Sarasota Orchestra's Education Department has coordinated a truly historic holiday event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Sarasota Youth Orchestras [SYO]. On December 21, nearly 50 SYO alumni will perform side-by-side with the Youth Philharmonic. The combined orchestra will represent all six decades of the SYO's history—and in the case of two string players, multiple generations of SYO musicians!
Renee Fletcher remembers her time as a viola student in the SYO as something that ensured she would carry music with her anywhere she chose to go in life.
“The Sarasota Youth Orchestra instilled in me a lifetime passion for music. Music builds connection with other people, brings me joy, and improves my quality of life." An Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner with Sarasota Manatee Geriatrics, Renee held onto the values of her musical practice and passed them to her two sons.
Maxwell, 15, and Jack, 12, are both SYO members. Once they get a couple of requisite "jeez, Mom" wisecracks out of the way, they both express deep appreciation for their mom's influence.
"She's always been there for me," Jack says. "While I'm practicing in my room, she will make suggestions to help me improve." Jack currently performs in the second violin section of the Youth Symphony. With five years of experience on the instrument, Jack plans to pursue a career in music and is well on his way to becoming a one-person band in explorations of bass guitar, drums, and trumpet.
Renee and Jack Fletcher wait their turn to perform for guests of the 2019 "Aspire" Sarasota Orchestra Brunch.
Maxwell plays cello with the Youth Philharmonic, the most advanced of the SYO’s eight ensembles. While he's inclined to enter the engineering field, he looks to Renee and other SYO alumni as important role models for keeping music in one's life.
"Music is my art form where I can express myself," Maxwell says. "Playing music brings me so much, whether it's decreasing stress or helping me concentrate—it just helps a lot. And it's truly a wonder how I get to play and create amazing things with music."
Renee, Maxwell, and Jack share that wonder with others as a family string trio, performing up to 25 concerts a year in local memory care and assisted living facilities.
"As we improve our playing, work on our eye contact, and add more challenging pieces to our repertoire, I just can't believe I'm playing with my boys," Renee says. "I'm so proud of them. I love hearing and watching them become amazing players."
The Fletcher Family Trio appears in silhouette against the backdrop of Sarasota Bay as they get ready to go on stage at the 2019 "Aspire" Sarasota Orchestra Brunch.
Renee says she's not only excited to perform in a full orchestra with Maxwell at the Alumni Concert, but she looks forward to reconnecting with members of her SYO cohort. Through her sons' participation, she notes how the program has evolved to foster ever-higher levels of musicianship for its students.
"They're learning so much more at a younger age, and I'm impressed with the level of music they're playing. Their focus on technique is awesome, and the students still have a lot of fun," Renee says.
The SYO’s 60th Anniversary Alumni Concert is free and open to the public, and its one-hour program takes the theme of a holiday jubilee. There's so much to celebrate! Like the Fletcher family, each member of this orchestra treasures their own story of a life made more vibrant and connected through music.
Attend the Sarasota Youth Orchestras’ 60th Anniversary Alumni Concert
Saturday, December 21 at 1:00 p.m.
Riverview High School Performing Arts Center
1 Ram Way
Sarasota, FL 34231
No admission fee. General admission seating.