Musical Musings

Debutantes Program

Debutantes Raise $1.5 Million for Sarasota Orchestra's Youth Programs

Behind waltzes and white dresses, young women supporting local youth drive the Debutantes Program of Sarasota and Manatee Counties. The Debutante Program's most recent graduating class achieved a major fundraising milestone: As an auxiliary of Sarasota Orchestra's youth and education programs, the Debutantes have raised more than $1.5 million to benefit Sarasota Orchestra's education programs to date. Funds raised go to instrument and equipment purchases as well as scholarships for students of the Sarasota Youth Orchestras and Summer Music Camp.

The annual Debutante Ball serves as the program's primary fundraiser and is the culmination of yearlong enrichment for each participant. The Debutante Program seeks to honor traditions and values that build a foundation for young women's success in the modern world. Through cultural and social events during the year, young women nominated and selected for the program gain experience approaching social situations with ease and authenticity. They learn the power of expressing gratitude, especially in a hand-written note. The confidence and self-possession gained in the Debutantes Program serve participants well in important future scenarios such as interviews, presentations, or public speaking opportunities. A year in the Debutantes Program comes with the precious added benefit of quality time with family and making memories during a busy year in these high-achieving young women's lives.

"I felt I became much more well-spoken and self-assured because of my experiences in the Debutantes Program," says Lauren Hersh, Director of Donor Engagement (Individual and Corporate) for Sarasota Orchestra. A member of the 1994 Debutantes cohort, Lauren also performed in the same program she served as a flutist in the Sarasota Youth Orchestras. "And now as a 'post-Deb,'" she says, "I find that I have not only good memories from that year but a true affiliation with driven, inspiring women for a lifetime."

While the pandemic has curtailed the Debutantes' regular calendar of soirees, dance classes, and cultural outings, the program continues its work to create meaningful touchpoints between the Debutantes and young peers in Sarasota Orchestra's education programs. Community service opportunities for Debutantes are taking shape for future Summer Music Camps, with Debutante volunteers helping to organize ensembles' music folders and supervise safe street-crossings as campers travel between venues throughout the day. 

Learn more about the Debutante Program of Sarasota and Manatee Counties on their website.

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