Each year the Southwest Florida Symphony presents a series of Masterworks concerts featuring great symphonic repertoire ranging from the Baroque era through the 21st century. One hour prior to each Masterworks, patrons are invited to attend pre-concert lectures, which include Q&A opportunities. These interactive and enlightening experiences enhance patrons’ concert experiences, providing insight into the pieces being performed and a brief opportunity to get to know the key artists onstage.
The Symphony also presents Pops Concerts, including a family-oriented Holiday Pops each December, all featuring major entertainers with impressive backgrounds in performing arts. TinyConcerts™ chamber programs are presented annually at multiple venues throughout Lee, Charlotte and Collier Counties with the occasional program visiting other counties throughout the state.
The organization supports a Youth Orchestra program that includes a fully youth symphony and chamber ensembles for more advanced players and a string ensemble for beginning players. Ensembles consisting of our professional orchestra musicians deliver free educational programs in local schools, called Majors for Minors, during the academic year in addition to a free Young People’s Concert for area fifth graders.
Each year, The Symphony Society, the orchestra’s fundraising auxiliary, hosts a Young Artists Competition with the winner being given the opportunity to perform as a soloist with the professional orchestra. In addition to offering multiple scholarship opportunities to budding musicians, the Symphony Society, which consists of more than 250 members, works tirelessly each concert season hosting multiple fundraising events in support of the orchestra and its programs. To ensure accessibility to everyone who desires it, the orchestra provides hundreds of free tickets to disadvantaged youth and deeply discounted tickets to teachers and public servants through its Music for Life program. $5 tickets are also made available to students and families through the Symphony’s Discovery Club and Student Rush programs.
Our Mission & Vision
The Mission of the Southwest Florida Symphony is to perform outstanding orchestral music for the enrichment, entertainment and education of the broadest possible public. Fulfilling this mission is only possible through the generosity of our supporters. Visit our CONTRIBUTE page to learn more about how your gift can make a difference in the cultural landscape of our community and beyond.
REG. #CH1817 A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING
1-800-435-7532 TOLL FREE WITHIN THE STATE. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.
HISTORY OF THE SOUTHWEST FLORIDA SYMPHONY
The Southwest Florida Symphony is Lee County’s only professional orchestra and one of the oldest symphony orchestras on Florida’s Gulf Coast. As our area began to grow with residents arriving from major metropolises of the north, many of whom were accustomed to having regular access to symphonic performances, local piano teacher, Arlo Diebler, identified a need and desire for symphonic music in Southwest Florida and established the Fort Myers Symphony. It began in April of 1961 as a community orchestra consisting of 24 volunteer musicians. The Fort Myers Symphony spent its first year performing a handful of concerts in community centers and schools, growing a following throughout the region. A year later, a symphony chorus was established and the orchestra became The Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra & Chorus Association. Maestro Diebler led the orchestra for 25 years, then passed the baton to Maestro Joseph Eger, who led the orchestra for the next four seasons.
In 1990, Maestro Paul Nadler, a staff conductor with the New York Metropolitan Opera and founder of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra was appointed as music director and conductor. Nadler launched the Sanibel Series in 1993 in order to expand the orchestra’s community outreach.
In 2001, the symphony welcomed Cleveland Pops founder, Maestro Carl Topilow, as its Pops conductor and Maestro Joseph Caulkins as its director of choruses. Maestro Caulkins established the Stained Glass Series to showcase the organization’s choral talent, bringing adult and children’s choral groups to area churches to perform. During the 2005-2006 season, the orchestra bade farewell to Maestro Topilow and Maestro Nadler who has an enduring role with the Southwest Florida Symphony as Conductor Emeritus.
For several seasons after Maestro Topilow’s departure, world-renowned Maestro Erich Kunzel led the symphony’s Pops programs and the Southwest Florida Symphony welcomed Maestro Michael Hall as its music director in 2007. He served until 2012 at which time the organization began a search for its fifth music director in its 53-year history. Maestro Leif Bjaland was appointed as the symphony’s artistic advisor to lead the search process and oversee artistic planning during this interim period. The search culminated at the end of the 53rd season with the appointment of internationally renowned Maestro Nir Kabaretti as the orchestra’s music director and conductor. Since Maestro Kabaretti’s appointment, symphony attendance has soared as a result of his forward-thinking artistic leadership and warm personality that radiates from the stage.
In 2021, the Southwest Florida Symphony proudly welcomed Maestro Radu Paponiu as its music director. Bringing a fresh and dynamic approach to the orchestra, Maestro Paponiu continues to enhance the symphonic experience for our audiences with his vibrant energy and innovative programming.
Since its inception more than a half-century ago, the Southwest Florida Symphony has grown to a roster of 65 world-class musicians. Each season, the orchestra presents a series of five Masterworks Concerts, three Pops Concerts, and 3 or more Holiday Pops Concerts. In addition to expanding its chamber concert series to multiple communities throughout Southwest Florida, the symphony has begun performing in other cities throughout the state.
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