Serving Food for the Spirit al Fresco with the Sarasota Orchestra

Categories: BELONGING AND CULTURE: Cultural Development & the Arts, Nonprofits, Strategic Partnership Grants,

Guided by a belief in the arts’ vital importance to the community’s well-being, Sarasota Orchestra has sought to share delightful, uplifting, and joyous musical experiences in a concert season wholly unlike any other in the Orchestra’s seven-decade history.

In addition to recording and streaming concerts for at-home enjoyment, the Orchestra expanded its annual community engagement tour known as “On the Road with SO” to bring music into some of the Sarasota area’s most beautiful outdoor settings. With the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s generous support, these “Parks and Partners” concerts have provided a safe stage for the Orchestra’s brass and wind players to perform.

On Sunday afternoons, Bernstein’s lyrical melodies from West Side Story have sailed over the glassy waters at Nathan Benderson Park. While breezes sway the trees shading the G. T. Bray Park amphitheater, melodies of Mozart, Bach, and Debussy have inspired the people beneath to do the same. In addition to local parks, cultural destinations such as The Ringling Museum and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens have reverberated with more than harmony: The air vibrates with the energy exchange among performers and audience members who revel in these opportunities to safely gather again and connect through music.

“On the Road with SO” Event at the Bay Preserve at Osprey.

With concerts in public parks free to attend, the events have drawn masked and socially distanced listeners of all ages to take advantage of local green spaces and bask in a healthy dose of sunshine and fresh air. Audiences have included longtime patrons who share how much they have missed live Orchestra concerts, as well as local families who may not have experienced Sarasota Orchestra in concert before.

The casual, communal atmosphere at each event has opened up a space where attendees feel comfortable to stretch out in the grass, sing along, or kick up their heels and dance. The brass and wind quintets’ jubilant sounds have also surprised and delighted park-goers and venue visitors who pause on playgrounds and walking trails to absorb an impromptu encounter with the arts.


“On the Road with SO” Event at Nathan Benderson Park.


“On the Road with SO” Event at G.T. Bray Park.

Between pieces, Sarasota Orchestra’s musicians have shared amusing anecdotes and heartfelt messages of gratitude for the community’s support through an unprecedented year of innovation and adaptation across the local arts sector.

“I can’t wait until we can play together as a full orchestra again,” says Kelsey Ross, a member of Sarasota Orchestra’s horn section, “but I am thankful that the Orchestra can present live performances in a way that is safe for musicians, staff, and audience members.”