South Florida Symphony Orchestra Launches New Season

“Obviously we’re not a gay orchestra,” said Jacqueline Lorber, CEO of the South Florida Symphony Orchestra.  “Some of us are gay but we are first and foremost a symphony orchestra dedicated to providing quality music for our audiences.”

“What’s more important,” she continued.  “Is the fact that our gay audience members feel welcome and comfortable at our performances, something that isn’t always true when they attend other professional musical programs – particularly for couples.”

In their 14th performance season, the orchestra has an aggressive schedule planned for their Master Concert Series starting Dec. 1 at the Tennessee Williams Theater in Key West; followed on Dec. 2 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. On Dec. 4 they will be at the Crest Theatre at Old School Square in Delray Beach; and finally at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center on Dec. 6.

Similar schedules are planned for the last week in Jan 2012 and again for the second week in March.

“We’re the only symphony orchestra that performs in all four South Florida counties,” said Maestra Sebrina Maria Alfonso.  “We bring professional musicians in from all over the country to rehearse and perform in a short period of time but it works because all our musicians are active performers.”

The themes for the three December schedules are “Spice of Life,” “Fire and Ice,” and “Masters of their Universe,” featuring respectively the Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4 (Italian), Beethoven Symphony No. 3 (Eroica), and the premier performance of American composer Ellen Taafe Zwilich’s Symphony No. 5.

“Zwilich has won many awards and is considered one of the outstanding composers of our day,” said Alfonso, herself an award-winning conductor. “Her music is accessible and recognizable.  You will want to hear this concert.”

A Key West native and graduate of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD, Alfonso has been conducting since 1994 when she made her debut with the American Symphony Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall.

Since then she has conducted and recorded with many orchestras around the country.  In 2002 she became the first American of Cuban ancestry to conduct and hold a permanent guest conducting position with Cuba’s premier orchestra.

The orchestra had an aggressive schedule last year also but after a successful concert in October, they were forced to cancel the rest of the season for lack of funds.

“That’s really behind us,” Lorber said.  “There were a number things at play that forced us to cancel but we’ve been able to regroup and are looking forward to a successful season.”

According to Lorber several of their supporters in Key West thought they were losing the orchestra and withdrew their support.  At the same time, new board members from the other counties were unclear about their duties as fundraisers so anticipated funds did not materialize.

“It was very unfortunate,” said Lorber, “but we have pulled through and are positioned for growth and stability.”

“We have a new board,” she added. “We’ve received funding from the Community Foundation of Broward to train the board members to know what they have to do and how to do it.  We have several new corporate sponsors who do business in all four counties.”

According to Lorber several of their approximately 200 musicians helped raise funds over the summer and ticket sales are already doing well with their ad blitz just about to start.

Lorber noted that the orchestra has received $25,000 toward a $100,000 fall campaign and has received cash, pledges and in-kind advertising in excess of $150,000 in a newly formed legacy group, The Stradivarius Society, for long term commitments.

This writer has not yet heard the South Florida Symphony Orchestra perform but past reviews of earlier performances have been extremely positive.  The hope is that they can continue on the path of financial health so Palm Beach County can lay claim to a piece of a symphony orchestra.

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