The Tampa Bay Symphony plays the last St. Pete show of its 32nd season tonight at the Palladium Theater. The spring concert by our “other orchestra” is always a good one, as it includes a performance by the winner of the annual Jack Heller Young Artist Competition, named for the symphony’s founding director, and a performance of the winning piece in the annual Call For Scores Composition Competition.
So the concert is a combination of veteran classical players – the 75-plus members of the all-volunteer symphony – and fresh-faced newcomers infusing things with an extra layer of passionate playing.
Young Artist winner Bailey-Michelle Collins, a student (and piano instructor) at Lynn University in Boca Raton, will perform Gershwin’s Concerto in F with the Tampa Bay Symphony.
Sixty-seven entries were received for the Call to Scores, from 15 countries, and the TBS judges – and the pubic attending a Jan. 20 concert – chose Waking Up Down at the Bottom of the Sea by Argentine-born Alejandro Rutty.
Rutty, who resides in North Carolina, will be in attendance at the Palladium, discussing his piece before the symphony, conducted by music director Mark Sforzini, performs it.
Sforzini took over seven years ago, when Jack Heller retired; he is also the founder and artistic director of the St. Petersburg Opera Company. Prior to creating that organization in 2007, he was principal bassoonist with the Florida Orchestra. He’s also a prolific composer whose works have been performed by the Tampa Bay Symphony and other groups.
Staying so busy, he says, “affords me the opportunity to not only conduct the great opera repertoire, but also to conduct symphonic repertoire. Living here in Tampa Bay and having a year-round opera company, it’s not like I have a lot of time to go off and do guest-conducting things. So it’s kind of like a perfect fit.”
Tampa Bay Symphony musicians, explains Sforzini, come from all walks of life. “We have some professional musicians, some music educators, doctors, lawyers, IT people, aerospace engineers, nurses, firefighters, everything under the sun.
“They’re volunteers, but they play like a professional orchestra. They’re very dedicated and they’re very talented.”
The second half of tonight’s Palladium program will consist of “Sibelius’ Might Second,” a.k.a. Symphony No. 2 by composer Jean Sibelius. Sforzini – as is his wont – will give a short talk before the performance. “I’ll explain how the piece is unified and written, and talk about some of the things Sibelius wrote in his journals about the piece,” he says. “Kind of giving people a little guidance before we play the symphony.”
As for that “other orchestra,” Sforzini believes there’s room enough in our area for two symphonic collaboratives.
“Where is the outlet for amazing musicians, who don’t do it full-time for a living, to come together and make symphonic music together?” he says.
“I would guess that the Tampa Bay Symphony is in the top 10 percent of community symphonies nationwide, in terms of quality. And we’re pulling from two million-plus people in Tampa Bay to fill the orchestra with these talented, passionate musicians.
“It’s a different kind of experience to watch these people come together and play with so much soul and commitment when you know they’re all strictly giving their time to do it.”
Tickets and info here.