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'A Carnegie Hall In Every Town:' 75 Years In, Sarasota Arts Group Still Fulfills Its Mission

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Todd Rosenberg
The Sarasota Concert Association Presents the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with conductor Riccardo Muti at the Van Wezel Feb.12

The Sarasota Concert Association was launched in 1938 with a mission to bring affordable world-class musicians to Sarasota. 

This year, the long-running cultural group is celebrating its 75th anniversary.


The organization’s roots date back to when a music management company launched an initiative called the "community concert series."
“They wanted to bring culture into all the corners of the United States,” said Joy McIntyre, SCA’s president. “Their motto was a ‘Carnegie Hall in every town.’ This was back in 1938. A bunch of lovely ladies from the women's club began to bring famous musicians to Sarasota.”  

Now, 75 years later, there are opportunities to hear music almost every night of the week in Sarasota. Even so, the SCA’s Judy Beilman said the group doesn’t view other cultural organizations as rivals.

“I see it less as competition than enhancement,” she said. “I think my husband and I are good examples. We came to Sarasota in 2016 from Chicago. We're used to many cultural offerings there. We were delighted to become part of a community with its own hometown orchestra, its own opera, and its own ballet company. But we also knew that there were amazing artists from all over the world and we didn't want to give that up when we moved to a smaller community. The Sarasota Concert Association makes it possible for us to have both.”

photo of Pacifica Quartet
Credit Lisa Marie Mazzuco
SCA hosts the Pacifica Quartet with pianist Orion Weiss at the Van Wezel March 12.

The Sarasota Concert Association’s 2020 Great Performer Series will feature, among others, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Pacifica Quartet, and Musicians from Marlboro, an offshoot of the Marlboro Music Festival.

Additionally, the group hosts a weekly music matinee series which features free concerts by regional musicians.

“It's a part of our mission to not only bring the world's greatest musicians to Sarasota, but also to offer local musicians or regional musicians an opportunity to perform here,” said McIntyre.  

The Sarasota Concert Association is a non-profit group and McIntyre says the all-volunteer organization is a labor of love.

“And the reward is, the wonderful concerts that we are able to experience,” she said. “It's a unifying art, isn't it? Everybody can experience it no matter what language they speak. We're all unified in this wonderful experience of classical music. When you feel all of that come together with these great musicians striving to get it right and bring it to new heights, it's exhilarating. And audiences feel it.”

On Sunday, the SCA is hosting its 75th Diamond Anniversary celebration at Selby Gardens with headliner Brandon Goldberg, a 13-year old jazz piano prodigy.

“He’s classically trained, he studied at the University of Miami,” said Beilman.  But he found his passion with jazz. He is inspired by the greats of the past and I think it’s so interesting to see what the next generation of musicians are going to look like.”

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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