Roberts Wesleyan College Community Orchestra

Paul Shewan, conductor

For 30 years, our symphony orchestra has been a collaborative effort between the Roberts Music Department and highly skilled musicians from surrounding communities. It has been a pleasure to engage, educate and excite our students and community members. Made up of Roberts students and community members, our hope is to take the orchestra to new levels in an effort to increase the love and appreciation of symphonic music for performers and audience alike.

Growing steadily in musical excellence and programming since 1985, the Roberts Wesleyan College-Community Orchestra is today a truly remarkable symphony orchestra, performing the highest quality orchestral repertoire right here in our community under the baton of Dr. Paul Shewan. Performances in Hale Auditorium on the campus of Roberts Wesleyan College are open to all. Every year, this orchestra blesses us with the opportunity 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
  • the most outstanding student musician winners of the concerto/aria competition
  • an educational concert, providing the opportunity for nearly 900 children to experience a live orchestra and learn about instruments, at no cost to our schools
  • a quality orchestra, composed of members of our local community, which is committed to providing these live, orchestral experiences that are accessible, and affordable, for everyone living in western Monroe County and surrounding area

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

Special Guests with the RWCCO

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!”