Jacksonville Symphony looking forward to symphony of 'boundless possibilities'

·5 min read
Steven Libman is president and CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony.
Steven Libman is president and CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony.

The Jacksonville Symphony has just concluded our glorious 2021-22 season, and we could not be happier. This was our first full season in two years that did not have physical distancing, and we did not have to cancel a single concert.

By now you are very familiar with the arduous journey we embarked on in March of 2020, when we had to cancel over 30 concerts through June 2020. Then, as one of only ten orchestras in North America to re-open, we entered the 2020-21 season under strict safety and physical distancing guidelines. This allowed us to offer 72 concerts to 37,802 patrons. However, for our 2021-22 season, we were able to offer 75 concerts to 778,582 patrons after fully opening. We continue to believe that the Jacksonville Symphony offers our beloved community the joy of symphonic music every year.

I also want to thank our very loyal patrons who continue to support us. Thanks to over 1,500 individual donors along with the support of corporations, foundations and our local, state and federal governments, the symphony continues to flourish. We also extend a special thank you to Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council for their remarkable dedication to the symphony.

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The season that just concluded was, in so many ways, “a season of firsts.” We launched the David M. Hicks Mozart Piano Concerto Series, which featured five of the world's finest pianists performing on our new David M. Hicks Steinway Concert Grand Piano. We also launched our first Concert Organ Series to grand success, and we held our first-ever Pride Night during the final Symphony in 60 concert. During our season, we also received our first-ever grant from the League of American Orchestras’ Catalyst Fund, in partnership with the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation from New York City, to help us advance our innovative work with new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives. After a gap of several years, we brought back opera with Giacomo Puccini’s "La Bohème" to critical acclaim.

Continuing with our “season of firsts,” our final classical concert in June featured the world premiere of eminent composer Tarik O’Regan’s work "Trances." O’Regan’s piece, sponsored by Brenda and Gene Wolchok, was the first in a multi-year series of Jacksonville Symphony commissions from today’s most up-and-coming composers. During the same evening, our patrons heard our new concertmaster, Adelya Nartadjieva, showcase her phenomenal talent for the very first time.

Our season of firsts also included the symphony performing the Ukrainian National Anthem at the beginning of the first "Appalachian Spring" concert shortly after the terrible invasion of Ukraine began by Russian forces. Our audience responded with tears of joy and hope.

Our 2022-23 season is full of what we are calling “boundless possibilities” because we truly are reaching new heights of artistic excellence. Music Director Courtney Lewis has put together 11 masterful concerts under the banner of our Florida Blue Classical Series. Our season will open with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, Piano Concerto No. 1, played by acclaimed pianist Tianxu An. The program, conducted by Lewis, also includes Dmitri Shostakovich’s "Festive Overture" and Igor Stravinsky’s "Petrushka." The rest of the season will include four dynamic guest conductors, the world premiere of Sean Shepherd’s Jacksonville Symphony commission, and the return of pianists Conrad Tao and Alessio Bax.

We are excited to announce that we will be presenting our unique version of symphonic opera with a presentation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s masterpiece, "The Magic Flute." After producing "La Bohème" to grand success, we feel it is essential to continue presenting high-quality, professional opera for the Northeast Florida community. "The Magic Flute" will be conducted by Lewis with stage direction by Kristine McIntyre, who has directed operas for prestigious companies such as the San Francisco Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, the Pittsburgh Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. The opera will also feature the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus as well as students from the University of North Florida School of Music.

Our Pops Series will include 10 spectacular concerts featuring the music of Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, the Beatles and many other artists. Our five Holiday Pops performances will also return with music that will celebrate the joy of the holiday season. Our Pops Series offers an exceptional experience for everyone and covers the vast range of American music ranging from traditional to jazz to rock to country and everything in between.

We will also be presenting three movies as part of the FIS Symphonic Night at the Movies Series. Three legendary movie scores will be performed live by the symphony for "Rocky," "Jurassic Park" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

Our 2022-23 season also includes the PNC Symphony in 60 Series, which offers captivating music for 60 minutes and a fun, casual cocktail hour prior to each concert. The Raymond James Coffee Series will also showcase stirring selections from the Symphony’s various series. On top of it all, we will present our annual production of Handel’s masterpiece "Messiah" and two special concerts as part of our Family Series.

Finally, our season would not be complete without the Jacksonville Symphony’s First Coast Nutcracker. This year is special because this is the 50th Anniversary of the First Coast Nutcracker, and the production will feature refurbished scenery. This holiday classic has now become a part of what makes downtown Jacksonville a cherished tradition during the holiday season.

Our mission is to enrich the human spirit through symphonic music. We are deeply passionate about our mission to bring joy to the community through performances presented in Jacoby Symphony Hall, our robust music education programs and our ensembles that tour throughout the region. I invite you to join us as we celebrate our 73rd season, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Steven Libman is president and CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jacksonville Symphony has big plans for 2022/'23 season