Leading the Windsor Symphony Orchestra

Story by Matthew St. Amand 
Photography by John Liviero

The best works of art are those that come full circle. The communications and fund-raising career of Patti Lauzon came full circle when she accepted the role as new Executive Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO). 

“My first public relations job after graduating college was working here, during the 1992/93 WSO season,” Patti says. “I started as a marketing intern. I was here for a couple of years and then went off and had a wonderful career—which has led me back where I started. I see it as, everything I have done leading up to this point has prepared me for this role.” 

And Patti has accomplished quite a lot during the intervening time. 

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done in the community,” she says. “When I left the WSO, I focused on the not-for-profit realm, working as the marketing manager for the Teen Health Center for five years. Then I moved on to the Canadian Mental Health Association where I was a director, working in communications and fund raising, covering not only Windsor-Essex but Sarnia-Lambton, as well.”

Patti Lauzon, the new Executive Director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.

After approximately eight years in that role, Patti moved on to the University of Windsor as the Director of the Alumni Office, a position she remained in for ten years.

“The alumni work focused on community outreach and communications,” Patti recalls. “We had a very active board. I’m really proud of the community aspect of the outreach that we did.” 

After thirty years away from the WSO, how does Patti think it’s change during that time?

“I remember the education concerts,” she says. “That’s one way the orchestra has grown. Its outreach and public interaction is flourishing. You know, when you see kids in the schools watching a performance and getting excited by the symphony, or going to the long-term care retirement homes and seeing our older population and how music can spark so many memories for them. It’s challenging, absolutely. The sheer need for funds to keep the organization alive is tremendous, but the end product is powerful.” 

During 2023, the WSO performed for over 9,100 students and plans to do the same in 2024.

For as transforming as the WSO’s performances are for music lovers, the brass tacks of this world assert themselves—like a great many things in human life, art requires funding. Fundraising is no easy thing but is vital. It’s the heart pumping the blood keeping crucial programs and institutions alive.

“It is so important,” Patti explains. “You can’t have an active, flourishing organization like the WSO without the support of donors and patrons, sponsors, corporate and individuals. All of these people are important to maintaining the organization. I’m only in week two of this new role, but I have met some of our key donors and look forward to building those relationships.” 

She continues: “The motivation for me—making this move, being fortunate to be offered this role—it’s all about building and maintaining this valuable organization that benefits the community where I live and raise my family. Like so many people, I cannot imagine Windsor without the WSO.”

Just as the symphony orchestra is comprised of numerous moving parts, disparate instruments—the piccolo, the kettle drum, the oboe, the violin—coming together under the direction of a guiding force to produce transcendent music, the mechanism behind the scenes, keeping everything running, is just as complex. Indeed, in March of next year the WSO will have over 150 musicians and chorus on stage for the performance of Brahms’ German Requiem. 

So too is the organization behind the scenes working together, harnessing different skillsets, to keep the lifeblood pumping. To everyone involved, it’s more than a job.

“Everybody has something that ignites them,” Patti says. “I can’t imagine someone coming to a live WSO performance and not feeling excited and overjoyed by it. That was the motivation for me to make this move.”

She says: “I’m not a physical marathon runner, but in some of my jobs, it’s equivalent to the work of training and running the marathon, feeling very accomplished when you hit those goals. Many of us in communications and fundraising are the kinds of people who enjoy that challenge, and are satisfied with it.” 

Patti Lauzon with Board President Deborah Severs, and Retiring Executive Director Sheila Wisdom. Photo courtesy of WSO.

Regarding Patti coming on board at the WSO, Deborah Severs, President, Windsor Symphony Society Board of Directors and chair of the Recruit Committee says: “We look forward to building on the success under Sheila Wisdom’s time as Executive Director as we embark on a new chapter in our orchestra’s history under Patti’s stewardship.” 

Patti is quick to note that she has big shoes to fill.

“Sheila Wisdom—honestly—has been so gracious,” Patti says. “She has been here the first few weeks with me, so we’ve had a very good transition.” 

“I feel very good joining an organization that has such an amazing group!” Patti says. “Our talented musicians and amazing administrative staff. This team works hard to make sure we all know about the symphony and that patrons enjoy the best experience. Then we have a Music Director like Robert Franz. He is an amazing leader. The board, too, has been so welcoming and open with their time, answering my many questions. I couldn’t ask for a more accepting, open environment!” 

What makes Patti such a great fit in her knew role is that she is, foremost, a fan of the WSO.

“The nice thing, I started last week and on the weekend, we had Messiah,” she says. “For me, it’s a great opportunity to meet audience members, donors, and to see the orchestra. It reminded me of the work we do every day resulting in this wonderful experience.”

The month of December finished up with Holiday Pops. January ushered in the second half of the 2023/24 season with the Earthbeat concert which featured WSO’s principal second violinist, Émilie Paré, performing a violin solo. Composer Robert Rival appeared for the performance of his piece called Symphony No. 2 “Water”. On February 10/11, there is a Pops concert featuring a night of tango music and two world champion tango dancers live on stage with the orchestra. April 20/21, the WSO celebrates Superheroes with a Pops performance featuring music from Black Panther to Wonder Woman.

To learn more about the WSO, to view upcoming events, or to purchase tickets, visit them online at

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