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The History of the Orchestra

The Orchestra performs more than 125 classical, pops, chamber, education and community engagement concerts per season. Its first concert in 1949 was conducted by Dr. Lyman Wiltse, and under its original name, the Florida West Coast Symphony. Now the longest continuous performing Orchestra in the state of Florida, the organization has provided exceptional music under three previous music directors: Alexander Bloch, Paul Wolfe and Leif Bjaland. In 2008, the organization was renamed as the Sarasota Orchestra and launched new concert formats, vibrant marketing and innovative programming, bringing national attention to the 80-musician ensemble.

The organization’s educational activities include a youth orchestra program featuring seven ensembles, Young Person’s Concerts for all area fourth and fifth graders, and a summer music camp.

The Sarasota Orchestra also manages the internationally renowned Sarasota Music Festival, under the artistic leadership of Jeffrey Kahane. The Sarasota Music Festival is one of the world’s finest teaching festivals for pre-professional classical musicians.

1948

1948

Ruth Cotton Butler works with George Gibbs, Sam Hill and Dr. W.D. Sugg, to fulfill her dream of creating a community orchestra in Sarasota and Manatee.

1948

1949

1949

Florida West Coast Symphony performs its first public performance in collaboration with the Manatee River Choral Club of Bradenton.

1950

1950

Dr. Lyman Wiltse conducts first orchestral concert for the Florida West Coast Symphony on January 19 in the Manatee County High School Auditorium.

1950

1951

1951

Alexander Bloch succeeds Wiltse as the second music director of the Florida West Coast Symphony.

1953

1953

1,500 children attended the Children's Concerts program to give children their first taste of orchestral music. Today, the program is called Young Person's Concerts and is performed for 10,000 children.

1953

1955

1955

The Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra Rehearsal Hall was completed in November.

1957

1957

Lota Mundy founded the Symphony Women’s Association, to “foster, promote and increase the musical knowledge, education and artistic appreciation of the community”.

1957

Dec 1958

1958

The New York Times calls the beginning of the Florida West Coast Symphony season the beginning of the music season in all of Florida.

1959

1959

The Youth Orchestra Program was founded through sponsorship of the Symphony Women's Association.

1959

1961

1961

Paul Wolfe began his tenure as the third music director.

1964

1964

Wolfe founded the Sarasota Music Festival at New College.

1964

1977

1977

The Florida West Coast Symphony introduced its Summer Music Camp.

1984

1984

The Sarasota Music Festival was designated by the Florida State legislature as the, ”Official teaching and performing Festival of the State of Florida.”

1984

1985

1985

The Sarasota Music Festival merged with the Florida West Coast Symphony.

1990s

1990s

The Florida West Coast Symphony evolved into a fully paid professional orchestra.

1990s

1997

1997

Leif Bjaland was appointed as the fourth music director.

1999

1999

Beatrice Friedman makes a $1 million gift to ensure successful completion of an endowment campaign.

1999

2001

2001

Executive Director Gretchen Serrie retired, and Joseph McKenna becomes administrative leader of the Florida West Coast Symphony.

2002

2002

The Florida West Coast Symphony was unionized under the American Federation of Musicians.

2002

2004

2004

First Pops subscriptions are offered.

2005

2005

Virginia Toulmin gifts $10 million to significantly increase the organization’s endowment.

2005

2008

2008

Youth Philharmonic debuts in Carnegie Hall.

2008

2008

The Florida West Coast Symphony rebranded, taking the name Sarasota Orchestra, and launching new series and innovative concert formats.

2008

2013

2013

Sarasota Youth Orchestra expands making a total of 7 ensembles within the Sarasota Youth Orchestras.

2013

2013

An international search results in the appointment of Anu Tali as fifth music director of the Sarasota Orchestra.

2013

Our 安徽快三-2021 Season

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Reviews

Written byHerald Tribune

 Literally gripping the arms of my seat, I was not the only one propelled on this rollercoaster of delightful music.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 Every section and soloist within the orchestra played their role with strength and beauty; every tree proud and tall. Tali served as an excellent guide leading the forces with assured confidence. The overall sound was lush and, yes, intense just where it needed to be.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 The Sarasota Orchestra was brimming with bubbling energy...  

Written byHerald Tribune

 A lifetime of musical moments, cinematic in scope, gave every section of the orchestra a leading role at one time or another. Chief among them was the virtuosic solo of concertmaster Daniel Jordan.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 It was a thrill ride resulting in an explosion of audience enthusiasm.  

Written byThe Observer

 Andrew Lane, the Orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, knows how to program a winning event and this concert had something for everyone. It also brought in a whole new audience that seemed dazzled by the performances.  

Written byThe Observer

 The Sarasota Orchestra played a program this past weekend filled with so much color, it was like visiting the Louvre.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 The performance... was exceptional, bringing new and stunning sonorities from a larger than usual Sarasota Orchestra under the dynamic leadership of Anu Tali.  

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Our mission is to engage, educate, and enrich our community through high-quality, live musical experiences.


 709 N Tamiami Tr, Sarasota, FL 34236

 Box Office: 941.953.3434

 Administration: 941.953.4252

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