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Meet the Musicians

C. Scott Smith

Maine native C. Scott Smith is Associate Professor of Horn and Theory at Ohio University’s School of Music. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern Maine, his mater’s degree at Michigan State University and is working toward a doctorate in horn performance at the Hartt School of Music. Prior to locating in Ohio, Smith taught at Susquehanna University, the University of Southern Maine and Bates College.

Smith joined The Ohio Valley Symphony in 1992 and has been principal horn since the 1993 season. In addition to the OVS, he returns frequently to Maine where he is principal horn of the Maine State Ballet Orchestra. Along with teaching, Smith’s other professional work ranges from soloist, to conductor, to chamber musicians, to clinician, to adjudicator. He has performed as a back-up musician to many well-known artists such as Chuck Mangione, Chris Vadala, Doc Severinsen, Rosemary Clooney and Debbie Boone.

C. Scott, as his friends call him, is married to Catherine McCall-Smith who also plays horn. They are the parents of two children: Cauley Noel and Cooper Leigh.

Bernard Di Gregorio

Bernard Di Gregorio has held the position of Principal Viola with the Roanoke Symphony since 1991. He currently resides in Charleston, WV, where he is a member of the West Virginia Symphony, Seneca Chamber Orchestra and The Ohio Valley Symphony (principal viola). Being active as a performer takes himto many different areas such as the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra during the summer months. He has also performed with the Columbus Symphony and has been Assistant Principal viola with the Wintergreen Music Festival.

As an educator, Di Gregorio helped initiate the Ariel After School String Project and has a private studio in Charleston where he instructs students in violin andviola. He serves as a sectional instructor with the West Virginia Youth Symphony and as a chamber music coach. Having studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, Di Gregorio holds a diploma in viola performance from the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass.

Wendell Dobbs

A long-time friend of The Ohio Valley Symphony, principal flutist Wendell Dobbs is one of the OVS originals who performed at the Ariel’s opening on April 1, 1989. Since that time he has performed here many times and has become a familiar face to all. His life as flutist has been diverse and far ranging. A Memphis native, Dobbs graduated magna cum laude from Memphis State University, and at age 19, joined the United States Army Band (Pershings’s Own) in Washington, DC, where he completed masters and doctoral degrees at Catholic completed masters and doctoral degrees at Catholic University. After the Army Band, Dobbs was awarded a scholarship by the French Government to study two years in Paris with Michel Debost and Alain Marion.

Since 1985 Dobbs has been professor of flute at Marshall University. A recent tour as featured soloist with the Varna (Bulgaria) Philharmonic drew enthusiastic notice from critics; “…could not have brought a more incredibly lyrical and expressive flutist than Wendell Dobbs…” His performances have aired on National Public Radio and Public Television and he has premiered many works for flute including: Katherine Hoover’s Dances and Variations for flute and harp on the Terrace Theater Series at the Kennedy Center (1995), James Kessler’s Appalachian Folksong Suite for Flute and Orchestra (1996) and Paul W. Whear’s Celtic Concerto (1999)). Dobbs is featured principal in the television documentary New Music (which has won three national awards) which chronicles the creation and premiere of Hoover’s Dances and Variations. He also performs throughout the region with the Celtic music combo Blackbirds and Thrushes whose second CD appeared in December, 2003. Dobbs was honored as the 2007-08 Marshall University Drinko Fellow.

On October 20, Dobbs and guitarist Leo Welch will appear with the Great Artists Benefit Series in their program titled “With Rocks in Their Shoes.” Welch, formerly professor of guitar at Marshall and currently Assistant Dean of Public Service at Florida State University, is also a familiar face to Gallipolitans. His latest project is the formation of John Marshall’s fife and drum corps at Marshall University. He is currently the musical director of the Timber Flute Festival in Elkins, WV. and directs the Fife and Drum Corps at Marshall University.

Scott Milam

Percussionist Scott Milam is a familiar face to OVS patrons, because he has performed with the orchestra since its inaugural season. His musical studies were begun at an early age with William Wiant, founder of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (now the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra). A graduate of Marshall University, Milam completed his master’s degree in percussion performance at Morehead State University.

In addition to a wide variety of musical venues, such as the Seneca Chamber Orchestra and Stolen Moments Jazz Quartet, Milam has been a contracted member of the West Virginia Symphony for 21 years. As a private instructor, he has worked with students ranging in age from college to pre-school. His wife Danielle is a vocalist, choral conductor and educator and they have a son Colin. There is also a four-legged member of the Milam family: Lady, a Springer Spaniel.

Jim Simonson

An OVS veteran of ten plus years, French horn player Jim Simonson holds a Bachelor’s degree in music education from Eastern Illinois University and a Master’s degree in horn performance from Kansas University. After spending several years freelancing in the Chicago area, where he founded the Chicago Tower Brass Quintet, he joined the U. S. Air Force Band of Flight, stationed in Dayton,where he performed full time for audiences totaling over 100,000 per year in a nine state region. During this time Simonson trained as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, eventually earning his paramedic certification.He left the Air Force to pursue a career in emergency medicine and now serves as a Senior Paramedic for the Dayton Fire Department, supervising the medical incidents throughout the city on a 24-hour shift every third day. He also does EMT training and remains available for emergencies nationwide with a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) through the Department of Homeland Security.

Simonson also serves as Assistant Professor in the Emergency Medical Services department at Sinclair Community College in Dayton where he teaches future paramedics. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his fiancée and, as he says, “simply getting some rest.” His current musical projects include performing with The Ohio Valley Symphony, which he has done regularly since 1993, working on several recording and arranging projects, and serving as a bugler for ceremoniesand funerals.

Ken Johnson

If, as Thoreau has said, some folks step to the music of a different drummer, would that be doubly true of percussionists? Portsmouth, OH native Ken Johnson mightknow the answer to that question…askhim some time. A graduate of Marshall University with a B.S. in music education, Johnson has taught junior high and middle schoolband in Charleston, WV since 1984. He is currently posted at Stonewall Jackson Middle School. Johnson has been named to theWho’s Who Among American Teachers five times. First published in 1990, Who’s Who honors educators who have been nominated by students. Since only about 5 percent of the educators receiving this honor represent the music field, to have been nominated five times is a significant accomplishment.

Johnson has performed with The West Virginia Symphony, The Huntington Symphony, The Huntington Pops Orchestra, The River Cities Orchestra, The Senneca Orchestra, and he is a member of The Ohio Valley Symphony. In addition he has been with the Huntington Outdoor Theatre Pit Band since 1995 and is a member of the Mountain State Brass Band. Johnson is a diverse percussionist experienced with combo, big band, dance band, rock, country and reggae bands.

Lori Akins

Flutist Lori Akins has been a part of The Ohio Valley Symphony for most of the past fifteen years. In addition to the OVS she performs with the Springfield Symphony and is an associate musician with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Akins earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master of Music degree in flute performance from The Ohio State University. She serves on the faculties at Cedarville University, Heidelberg College, and Wittenberg University where she teaches flute and directs flute choirs; in addition, she is a recitalist on the faculty performing artist series at each institution. Prior to these appointments, Akins taught at Capital University and Muskingum College.

In demand as an adjudicator and clinician, Akins also maintains a private flute studio. She is past president of the Central Ohio Flute Association and, for many years, was chairman of their Young Artist Flute Competition. Lori is currently Assistant Secretary/Secretary-Elect of the National Flute Association and previously served as the General Competitions Coordinator. Akins resides in Dublin, OH with husband Jim, tuba player with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and their two daughters, Julianne and Amanda.

Emily Van Niman

Emily Van Niman’s musical career began at age six with piano lessons. By age nine, she had discovered the oboe which she studied first under the tutelage of Nancy King and then William P. Baker, former principal oboist of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra andProfessor at The Ohio State University. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Capital University and her master’s degree at theUniversity of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music.

Following graduation, Van Niman remained in Cincinnati where she gave oboelessons and served as Adjunct Professor of Oboe at Northern Kentucky University. In 2000 she left Cincinnati to go on tour playing oboe and English Horn in the pit orchestra for Big League Theatrical’s musical Peter Pan. Upon completion of the tour, she returned to Cincinnati to continue performing and teaching.

Van Niman’s first appearance with The Ohio Valley Symphony was in the spring of 2001. She currently teaches privately and performs with various other orchestra such as the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra,the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra and most recently with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Karen Elliott

How many can recall exactly what they were doing on April 1, 1989? Karen Elliott can! She was one of those stalwart musicians who participated in the inaugural Ohio Valley Symphony concert…in a cold, damp Ariel Theatre. And she has been here ever since, although the theater has warmed up significantly.

A bassoonist, she earned her Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music degrees from Bowling Green State University. In addition Elliott has published the college text Method Book for Bassoon Techniques Class. Her teaching experience includes serving as adjunct faculty at Bowling Green where she taught music theory and woodwinds in the Creative Arts Program, woodwinds instructor for Blissfield MI schools, and instrumental and choral music teacher for Vinton County schools. Currently she teaches instrumental music in the Jackson City School Elliot is married to Jeff, a pharmacist with Holzer Family Pharmacy and a professional songwriter. He has had 12 songs recorded and released. The Elliotts have a daughter, Susannah. Not surprisingly, Susannah is actively involved in music and currently is studying journalism at Ohio University.

An accomplished musician, Elliott has performed with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Zoo Band, West Virginia Symphony, Northlake Woodwind Quintet, Huntington Chamber Orchestra, Huntington Pops Orchestra, and Ohio Valley Symphony. She says she enjoys being active in church, keeping up with Jeff’s and Susannah’s activities, and learning to play golf.


Bicycling an average of 5,000 miles per year, Matthew Schuler confirms that there is life outside the concert hall. This Centre College adjunct professor serves as principal bassoonist with The Ohio Valley Symphony, as second bassoonist with the Lexington Philharmonic, and has performed with the West Virginia and Columbus Symphony Orchestras. Schuler earned his DMA degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Owner of a massage therapy business specializing in chronic pain treatment, Schuler is also an aspiring world traveler. In what he expects to be the first of many such trips, this year he learned Italian then spent a month traveling in Italy, alone, with no itinerary or reservations. Some people are dreamers…clearly, Schuler is a doer.