wssso west of scotland schools symphony orchestra

The West of Scotland Schools Symphony Orchestra is directed by James Lowe and was established in 1996 following the break-up of the former Strathclyde Region and the demise of the Strathclyde Schools Symphony Orchestra.

Since then, WSSSO has continued to provide professional training and performance opportunities to talented musicians from schools throughout west and central Scotland.

With many excellent young players in every section, a team of professional tutors and James Lowe at the helm, WSSSO can give its members an unequalled experience, tackling the full range of orchestral repertoire including overtures, concerti, orchestral suites & grand symphonies.

West of Scotland Schools Trust OrchestraProkofiev – Romeo & Juliet Suite No.2
Piazzolla: Concerto For Bandoneon And Orchestra
(Soloist: Valerie Barr)
Brahms – Tragic Overture
Stravinsky – The Firebird Suite (1919)

West of Scotland Schools Trust OrchestraKodaly – Dances Of Galanta
Saint-Saens – ‘Cello Concerto No.1 In A Minor
(Soloist: Laura Williamson)
Aaron Copland – Fanfare For The Common Man
Debusy – Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune
Respighi – Pines Of Rome

West of Scotland Schools Trust OrchestraBerlioz – Roman Carnival Overture
Nielsen – Aladdin Suite
Elgar – Enigma Variations
Cunningham – Cathcart
McGuire – Fiddler’s Farewell

Each year in spring, the symphony orchestra meets for a Taster Day event. This gives members the opportunity to meet and play together and to meet our tutors before the main residential summer course in June. The day ends with a short, informal performance for parents.


The summer course takes place at Gartmore House running from the 1st Sunday in June through to the following Saturday. The course begins with 2 days of sectional rehearsals and continues with 4 days of full orchestra rehearsals in preparation for the June concert performance.

3-wssso-residential-course-string-sectional-rehearsalsAs well as an intense schedule of music rehearsals, social & team building activities also take place during the residential course week and aim to provide plenty of opportunity for members to get to know each other. Our talent show, barbeque and ‘End of Course Ceilidh’ are all highly popular annual events.

On the final morning (Saturday), RCS Junior students are dropped off by coach in time for their 1st class while the remaining orchestra members are dropped at Collins Street, part of the University of Strathclyde campus in Glasgow City Centre.

4-wssso-concert-june-2016At the end of the residential course, orchestra members spend Saturday evening at home before returning the following day for an afternoon rehearsal and evening concert, most often at a large concert venue in Glasgow. The new RSNO Auditorium at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow hosted the 2016 concert and is our chosen venue once again in June 2017.


After the summer break, orchestra members reconvene in August for a full day rehearsal in preparation for 2 events; a daytime concert in one of our 12 partner local authority schools and the annual Showcase Concert in City Halls, Glasgow.

Our annual Showcase Concert is the highlight of the season; an opportunity to celebrate all the hard work that has taken place during the season. This event has become well-known for the exceptionally high level of musical performances that take place each year.

A wide range of additional opportunities arise each year for WSSO ensemble members. Recent additional events for symphony orchestra members include;

WSSSO Leader 2016, Andrew Taheny with the 1st Violin SectionLeader & Concerto Competition:
Each year our most outstanding young musicians are invited to perform at the Leader and Concerto Competition at the City Halls in Glasgow. The winner of the Leader Competition leads the orchestra for the coming season while the concerto winner performs as soloist with the orchestra.

Recent winners include violinist, Andrew Taheny, who led the orchestra during the 2016 season and Laura Williamson (cello) who performed Saint Saens ‘Cello Concerto No.1 in A Minor with the symphony orchestra in 2015.

2016 Concert Tour to Italy:


As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, the symphony orchestra travelled to Tuscany, Italy during July to perform 3 large scale concerts in Pescia, Pistoia Cathedral and Montecatini. Wonderful music, dramatic venues, large & enthusiastic audiences, warm weather, glorious scenery and visits to Lucca, Sienna and Florence all combined to ensure this was a memorable trip for all involved.

Side by Side Events:
rsno-wsssoOur ensemble members are regularly invited to take part in partnership events created to provide young musicians with the experience of performing with the country’s top professional orchestras.

Recent events have included a performance for string players in Kilmarnock’s Grand Hall with the SCO and combining forces with the RSNO for a double-sized orchestral performance of Scheherazade in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.

Members regularly describe these events as ‘inspirational’ and plans are currently being developed to strengthen our relationship with professional orchestras and provide further opportunities for our members in future.

For further details on our annual events, please see our Events Page here

What level do I need to be playing at to be eligible to apply?

The recommended minimum level for application to our senior ensembles is approximately ABRSM Grade 6+ and applicants should be S.2 – S.6.  We understand that some applicants may have yet to sit a graded exam so we always advise that you consult with your instrumental teacher before applying. Applications can be made from August on our website and auditions for senior ensembles take place during November.