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RSW Living Magazine

Southwest Florida Symphony Offers Opportunities to Give Back and Be Entertained This January 2021

Youth Orchestra Rehearsal At Our Bell Tower Artistic & Operations Center

The Southwest Florida Symphony Performs At The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center

The Southwest Florida Symphony - 7500 College Parkway, Ste 200, Fort Myers, hasn't let the global pandemic keep it down. Despite the circumstances, the show must go on. Luckily, here in Southwest Florida, the weather is conducive to socially distant and safe outdoor gatherings, meaning the show can go on, providing some much-needed entertainment and leisure opportunities for the local community.

We caught up with Amy Ginsburg, executive director of the Southwest Florida Symphony to discuss COVID-19's impact on the symphony's operations, what's to come in 2021, and much more.

What's the latest with the Southwest Florida Symphony? What can people expect in terms of upcoming events/shows?

String Quartet Performance At Bell Tower, December 2020

The latest with the Symphony is we’re making lots of lemonade with the lemons we’ve been handed. In addition to moving into a beautiful new space at Sanibel Captiva Bank’s building on College Parkway in August, we've moved into our new Artistic & Operations Center at the Bell Tower.

We have almost 4,500 square feet of space there where we currently hold Youth Orchestra rehearsals; Youth Orchestra performances begin there in February, we’ll start holding professional rehearsals there in January; our large instruments like timpani and harpsichord live there; we’ll operate a satellite box office there beginning in the new year and we’ll hold lots of professional ensemble performances both in our space and in the Bell Tower’s center courtyard. Our first one is scheduled for Jan. 16, then we have at least one a month scheduled to take place there through April. We hope to return to Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in late April for larger performances but will continue to hold smaller concerts at the Bell Tower throughout the season. 

How has COVID-19 impacted the Symphony? What's in store after the pandemic is over?

COVID-19 hit the entire entertainment business like a meteor slamming into Earth. We all stopped and stared in shock for a moment, then collectively worked to assess the damage and figure out a temporary new normal. The Southwest Florida Symphony has the exceptionally great fortune of living in a state with near-perfect winter weather. Although we’re not comfortably convening a full orchestra, which ordinarily consists of 70 musicians or more,  we’ve programmed music for small ensembles for the time being. This allows us to continue to deliver live music either outdoors or in venues where we can keep fresh air flowing by opening windows and doors while we’re inside.

We’ll also perform at The Community House Sanibel Community AssociationSidney & Berne Davis Art Center, and Gulf Theater in Punta Gorda during the next three months. Other orchestras have maintained a presence through live streaming and recorded performances, but since there really is no substitute for live, we’re grateful we can still deliver that experience to our community and those who visit it. 

The 2020 calendar year has been an interesting time for us all. What's the biggest lesson you can take away from all of this?

I quoted Monty Python in my Annual Report narrative (because if you don’t laugh about things like this, you’ll just cry…). “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.” So, what have we learned? Expect the unexpected, be ready to adapt to the changes that are thrown at you, and take some comfort in the knowledge that this is just part of the evolutionary process. This has been a difficult time for all of us who are accustomed to putting these exquisite, larger-than-life musical performances on stages in big performing arts halls for thousands of people.

We’re not doing what we were born to do right now, but we will when it’s safe and we’ve expanded our repertoire, quite literally, to include in what we offer in the future. This has accelerated our evolution. We have adapted quickly to our environment and strengthened and grown in the process. 

Tell us about your involvement in the community. What have you done this year in terms of local causes?

Amy Ginsburg (Left) Accepts The Keys To The Symphony’s New Artistic & Operations Center At Bell Tower From Julie Clark, Bell Tower’s Marketing Manager

For several years, we’ve been a part of the Orchestras Feeding America Thanksgiving Food Drive. At our November Masterworks Concerts, we’ve collected non-perishable food for Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, then we’ve held a toy drive for the Salvation Army at our Holiday Pops series of concerts in December. This year, and again, as part of our evolution, we’ve learned that we have an opportunity to give back to our community at every performance we give.

Moving forward, we’ll collect donations for distribution through a number of local charities. We’re collecting hygiene items for the Salvation Army at our Jan. 7 open house at our administrative office space, then we’ll partner with other charitable organizations and serve as a collection center to accommodate their needs throughout each season. 

Anything else you'd like to say directly to the SWFL community?

Two words: THANK YOU. Our community has been exceptionally generous and supportive during this crisis. There are so many organizations in need right now and we deeply appreciate that our community recognizes how much value we bring to the lives of paradise dwellers. Your investment in the crown jewel of arts and culture in Southwest Florida will be rewarded for many years to come.