensemble: it never stops growing. Our hope is to foster a love for and appreciation of the symphonic repertoire for performers and audience members alike.

Every year, the RWCCO provides opportunities to see and hear:

  • recognized, professional musicians as featured soloists with the orchestra including David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra; and Allen Vizzutti, trumpet virtuoso
  • student concerto/aria competition winners
  • an educational concert, providing the opportunity for nearly 900 children to experience a live orchestra and learn about its instruments at no cost to our schools
  • a live orchestral experience that's accessible and affordable for Monroe County and beyond

Season Schedule

Sample Recordings of the Ensemble (click links for audio):

Special Guests

Some description

David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, performing with the RWCCO


Ben Heppner, world-renowned tenor, working with students and alumni


Allen Vizzutti, trumpet virtuoso, performing with the RWCCO



Dorothy Bellas

Instrument: Violin

Status: Roberts Alumna
Graduated from Roberts: 2017 (Bachelor of Arts in Music, violin)
Number of Seasons: 4

I love the RWCCO because it’s given me the opportunity to grow as a musician. The music we’ve performed has been just challenging enough to do so. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know different members of the community.

I joined the RWCCO as part of the requirements of being a music major, however, it’s grown into something much more than a degree requirement. I enjoy playing the violin and enjoy working together with other people to create music even more. Because of this, I hope to continue playing with the RWCCO after graduation, as long as I remain in the area.

One of my favorite concerts that we perform is the annual educational concert that we put on for a packed auditorium of third graders. I love seeing how excited and enthusiastic they all are. It reminds me of when I was their age, getting ready to choose which instrument to play. I also enjoy playing in the Christmas Gala, especially because we get to perform with the chorale


David Ciarvella

Instrument: Timpani and Percussion (Principal)

Status: Community Musician (formerly a student musician)
Graduated from RWC: 2000 (Music Education - Percussion)
Number of Seasons: 23 (1989/90 - 1991/92; 1993/94 - 1997/98; 2002/03 - Present) I am also currently in my 13th season as Orchestra Manager.

"I love the RWCCO, because it is simply the finest Community Orchestra around.  I am a big believer in the College-Community Orchestra concept; and because of this, the RWCCO is on another level as compared to that of most other local community orchestras. I have played for a number of the community orchestras in the Greater Rochester area, and have found the RWCCO to be the best in terms of repertoire, musicianship, leadership and organization; however, most of all, it is an inviting and friendly environment in which to make great music with wonderful people. The time that I spend on stage in Hale Auditorium, making music with my colleagues of the RWCCO are the best 2 1/2 hours of my week. The RWCCO is more than just a musical outlet or hobby for me, it is my passion; my life."


Emily Bartz Hutchinson

Instrument: Flute

Status: Community Musician
Graduated from RWC: 2017 (Bachelor of Science in Music Performance, Flute)
Number of Seasons: 2016 - Present

I joined the RWCCO on my first full day at Roberts when I transferred in January 2016. At my first rehearsal with the RWCCO, I could see it was a special ensemble. Many conductors fall into the cycle of lowering the difficulty of their musical selections to their ensemble’s current ability. When unchallenged, an ensemble’s performance level declines in energy, passion, and technical ability. Dr. Shewan has a refreshingly different approach to selecting repertoire. Instead of lowering his standard, he raises ours. He holds us to a level of excellence and pushes our technical limits, so we are constantly growing in artistry. I think that’s the best thing about this orchestra: it never stops growing.

Playing with the RWCCO is also just a lot of fun. I can clearly picture Dr. Shewan jumping off the stage mid-rehearsal and running to the back of the auditorium to listen for balance. As we played, we would periodically see his hand stick up from behind various chairs throughout the hall, still directing us. While rehearsals are focused and challenging, they are also full of inspiration and laughter.

The RWCCO has taught me that great music is not perfect technique. It is story-telling. It’s singing. It’s connecting. It’s joining together with other college and community members and creating something beautiful out of nothing. It was under Dr. Shewan’s instruction that I first began taking my ears off myself and listening to everything happening around me – performing within the context of the bigger picture of every other person on the stage and in the audience. Music is intrinsically communal, brimming with inspiration found in the beauty of everyday life. And, I must say, everyday life at Roberts is beautiful!”


Mona Seghatoleslami

Instrument: Viola

Status: Community Musician
Graduated from Illinois State University & Indiana University: 2003, 2007 (Bachelor of Music, MA in Musicology & Masters of Library Science)
Number of Seasons: 5

Playing in the RWCCO is what really keeps me connected to music – which might sound strange, since so much of my work involves music – choosing and announcing music for the radio, booking bands at The Little Theatre Café, interviewing musicians and arranging other programs…but on Monday nights, even when I am exhausted and punchy, it is so good to actually play music, reconnecting with my love for playing the viola and being part of a group of musicians who work to make something bigger than ourselves. Knowing that rehearsal is coming up each week motivates me to make that extra time in my days to get my viola out of its case and practice on my own; even when it is just a few minutes in the morning before work, I’m always happy that I do.

I love that we take on big, exciting pieces of music – things that push us technically, and more importantly, push us to be better, more expressive musicians who are able to communicate and work together. Dr. Shewan is great at challenging us while being encouraging and having a sense of humor.

And look at all of us – students from all over the world, community members with all different backgrounds and experiences, high schoolers and retirees…all working together because of our love of music and sharing it with the community through our performances, including our annual school concert, where hundreds of elementary school kids learn about all the instruments in the orchestra and get caught up in the excitement of hearing a live orchestra.