1981: The Hills Symphony Orchestra was established by 23 local enthusiasts to cater for music lovers (players and non-players) in the hills and localities on the Eastern side of the City of Perth. Mr Leo Arnold, the Director of Music at Guildford Grammar School at the time, called the inaugural meeting as founder/conductor. The orchestra began under the patronage of Guildford Grammar School headmaster David Lawe Davies.
1982: HSO made its first public appearance at the inauguration ceremony of the Swan View Recreation Centre with an hour-long performance. According to reports in the press and opinions from the public the performance was quite a success and greatly appreciated. By this time, the orchestra had grown to 35 active members.
1982: The Orchestra was incorporated as an Association and several important objectives were defined. 1) To promote and encourage interest in orchestral and concert music, and to study, practise and perform music of all kinds. 2) To foster and establish a Training Orchestra in order to provide younger and less experienced players with ensemble and group practice.
1984: John Winstanley took over as conductor with a view of seeing the orchestra expand and develop on the fine foundation laid by Leo. His wife Margaret Winstanley, a violinist from the WA Symphony Orchestra, became orchestra leader with a mission to bring the strings ‘up to scratch’.
1985: A spring concert at Mt Helena Recreation Centre together with the Eastern Hills Concert Band, and sponsored by Mundaring Rotary Club was a great success. The proceeds enabled HSO to grant music scholarships in the shire and its first music prize to a Guildford Grammar student.
1985: The orchestra was restructured with a change of attitude from amateur to professional. Organisation and discipline were improved and the orchestra began to employ paid conductors.
1986: Concert in Northam jointly conducted by Janelle Dawson and Tom Woods. All proceeds went to the Avon Valley Arts Society. This began a tradition of the orchestra performing occasionally in regional areas.
1988: The Hills Youth Orchestra was founded with initial rehearsals held at Helena College. The group remained active for approximately 5 years.
1992: HSO entered an era of stability when Bill Farrell took the baton. Bill conducted the orchestra for six years and was the first conductor to remain with the group for more than 12 months.
1999: By this stage, HSO’s direction was firmly established as a community orchestra that helped fund-raise for worthwhile local organisations.
2000: The HSO was one of two finalists for the Mundaring Community Event of the Year Award as a result of seven annual concerts to help Mundaring Sharing. At this time the orchestra’s membership had reached 50.
2001: HSO celebrated its 20th anniversary.
2002: HSO was nominated for an Australia Day Award. The orchestra also received an award from the City of Swan in recognition of a concert performed to raise funds for Lifeline.
2004: Shaun Fraser took over as conductor and musical director.
2005: Although almost 25 years had passed since HSO was founded, bringing with it growth and changes, the group’s primary objective had not changed – to promote and encourage interest in orchestral and concert music, and to study, practise and perform music of all kinds. As the training orchestra was no longer active, two new secondary objectives were defined. 2) To enrich the cultural experience of audience and performer. 3) To support, where possible, any approved institution in any manner which will assist music and musicians and the study, performance and appreciation of music.
2007: New sponsorship from the Mundaring Community Bank Branch Bendigo Bank led to the orchestra acquiring a brand new set of stand banners to match the current size of the group.
2010/2011: City of Swan Concert Series. With the generous support of the City of Swan, HSO performed 16 concerts in the Midland area over a two year period. Tickets were sold at a subsidised price of $5 and the aim was to bring classical music to a new, wider audience and add to the cultural growth in the area. The financial support meant that the orchestra developed a new level of self-sufficiency and could continue to present full seasons of independent concerts after the Concert Series had ended.
2011: HSO was awarded its largest ever Lotterywest grant for the purchase of many significant new percussion instruments.
2011: HSO celebrated its 30th anniversary.