Musical Musings

What Music Means to Us

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

Sarasota Orchestra's volunteer ushers serve as an essential part of the concert experience. Their role in each audience member's enjoyment of a performance extends beyond a warm greeting in the lobby, the hand that passes your program book, or the friendly guide to a comfy seat. When you get a chance to really talk with a Sarasota Orchestra usher, you discover an enthusiasm for live music so rich, that it's impossible not to share.

You could almost think of Sarasota Orchestra's ushers as professionally trained concert-goers. Getting their perspective was mandatory in this blog series' exploration of live music's significance! Keep reading to meet members of our usher corps, find out what inspires them to gift the Orchestra their volunteer service, and get their expert tips on must-not-miss moments in the 2022-2023 concert season.


What Does Live Music Mean to You?

Usher Perspectives
Joan Irwin

Attending live musical performances is like a family reunion for me. Having grown up with music and musicians all around, I associate instruments with people who are long gone but whose memories are brought to the forefront. Their joy and love of music lives on with each and every live performance for me. I look forward to so many moments each season. The Thursday night Great Escapes in Holley Hall and the Masterworks Series at the Neel Performing Arts Center are both my very favorite.

Joan Irwin

Gene and Kathy Jongsma

As long-standing classical music fans, we have so enjoyed ushering at Sarasota Orchestra events. We are particularly fond of the Chamber Soirées series. These intimate concerts give us an opportunity to hear wonderful old favorites, experience new and unfamiliar pieces, watch the interaction among ensemble members, and feel a sense of community with fellow patrons. On a recent visit to a gallery in Canada, we encountered this quote, which could serve as part of Sarasota Orchestra’s mission statement: “The measure of a culture is its integration of the arts into everyday life.”

Gene and Kathy Jongsma

Arline Leven

I get a feeling of fulfillment and spiritual satisfaction from an exceptionally well-played masterpiece…like Beethoven! I’m very familiar with his “Emperor” Concerto No. 5, as well as his other four great piano concertos. Many years ago, I was privileged to hear Rudolf Serkin perform all five, and that is my standard against which all performances are compared…a high mark!

Arline Leven

Stephen Hoffman

I love being a volunteer usher with Sarasota Orchestra. I get to greet our patrons, who always arrive at concerts with a wonderful sense of expectation. I also get to thank patrons as they leave the concert. What strikes me is the uplifted spirit and sense of joy that they take with them. It is a precious, shared spirit of unity. You have to be there to experience it. I am always grateful to experience those moments.

Stephen Hoffman

Christine Hoffman

My favorite part of being an usher for Sarasota Orchestra's concerts in Holley Hall is when, on exiting, someone jubilantly shares with me something specific about the live music we've both just been privileged to enjoy. My favorite combination for live interaction is between piano soloist and full orchestra, and so I'm looking forward to all three piano concertos in the upcoming season's Masterworks, beginning with Grieg in Masterworks 1: Symphonie Fantastique.

After Bach, Brahms is my favorite composer. I have a particular interest in Lieder. I lived in Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, for three years and currently have two nieces and two great-nieces living there. For these and other reasons, the Chamber Soirée on January 22, 2023—with Brahms’ "Two Songs’" and selections from Beethoven’s ‘Scottish Songs’—will be right up my alley.

Christine Hoffman

Steve and Sharon Dickman

There is nothing like a live orchestral performance; it can't be replicated by a recording, or a video, or any other medium. There is a thrill that envelops the audience when a piece begins. We love watching the musicians and the way they interact with each other and with the conductor.

Sharon and Steve Dickman

Barbara Weintraub

Fifteen years of volunteering for Sarasota Orchestra hasn't dimmed the excitement I feel at the beginning of each new season. As Orchestra members take their seats on stage after a summer away, I can feel an electricity in the air as the maestro walks to the podium and holds the baton poised, ready to begin. There is a collective holding of breath in the hall, waiting for those first notes to rise from the stage. After a couple of years of COVID-induced streaming, there is nothing that beats a live performance!

One evening, when I was taking tickets at Holley Hall and the concert was about to begin, an elderly gentleman and his companion walked into the now-empty lobby. He was instantly recognized by staff as a patron who attends concerts regularly.

He was over 100 years old and walked slowly with some difficulty. And he had a balcony ticket! The house manager quickly radioed backstage and asked for a short hold while she offered to seat the patron on the main floor. He quietly refused and said he preferred to take his seat upstairs, which he did slowly, one step at a time, as we watched in awe from below. He was just one of our patrons who constantly inspire me!

Barbara Weintraub
Doug Endicott

I recently experienced an excellent example of the difference between attending live music or attending online or on film. I attended the HD performance of the opera La Traviata. The music was wonderful, but the orchestra was nowhere to be seen. The joy of a live performance is SEEING the music being performed, the conductor, the soloist, the horn section. Attending live music makes you a part of the performance.

Doug Endicott
Beth Kellett

There are two things I enjoy in particular about live concerts in addition to the connection with the musicians.

First is being able to identify which instrument(s) are playing when you hear a particular sound or sounds. This may be a product of my childhood listening, again and again, to Leonard Bernstein's Peter and the Wolf. A couple of years ago I found the version by David Bowie, which I love too!

Second is how a different conductor can have the orchestra perform and interpret a piece differently, so it becomes a unique experience hearing it, even if you've listened to it many times before.

Every season I look forward to the Great Escapes concerts. They never disappoint and just get better and better. Chamber Soireé 4: Scottish Songs looks really interesting, too—a new moment I'm excited to experience. Finally, I could not love the “Parks and Partners” program more. What a nice way to experience the sounds of the Orchestra in concert with nature.

Beth Kellett

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Gifts to the Annual Fund ensure that Sarasota Orchestra can continue to share the gift of music with our community through concerts, education and outreach programs. Please join us by making a donation today. Together, we can keep the music playing, now and always.

Don't Miss These
Special Events

Deepen your connection and make great memories with Sarasota Orchestra at these delightful happenings.


Side-By-Side Brunch
November 13, 2022

Discoveries Dinner
December 19, 2022

Pops Dinner
January 19, 2023

Special Concert and Gala featuring Yo‌-‌Yo Ma
March 2, 2023

Masterworks Dinner
March 28, 2023

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