Musical Musings

Musicians of Sarasota Orchestra

Sarasota Orchestra Musicians: What Does Live Music Mean to You?

In last season’s return to full orchestra concerts, we learned from so many of our musicians about how vitally precious live performance is—and how the opportunity to make music in a concert setting is something they can never take for granted. Below you’ll hear more from five Sarasota Orchestra musicians about the power of performance for each of them, as well as concert experiences in the upcoming season they’re especially excited to partake in.

What Does Live Music Mean to You?

Musician Perspectives
Betsy Hudson Traba, Principal Flute

There is nothing that compares with sitting on stage, looking out at a full audience, waiting for a performance to begin. The sense of anticipation is everywhere – from the audience reading their program and chatting, to the musicians onstage warming up and focusing on the music that they are about to perform. More than anything, I love watching my colleagues as they study their parts, make last-minute adjustments to their instruments, and do everything they can to ensure that, when the concertmaster walks out and we tune, we are all ready to play at the highest level. There is a tremendous sense of being part of a team – a team responsible for bringing some of the greatest music ever composed to life. When the lights dim and the conductor arrives onstage, it’s “game time,” and it’s a feeling that I get nowhere else.

The Masterworks 3 program in early January, titled Mahler: A View of Heaven, is one that I cannot wait to play. James Ehnes is not only one of the very finest violinists in the world today, he’s also a friend to many of our Orchestra’s musicians. On this concert he’ll be playing one of my favorite violin concertos, the Sibelius concerto. It’s an extraordinarily powerful piece, the kind of work that gets your heart beating fast, even while just listening to it. To hear James play it will definitely be one of the highlights of the season for me. Combine that with the opportunity to play a Mahler symphony, and you’ve got kind of the perfect concert!

                    Hudson Traba, Principal Flute
Cheeko Matsusaka, cello

Something Rhiannon Giddens, the artistic director of the Silkroad Ensemble, said during a recent interview perfectly captured my feelings about the meaning of live music:

"We've had too much 'them versus us' when it comes to music, like, ‘Oh, you're the professional, we're the audience; we're going to receive, you're going to give’—and that's NOT how it works. When we sing together, we create together, and one of the most negative things about the pandemic is that we were no longer able to share breath. There’s something primordial, something that just takes us back to the beginning of humanity, in sharing breath."

If I had to narrow it down, I would say there are two performers that I am thrilled to be working with this season: First is Byron Stripling, a master jazz trumpeter and great entertainer who has that magical touch with connecting the performers to the audience. It is an absolute joy working with him, and we know every performance is a surprise waiting to happen.

The other performer is Yo-Yo Ma, and not just because he is one of the cello "greats." He has been a huge inspiration in his efforts to break down the traditional music barriers, from his Silkroad project to the numerous, multi-disciplinary collaborations he's done over his career. He was especially important to me during the pandemic as he demonstrated what we could do to support each other, even in isolation. He reminded us all of Pablo Casals' call to arms when he played before the United Nations: That we must be human beings first, musicians second.

                    Matsusaka, cello

Marcelina Suchocka, Principal Percussion

The value of performing for a live audience cannot be overstated. Each time I get to perform for an audience, no matter the size or venue, it reminds me why I love being a musician: to connect with audiences and bring people together. Music has the power to transcend all differences and transport the listener to other worlds.

This season I am looking forward to playing Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony, as it is an excellent piece with a lot of character. Prokofiev is one of my favorite composers, and he tends to spoil the percussion section with some interesting parts! I'm also looking forward to our first Great Escapes concert, as it features some incredible music by John Williams! It will be a magical set of performances.

Marcelina Suchocka, Principal Percussion

Mia Laity, violin

When I was a student, I found myself absolutely paralyzed by performance anxiety—the pressure to mimic recordings was so intense, and living up to them felt so insurmountable. However, everything changed when I realized that in a live performance, we start not with the prescribed tracks of a recording, but silence. At its essence, music is sound created in a physical space and experienced over time. Nothing exists before the first note, and every moment that follows is magic created in real time, players reacting to what sounds came before and to each other. To experience that creation happening, immersed in the space that is a resonant body in itself, is a miracle I am now honored to participate in whether onstage or in the audience.

I'm looking forward to Masterworks 5, with works by Jessica Hunt, Copland, and Stravinsky. I think this program really magnifies the conversational responsiveness between different solo instruments, and shows how rhythmic motifs can construct an aural puzzle. We'll see chamber music displayed at a symphonic scale, which should be a real treat.

Mia Laity,

Trace Johnson, cello

Experiencing a live performance as an audience member or as a performer is a truly remarkable act of sharing. Live performance, really of any kind, bonds us to each other in a unique way that cannot be substituted for anything else.

Although all of the masterworks subscriptions this year look juicy, I am particularly looking forward to performing the final Masterworks concert of the season featuring the Korngold Violin Concerto with the amazing, amazing Gil Shaham and Strauss’ epic tone-poem, Ein Heldenleben. Korngold is a composer who I truly enjoy. His harmonic language is so rich and full; his works just make you feel good. Additionally, I can’t wait to hear the orchestra shine in Ein Heldenleben; this work really has something for everyone in the orchestra and it is going to be a total, heroic love-fest.

Trace Johnson, cello

Find Your Moment This Season

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Don't Miss These
Special Events

Join us to celebrate our 75th Anniversary at these exciting events.

Dinner Series
Six Dinners throughout the season

Orchestra Brunch
Sunday, November 12, 2023

Celebrate 75 Concert and Gala
Thursday, February 15, 2024


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


Sarasota Orchestra is committed to making our performances and facilities accessible to everyone in our community.

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