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In Hurricane Ian's aftermath, Van Wezel is 'bringing people together' for a benefit concert

10-6 Benefit Concert
Daniel Perales
Sarasota Orchestra
The Sarasota Orchestra and Van Wezel have organized a Hurricane Ian concert to benefit people in Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte Counties.

The Van Wezel's executive director and the president of the Sarasota Orchestra teamed up to bring in relief money for people of the Suncoast after Hurricane Ian left a path destruction in its wake.

This weekend, the Sarasota Orchestra was supposed to do a Young Person's Concert at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center.

That all changed when Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on Southwest Florida.

CEO Joe McKenna said the people of the Sarasota Orchestra were spared much of the devastation that their neighbors to the south saw.

"You know, we know that when one organization is down, that we're all hurt," McKenna said. "So for those that were not as negatively impacted, the ability to sort of bring music, bring culture, bring arts back — you know, that helps everybody. We see it, you know, The Hermitage (Artist Retreat) and The Venice Theatre — when we see our partners that are that are hurting and down, that affects all of us."

And within about 36 hours — in what he said was a "whirlwind planning cycle" — he and Mary Bensel, executive director of the Van Wezel had plotted out a benefit concert.

"Mary and I have been great colleagues, so we came up with this idea that if we could put together a Hurricane Ian relief concert, it would raise money to help all those people who've been hurt and harmed," McKenna said.

All of the gate revenues will go to The Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund of Community Foundation of Sarasota County to provide relief to the victims of Hurricane Ian in Charlotte, DeSoto, Sarasota and Manatee counties.

And the Patterson Foundation is matching individual donations to the fund, dollar-for-dollar, up to $750,000.

McKenna said guest conductor Christopher Confessore, a native Sarasotan, who is principal pops conductor with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, put together a program "designed to inspire people through adversity." It will feature Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, and John Williams' Summon the Heroes, among other works.

"The arts need to be part of the solution, part of bringing people together," McKenna said.

"You know, there's there's so much that we can do together and when we work together, incredible things can be achieved — not unlike an orchestra — 80 people coming together to create incredible music. I really see this concert as a call to the community to come together and be in harmony, like an orchestra to help us through this rather horrific period."

The concert is Friday, Oct. 7, at the Van Wezel in Sarasota, and you can get tickets here.

I love telling stories about my home state. And I hope they will help you in some way and maybe even lift your spirits.