Three decades of orchestral sounds


The Gainesville Orchestra, with musical director and conductor Evans Haile standing at right, and artist Eleanor Blair at left, will perform its 30th Anniversary Concert on Friday at the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall. (Courtesy of Larry Santucci)

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 8:27 a.m.

In the early '80s, an orchestra launched in Gainesville. It had no formal place to call home, opening its first performance within the walls of the University Memorial Auditorium on the University of Florida campus.

Facts

Gainesville Orchestra's 30th Anniversary Concert

What: Ensemble performs such works as Tchaikovsky's “1812” Overture and Bernstein's “West Side Story” with artist Eleanor Blair painting onstage
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Fine Arts Hall, Santa Fe College, 3000 NW 83rd St.
Tickets: $30, $20 for seniors, $15 for students
Info: 395-4181, www.sfcollege.edu/finearts

Aaron Brask, who had returned to the area to live with his parents after graduating from Boston University, joined that orchestra to play the horn, an instrument he had grown up with and honed.

At the time, that orchestra was the Gainesville Chamber Orchestra, a collection of friends who wanted to put a cultural stamp on the city.

Thirty years later, the orchestra will host its anniversary concert Friday at the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall and unveil a new name.

It's becoming the Gainesville Orchestra. Musical director and conductor Evans Haile says the rebranding represents the cornerstone that the orchestra has become in the community.

“We are Gainesville's professional orchestra,” Haile says. “We're a professional team with professional musicians, similar to the orchestras you would find in New York City or Orlando.”

Haile says that the pieces being performed on Friday celebrate the orchestra's growth and versatility, ranging from Peter Tchaikovsky's “1812” Overture to Richard Strauss's “Don Juan” and Leonard Bernstein's “West Side Story.”

Aaron Brask, returning for the 30th anniversary event, will carry a solo performance in Mozart's Concerto No. 3 for horn and orchestra.

“I've performed in the Jacksonville Orchestra for the last 25 years,” Brask says. “That has become my job. There's something special about coming back.”

According to the 2012 Alachua County Summary of Arts and Economic Prosperity, the arts community in Gainesville generated more than $85 million in revenue for the city. For the Gainesville Orchestra, Haile says that for every dollar a concertgoer spends on a ticket for the orchestra performance, an extra $3.25 in revenue goes toward the city, whether in the form of a hotel stay or restaurant dinner.

“We're part of the fabric of the community,” Haile says, “and we represent an economic engine for the city we serve.”

Haile adds that because the orchestra has become a staple in the community, individuals no longer have to travel to Jacksonville or Orlando to enjoy an evening of music.

In addition to listening to the musical pieces from the orchestra throughout the night, audience members also will have the opportunity to watch local artist Eleanor Blair paint a portrait of the orchestra during the concert. Blair will sit on stage alongside the musicians as she captures the scene at hand.

The portrait will be auctioned at the concert's end, with the proceeds going to benefit the Gainesville Orchestra.

Brask and Haile both say they hope people come out to the concert, noting that the performing arts and music is about experiencing a performance

and having an emotional reaction.

“Our job is about escape,” Brask says. “We're giving people a sense of excitement in their daily lives, helping them forget whatever's going on or helping them discover something new.”

Tickets for the Gainesville Orchestra's 30th anniversary concert are $30, $20 for seniors and $15 for students and are available by calling 395-4181.

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