The History of the Wisconsin Symphonic Winds


Founder & Past Conductor & Artistic Director

Rob McWilliams


Wisconsin Symphonic Winds Artistic Director and Conductor since inception, Dr. Rob McWilliams is an internationally accomplished musician, conductor, and educator born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. A United States resident since 1991, Dr. McWilliams holds a Ph. D. in Music from the University of Minnesota, a Master's degree in Instrumental Conducting from Florida State University, and a Bachelor's degree in Music Education from the University of Melbourne.

As a performing artist on trumpet and keyboard Dr. McWilliams has extensive performing experience with a number of domestic and international symphonic and jazz ensembles. An experienced and popular guest conductor and musician, he has traveled and worked extensively with professional and amateur student and adult groups. He has also served as guest conductor and clinician in all states of Australia and many states in the U.S. where he has worked with ensembles at the national, state, and regional levels. Internationally, Dr. McWilliams has conducted and presented at major music conferences in Japan, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Europe including performances at conferences of the World Association of Symphonic Bands & Ensembles. Dr. McWilliams has also been a regular conductor for the Australian Wind Orchestra from its inception in 1990 and has a recording with this group issued on the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra label. 


Dr. McWilliams has been a keynote presenter at state and national conferences of the Australian Band and Orchestra Directors' Association, the Australian Society of Music Educators and has served as an invited conducting clinician and adjudicator for the Singapore Ministry of Education.  In the United States he has presented at major music conferences and has been published in a number of professional publications including the Journal of Band Research and Teaching Music Through Performance in Band.


Formerly an Associate Professor of Music and Director of Bands and Instrumental Music Education at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Dr. McWilliams conudcted the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band and taught courses in instrumental music education, conducting, and jazz.


The idea to create an adult, professional quality wind ensemble was the outgrowth of a casual conversation during the fall of 2003 between Rand Skelton (retired music educator and active freelance musician) and Rob McWilliams (former Director of Bands at the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh). Without any real thought towards a budget, a rehearsal hall, the availability of the requisite percussion equipment needed, or any one of many additional considerations, musicians were called and the idea for the creation of the Wisconsin Symphonic Winds was pitched. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the WSW was born. With the generous support of the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Department of Music and its chairperson, a rehearsal hall was offered, music selected and the first concert season took place in the summer of 2004. The group has performed concerts every summer since that inaugural season in 2004 including multiple consecutive years as part of the prestigious Green Lake Festival of Music, a collaboration with the Appleton Boy Choir, and an appearance at the WMEA State Conference in Madison. It is a testament to the quality of the musical experience and the commitment of its members that most of the musicians from the inaugural 2004 season continue to play in the group to this day.