Sarasota Orchestra Music Center
A Vision for Our Orchestra and Our Community
MUSIC CENTER PLANNING STATEMENT
Music Center Planning Statement for Community on September 10, 2021
The intention of Sarasota Orchestra to build a new music center has always been to enrich the well-known and respected Sarasota community of arts. A world class concert hall will raise the visibility of our musicians, and bring a new dimension to the mosaic that our community already enjoys.
Report to City
Music Center Planning Statement for Community on March 31, 2021
Sarasota Orchestra appreciates the Sarasota City Commission for their interest and for dedication of 90 minutes of their meeting on March 1, 2021 to discuss the Orchestra’s vision for a proposed new Music Center to serve the region, other local performing arts organizations, and the Orchestra. A number of suggestions and topics were introduced during and after the meeting for which this document serves as a reply. We feel it important for us to provide comment and context.
The Importance of the Right Space
Listening to—and performing—music in purpose-built space matters. It’s an entirely different experience.
Many of Sarasota Orchestra’s musicians have performed in some of the world’s premier spaces for classical music. Samantha Bennett, principal second violinist, shares her experience of playing in Boston’s Symphony Hall.
The Importance of the Right Space
Samantha Bennett - principal second violin, Sarasota Orchestra
Just as the right gallery space can put visual art in context, from Michelangelo’s 15th-century chapels to a modern warehouse space for a Warhol, the right acoustic space to listen to classical orchestral music is imperative. Certainly one can appreciate the merits of great art anywhere, but the experience is definitively improved when it is put in its most perfect context: when it is heard or seen in the best possible space.
For a musician performing in such a space, the differences between good and great seem all the bigger. Our ears are trained to seek out the tiniest differences in purity of sound, quality of tone and pitch, and subtlety of dynamic range. My experiences performing in Boston’s Symphony Hall, widely recognized as one of the top three halls for orchestras in the world, have only made clearer the necessity of a great space.
On the Symphony Hall stage, each level of dynamic is fully expressed, from the softest pianissimos to the loudest and most robust fortissimos. These dynamic levels are clear to those on stage and to those in the audience. Articulations—the length of a sound and the shape of its attack and decay—come through without force. Whole sections of the orchestra can blend together with an ease that is like sinking into a bath. When rehearsing and performing in a space where these details of our craft are easily identifiable, musicians and conductor can focus on other things, such as finding the right phrasing and pacing of work. For the audience, it is like seeing a movie in full color. Through the magic of acoustic science, violins seem side-by-side with basses. Horns, with oboes. Everything is easier; the music simply flows.
Furthermore, balancing the orchestra to determine which instruments and sections should be most or least heard in each phrase requires minimal work in a hall built for classical music. Great composers write for the capabilities of each instrument with careful dynamic marketing, and a stage like Symphony Hall allows for each section to follow exactly the directions indicated in the score and be heard.
Sarasota Orchestra is blessed with a wealth of great talent and creativity, deserving of the space and context that such talent merits. We are also blessed with a discerning audience, full of integrity. Performing in a space worthy of our talent and our audience would elevate the quality our sound to a level that such an audience deserves to hear. Simply put, performing in such a hall is what we all deserve. Performing in a great hall gives us the freedom to let our instruments sing.
Our Impact in the Community
Musicians in Sarasota Orchestra
(48 full-time core musicians living in our community)
People experience our live musical performances each year
Students in Sarasota Youth Orchestras
representing over 50 schools
Students in Summer Music Camp
Awarded annually in tuition scholarships
Percentage of students who receive financial aid
Special price to most concerts for students under 25
(with student ID) and adults accompanying minors
Annual Festival pre-professional fellows from all over the world
Festival alumni in every major orchestra in the United States
Students who attend the Young Person’s Concerts annually
Teachers who receive our Young Person's Concerts curriculum
People who attended a FREE family concert for all ages in 2018
Educational and promotional outreach activities
Vision for a New Music Center
Sarasota Orchestra is leading an effort to enrich lives and improve our community through the creation of a new Music Center. By providing our region with a purpose-built home for acoustic music, the Music Center will elevate Sarasota Orchestra’s work, help enable other performing arts organizations to grow, and increase our region’s economic, social, and educational vitality.
Sarasota, Florida is widely known as a center for music and culture. Local residents continue to benefit from this oasis and for decades, people have visited and relocated here, in part, because of our world-class arts and culture. It is difficult to imagine another community our size with the cultural range and excellence of Sarasota. The arts are a significant part of our national and global “brand,” and a substantial driver in the region’s economic, social, and educational vibrancy.
Our region is at pivotal moment. We have the opportunity to think boldly about Sarasota’s future – to ensure that our region grows and thrives by investing in our arts and cultural capacity. Not just for today or tomorrow, but for the next century. The decisions we make today will set the course for our region’s future.
Sarasota Orchestra Expands Music Center Site Search
This statement was released May 30, 2019
The Sarasota Orchestra Board unanimously decided to expand its site search beyond the Sarasota City limits. Our Facility Task Force will continue its work to find an appropriate site for a new music center.
The Music Center is envisioned as a transformational project for the region.
Sarasota Orchestra Expands Search for Music Center Site
Sarasota Orchestra announced today the organization will broaden its search for the location of a new Music Center beyond the Sarasota City limits. David Steves, Chair of the 18-member Board of Directors, announced the unanimous decision of the Board to expand the search area for a potential site.
Pressing calendar constraints and acoustic limitations at the six venues used by Sarasota Orchestra currently hinder growth and future achievement of Sarasota Orchestra's mission. The Orchestra also has urgent need for space expansion for its education programs which include eight levels of youth orchestra and Young Persons Concerts serving tens of thousands of students.
The Music Center is envisioned as a transformational project for the region. Sarasota Orchestra, other area music organizations, and the community would all benefit from the center. By providing the only purpose-built concert hall for acoustic music in the region, the proposed Music Center will elevate Sarasota Orchestra's artistic profile, enable other performing arts organizations to expand their offerings, and increase the region's economic, social, and educational vibrancy.
The Orchestra has had a diligent planning exercise underway with a team of highly respected national consultants for the last five years. In June of 2018, Sarasota Orchestra's Board of Directors voted to seek a site for the Music Center off the Bayfront. A number of critical factors informed this resolution, including the extended timeline to build out The Bay and increasing risks associated with coastal construction, sea level rise, and storm surge.
"The Orchestra has a 70-year reputation for enriching lives, as well as for sound planning and stewardship," said Steves. "We feel a keen sense of urgency from both artistic and business perspectives. To benefit the community we serve, we intend to move into a Music Center well before the projected timeline of 10 to 20 years for the Bayfront buildout, and avoid the risks associated with building a major, 100 year facility right on the waterfront."
Due to increasing calendar constraints at venues it rents, lack of space for education programs, and pressing artistic needs, the Orchestra's goal is to pursue a site with a timeline that makes it possible to move into a Music Center within five years, said Steves. As a mission-driven nonprofit, Sarasota Orchestra is committed to a responsible plan that will ensure the Music Center advances the Orchestra's purpose of positive community impact for the next century.
Our need for a dedicated Music Center and Concert Hall is rooted in our commitment to enriching our community with quality live music experiences. Sarasota’s existing cultural venues are operating at full capacity, and this constrains Sarasota Orchestra’s ability to offer a wider range, more diverse and expanded artistic offerings. It also creates a capacity ceiling for all musical organizations in the community. The six venues that Sarasota Orchestra utilizes throughout the season present acoustical inadequacies that limits the Orchestra’s full range of artistic expression. The lack of available space has also restricted the expanding needs of the Orchestra’s youth programs.
In June of 2018, Sarasota Orchestra's Board of Directors made the unanimous decision to formally seek property for the Music Center off the Bayfront within the City of Sarasota. Several critical factors informed this resolution:
- Projected timelines to build out the Bayfront are not aligned with Sarasota Orchestra’s urgent needs. Due to current performance-space constraints, the lack of space for our youth education programs, and pressing artistic needs, the Orchestra's goal is to pursue a site in the City with a timeline that makes it possible to move into a Music Center in the 2024/2025 season, which coincides with our 75th anniversary milestone.
- Coastal construction costs and insurance rates have been increasing at a pace that makes fiscal responsibility for buildout of a Music Center on The Bay unmanageable. As a non-profit with a long history of financial success, the Orchestra has attracted lead donors who are committed to transformational gifts that will help to realize a Music Center in the desired timeline. We are committed to a fiscal plan that will ensure our mission of positive community impact for the next century.
- Additional parking at the Bayfront for our Music Center may be an insurmountable challenge for The Bay. In its current master plan, the allocated parking space for The Bay would not easily accommodate parking for park amenities as well as additional patron parking for the Music Center’s 1,800-seat concert hall and 700-seat recital space.
The Van Wezel and Sarasota Orchestra have both expressed public interest in best-in-class, new facilities. The current calendar at the Van Wezel is already constrained. Sarasota Orchestra is seeking a purpose-built concert hall specifically designed for acoustic music. By giving both organizations the opportunity to expand their performance calendars, Sarasota Orchestra’s vision to build a specialized and critically-needed venue serves as a win for Sarasota Orchestra, the Van Wezel and our community.