A Brief History of the Orchestra

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.

1949

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

1950

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

1951

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

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.

1955

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

1957

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

1958

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

1959

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

1961

Paul Wolfe began his tenure as the third music director

1964

Wolfe founded the Sarasota Music Festival at New College.

1977

The Florida West Coast Symphony introduced its Summer Music Camp.

1984

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

1985

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

1990s

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

1997

Leif Bjaland was appointed as the fourth music director.

1999

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

2001

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

2002

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

2004

First Pops subscriptions are offered.

2005

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

2008

Youth Philharmonic debuts in Carnegie Hall.

2008

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

2013

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

2013

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

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Reviews

Written byHerald Tribune

 There's no doubt, audiences are thrilled by the Sarasota Orchestra's new music director, Anu Tali. She's brought an intense energy from the orchestra in previous performances and we found this yet again in a downright thrill ride of an encounter...  

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 byHerald Tribune

 Tali conveyed a clear vision for the dramatic outline of this symphony, carefully pacing the darker, searching character of the music with pastoral conversations among voices in the orchestra.  

Written byThe Observer

 If you haven’t seen Tali yet, this will be a great introduction to the skyrocketing conductor who’s quickly becoming a household name around the world. You’ll see why we feel we’re lucky to have her here.  

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About Us

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

 web@sarasotaorchestra.org

 Box Office Hours:
Monday - Friday, 10 am - 4 pm
and at the concert venue one hour prior to show time

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