The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Association announced the retirement of long-time conductor of the Youth Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Gary Wilkes, as of May 15. Mr. Wilkes is also retiring from his position as orchestra teacher at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS).
Mr. Wilkes joined the CSOYO in 1993. At that time, the YO consisted of just one orchestra.
Under his direction, the group grew tremendously, and a second full orchestra was added in 1998 under the direction of Ms. Sandy Morris. Two training string orchestras were added in the years following. Today, in large part due to his leadership, the CSOYO consists of four youth orchestras and several chamber ensembles that serve 200 of Chattanooga’s finest young musicians each season.
A native Chattanoogan, Mr. Wilkes is an alumnus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Music Education. After graduation, he attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and was awarded a Master of Music Diploma in Bassoon Performance. There he studied conducting with James Rives-Jones, Associate Conductor with the Dallas Symphony and Colorado Symphony. Over the past 38 years, he has taught bands and orchestras in Texas and Tennessee. He holds membership in the Phi Beta Mu Honorary Band Director’s Fraternity and was recently honored as one of Tennessee’s outstanding teachers by the Board of the Tennessee Governor’s School of the Arts.
In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Mr. Wilkes is the director of Music at First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and is a proud husband, father, and grandfather. He and his wife, Lisa, plan to relocate to the Nashville area this summer.
The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera is proud of its 27-year partnership with Mr. Wilkes and the contributions he has made to the youth orchestra program. In his honor, a new orchestral work was commissioned and will be performed and dedicated at the first CSOYO concert to be presented next season.