A gathering place for all who wish to not just listen to great music, but truly experience it.
More than seven decades ago, Sarasota music teacher, Ruth Cotton Butler, dreamt of creating an orchestra for her community. In less than a year, she rallied a community of like-minded music lovers for our first concerts … and the rest is history.
Sarasota Orchestra has now been a part of a local arts community longer than any other orchestra in Florida. Driven by our mission to engage, educate and enrich our community through high-quality, live musical experiences, we are proud to have achieved significant community impact.
Musicians in Sarasota Orchestra
(48 full-time core musicians living in our community)
People experience our live musical performances each year
Students in Sarasota Youth Orchestras
representing over 50 schools
Students in Summer Music Camp
Awarded annually in tuition scholarships
Percentage of students who receive financial aid
Special price to most concerts for students under 25
(with student ID) and adults accompanying minors
Annual Festival pre-professional fellows from all over the world
Festival alumni in every major orchestra in the United States
Students who attend the Young Person’s Concerts annually
Teachers who receive our Young Person's Concerts curriculum
People who attended a FREE family concert for all ages in 2018
Educational and promotional outreach activities
Music is at the Core of our Mission
Please enjoy a recording of the second movement from Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 performed in January 2023 by Sarasota Orchestra.
The Music Center will provide a space for the creation and sharing of music at the highest caliber by people of all ages and backgrounds, both onstage and off.
- A broadly distributed survey throughout our community confirmed most Sarasota-Manatee County residents believe the Music Center will become an important new performing arts asset and plan to attend events there in the future.
- 85% support the Music Center project
- 78% believe the Music Center will serve as an important cultural resource for our community
- 85% recognize the impact an acoustic concert hall will have on the quality of audience experiences
- 89% of people said they would be likely to attend future events at the new location
- Nearly 30 local arts organizations shared positive feedback about the music center project, with an emphasis on the need for a permanent home to host rehearsals and performances.
- Residential neighbors near the Music Center site have expressed enthusiasm and shared valuable input for consideration about outdoor parks and walking trails, parking and privacy.
Sarasota Orchestra's Arts Partners Share Their Thoughts on the Music Center
Executive Director at Sarasota Concert Association
Leymis Bolanos Wilmott
Co-founder & Artistic Director at Sarasota Contemporary Dance
Board President of Sarasota Pops Orchestra
Artistic Director at Key Chorale
Imagine a concert experience in which every note, every nuance and every harmony is heard perfectly from every seat, resonating exactly as the conductor and musicians intend. This is our vision for the Music Center’s acoustically engineered concert hall – the fourth in Florida and first on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Just as the right instrument can elevate a musical talent from good to great, a concert hall designed and built for acoustic music has the potential to elevate Sarasota Orchestra to ever-greater artistic heights. Moreover, generations of audiences will be transformed by the music that envelops them.
Thoughts from Our Creative Consultant
A great concert hall is an inspiration for musicians to explore the myriad possibilities in orchestra sound and have the confidence that their every expression is reaching the audience with immediacy and power.
A Concert Hall: The Orchestra’s Instrument
When Sarasota Orchestra guest conductor Peter Oundjian was an active violinist, he was given a Guarneri violin to try at the end of a concert in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Orchestra Hall. He played the violin and immediately fell in love–but it wasn’t just the instrument with which he was enamored.
“I fell in love with the violin, or so I thought,” Oundian remembers. “Perhaps I’d really fallen in love with the Orchestra Hall because a hall is an instrument, and when you play, you feel the resonance and the warmth–or lack of warmth–immediately.”
Like Oundjian, anyone who has experienced a concert hall optimized for acoustic performances understands what makes it unique. Just as the right instrument can elevate a musical talent from good to great, a concert hall designed and built for acoustic music has the potential to elevate Sarasota Orchestra to ever greater artistic heights. Moreover, generations of audiences will be transformed by the music that envelops them.
In a concert hall, the audience and musicians share the same room without a separation from the stage. This creates a natural acoustic for a rich, warm, and clear musical experience. Concert halls provide not only an exceptional auditory experience but also a memorable physical sensation caused by sound reverberation, culminating in a truly immersive event.
Multipurpose performance spaces feature a proscenium arch that frames the stage and separates where the music is made from the auditorium where audiences are seated and where the sound is heard. These performance spaces also include additional equipment and spaces to support theatrical sets. Together, these elements create a completely different acoustic, and while the staging is ideal for Broadway-style productions, it is sub-optimal for an orchestra. As a related example, while it is possible to play baseball in a football stadium, it will lessen the experience. Both are stadiums, but one built specifically for its sport will enhance the game for both players and fans.
“A great concert hall is an inspiration for musicians to explore the myriad possibilities in orchestra sound and have the confidence that their every expression is reaching the audience with immediacy and power,” Peter Oundjian says.
When Sarasota Orchestra recently completed the purchase of the 32-acre parcel for its music center at 5701 Fruitville Road, the 74-year-old institution moved one step closer to establishing Florida’s fourth concert hall and the first on Florida’s Gulf Coast (others include New World Center in Miami Beach, Knight Concert Hall in Miami, and Steinmetz Hall in Orlando).
To realize its vision for a concert hall that will inspire both audiences and performers, Sarasota Orchestra has been collaborating with renowned acoustician and hall designer Damian Doria. With 32 years of experience working on more than 175 projects worldwide, the Acoustical Society of America Fellow and his business partners at Stages Consultants have become intimately familiar with what makes a concert hall acoustically premier.
As Doria explains, for a concert hall to serve as Sarasota Orchestra’s instrument, it must be purpose-built.
“Different performing arts have different requirements with regard to acoustical and theatrical priorities. A well-designed multipurpose room may be very good, but only a single-function room can be among the very best for its intended use,” he says.
Like the world-famous Carnegie Hall and Boston Symphony Hall, Sarasota Orchestra’s concert hall will undoubtedly become a treasured community asset for the next century and beyond, illuminating the tremendous talent of the Orchestra’s musicians and attracting guest performers of the highest international caliber to this region.
Sarasota Orchestra Musicians Share Their Thoughts
on the Impact of a Great Concert Hall
A great concert hall with outstanding acoustics allows audiences to both ‘hear’ and ‘feel’ the music, in a shared experience with the orchestra.
Great concert halls attract and inspire both people who love classical music and are new to the experience.
A great concert hall is a place where the next generation of musicians are inspired and challenged to listen, learn, and participate in enriching the entire community.
A great concert hall is a musical home with which the entire community takes pride and immerses itself in joy.
The Music Center’s location at 5701 Fruitville Road creates a tremendous opportunity for Sarasota Orchestra and our partner organizations to inspire new levels of innovation, collaboration and discovery through diverse activities in a natural setting.
Primary features of the Music Center will include
- Concert Hall: State-of-the-art acoustic space with 1,800 seats, including a center aisle.
- Flexible Performance Space: Flexible space with 700 removable seats to accommodate a range of programs.
- Modern Patron Conveniences: Split aisles for more easily accessible seating, modern air handling and related technology for audience comfort and safety, and ample parking, covered valet and drop off areas.
- Rehearsal and Practice Rooms: Multiple rehearsal and practice rooms suitable for ensembles of all sizes, serving the Orchestra’s Education and Festival programs and community arts organizations.
- Music Library: Secure, weather-proof storage for the Orchestra’s vast collection of sheet music and archives, as well as adequate workspaces for preparing music for performances.
- Backstage Spaces for Musicians: Dedicated areas for musicians to comfortably store cases, warm up and prepare for performances.
- Function Hall: Community event space and reception area.
- Orchestra Administrative Offices and Storage Space: Much-needed space for administrative functions and enhanced storage spaces.
- Natural Settings: Roughly 12 acres dedicated to wetlands, water features, natural parks and trails.
Project News & Updates
Music Center Planning Updates
SARASOTA ORCHESTRA MUSIC CENTER UPDATE | APRIL 2023
On Tuesday, Sarasota Orchestra completed its purchase of the 32-acre parcel at 5701 Fruitville Road, reaching a significant milestone in the journey to build a new Music Center.
SARASOTA ORCHESTRA MUSIC CENTER UPDATE | January 2023
WHAT TO KNOW
- On Jan. 18, Sarasota County Commissioners unanimously approved our application for re-zoning and special exceptions for the land where we plan to build a music center.
- Sarasota Orchestra can now move forward with purchase of the 32-acre parcel at 5701 Fruitville Road.
- Along with increased space for rehearsal, storage and education activities, the proposed music center will bring our region something it has never had: a state-of-the-art concert hall with outstanding acoustics.
SARASOTA ORCHESTRA MUSIC CENTER UPDATE | December 2022
Last week, we were delighted to achieve another key milestone in our journey toward bringing Sarasota Orchestra’s new music center to life.
The Sarasota County Planning Commission unanimously approved our application for re-zoning and special exceptions.
TAKE OUR SURVEY AND HELP INFORM OUR PATH | October 2022
Sarasota Orchestra is looking to the future, and to the important role that a new Music Center will play in the vision for our entire community.
SARASOTA ORCHESTRA MUSIC CENTER UPDATE | AUGUST 2022
Honoring Our Music Director’s Legacy
When we first announced the music center site in March, our beloved Music Director Bramwell Tovey recognized an acoustic concert hall would have a transformative impact on our community.
“For an orchestra to best resonate, it must be done naturally, in an acoustic hall,” he said.
SARASOTA ORCHESTRA MUSIC CENTER UPDATE | JUNE 2022
When we announced in March that Sarasota Orchestra identified a site for our new home, we expressed a desire to develop our new music center and acoustically engineered concert hall into a valuable arts and cultural asset in which everyone in our dynamic region may take immense pride.
We are excited to share the first of many updates with you as work continues to realize this vision.
Sarasota Orchestra Identifies Site for New Home
Florida’s Longest-Standing Orchestra Will Bring the Region its First State-of-the-Art Concert Hall Designed Specifically for Acoustic Music
In the News
Tampa Bay Business Journal: Sarasota Orchestra buys 32 acres to build new music center
10 Tampa Bay WTSP: Sarasota Orchestra completes purchase of land for its future music center
ABC7 WWSB: Sarasota Orchestra completes land purchase for new facility
SNN, The Suncoast News Network: Sarasota Orchestra purchases land on Fruitville for new music center
Sarasota Observer: Sarasota Orchestra closes on $14 million site purchase on Fruitville
WUSF: Land purchase helps The Sarasota Orchestra move forward on building its music center
Sarasota Observer: Orchestra’s plans for new center approved by Planning Commission
Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Orchestra seeks public feedback on plans for new music center
Broadway World: Sarasota Orchestra Releases Music Center Survey
Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota Orchestra plans to leave city of Sarasota for a new home on Fruitville Road
WUSF: The Sarasota Orchestra has found a location to build its new home
Needs assessment and market analysis projects commence
Space program determined
Site search begins
Due diligence completed for 5701 Fruitville Road
Intent to purchase announced
Zoning approval process begins
Survey of Sarasota and Manatee County residents completed
Sarasota County approves zoning amendments
Land purchase completed
Fundraising feasibility study (anticipated)
Music Center FAQs
Sarasota Orchestra is planning a Music Center that will expand the Sarasota-Manatee region’s cultural capacity for many generations. As the area grows, and the arts and cultural community grows along with it, demand for performance, rehearsal and education space is eclipsing available supply. The Music Center will address this critical need for expansion and elevate the community to new artistic heights with something the region has never had: a concert hall purpose-built for acoustic music.
Our Music Center will be located at 5701 Fruitville Road between Honore Avenue and Cattlemen Road. The site’s proximity to Interstate 75 increases accessibility to arts and cultural experiences for residents across the region and visitors from around the world, serving as a gateway to the nearby downtown Sarasota area.
The 32-acre site at 5701 Fruitville Road accommodates the required building height needed for an acoustically engineered concert hall (up to 110 feet) and offers protection from coastal vulnerabilities. It also provides space for ample parking and easy access from Interstate 75.
The Music Center will bring the community something it’s never had: a purpose-built concert hall with outstanding acoustics for musical performances. Sarasota Orchestra’s concert hall will be one of only four in Florida and the first on Florida’s Gulf Coast (others include the New World Center in Miami Beach, Knight Concert Hall in Miami, and Steinmetz Hall in Orlando).
Along with the 1,800-seat concert hall built specifically to showcase acoustic music, aspirational plans for the Music Center also include a 700-seat flexible-use performance space, multiple rehearsal and practice rooms, music storage and office space. These facilities will serve as important resources for the Orchestra and many of the nearly 30 peer organizations that also face challenges in securing performance and rehearsal dates due to the limitations of the region’s existing arts and cultural infrastructure. The new Music Center will also provide expanded space and increased opportunities for the growth of Sarasota Orchestra’s youth education programs.
Fundamentally different from a venue built to support theatrical sets and amplified productions, concert halls are built with specific intent to optimize acoustic (non-amplified) performances. In a concert hall, the audience and musicians share the same room without a separation from the stage. This is different from a multipurpose performance space, in which a proscenium arch frames the stage and the space above and around the stage is open to fly lofts and storage for theatrical set. The resulting sound reverberation in a concert hall enables memorable physical sensations, culminating in a truly immersive experience.
Sarasota Orchestra has a long-term lease agreement with the City of Sarasota for our current location at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center and will continue operations there until a new site is completed and adequately equipped to house all our performances, rehearsals, educational programing and administration. The terms of Sarasota Orchestra’s lease for its current facility will be evaluated in the future by our board of directors in consultation with the City of Sarasota.
The Orchestra expects to finalize our Music Center project scope and timeline later this year, following the completion of a fundraising feasibility study, which is underway and will continue through mid-2023.
The Orchestra expects to finalize our Music Center project scope and timeline later this year, following the completion of a fundraising feasibility study, which is underway and will continue through mid-2023
During September and October 2022, Sarasota Orchestra surveyed Sarasota and Manatee County residents to collect feedback about the organization, our planned Music Center and how the Orchestra might use this new space to better serve the community.
Most residents surveyed believe the Music Center will become an important community asset and plan to attend events there in the future:
- 85% support the Music Center project.
- 78% believe the Music Center will serve as an important cultural resource for the community.
- 85% recognize the impact an acoustic concert hall will have on the quality of audience experiences.
- 89% said they would be likely to attend future events at the new music center.
Additionally, a series of nearly 30 interviews conducted in spring 2022 with local performing arts and music organizations confirmed Sarasota Orchestra is not the only organization significantly impacted by limited rehearsal and performance space. Community arts leaders surveyed agreed the region’s arts and cultural infrastructure is operating at maximum capacity, challenging their ability to maintain and grow entertainment and educational programming.
If you would like to share feedback about the Music Center, please reach us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you.
Any time! Gifts to support the Music Center, no matter how big or small, will help us realize our vision and bring this transformational community asset to life.
For more information, please contact Tracy Harbilas, senior director of development services, at 941.487.2740 or THarbilas@SarasotaOrchestra.org.