The Sarasota Orchestra is an American symphony orchestra located in Sarasota, Florida. The orchestra is administratively based at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center. The orchestra performs concerts in Sarasota at several venues:
- Holley Hall, Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center
- Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
- Sarasota Opera House
The orchestra also gives concerts at the Neel Performing Arts Center, State College of Florida, in Bradenton.
In the fall of 1948, Ruth Cotton Butler, a Sarasota music teacher, enlisted the support of businessmen Dr. W.D. Sugg and J. Lorton Francis of Bradenton, and George Gibbs, an amateur musician from Venice, to form an orchestra. Their combined effort produced the debut concert of the Florida West Coast Symphony on 12 March 1949, conducted by Lyman Wiltse, at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium. Wiltse worked with the ensemble for one year, as de facto music director. The orchestra's first season contained three concerts, with the first taking place on 19 January 1950. Alexander Bloch was the first full-time music director of the orchestra, from 1950 to 1962. During the first six years of the orchestra, the orchestra did not have a single resident venue. In 1955, the Sarasota city commission approved construction of rehearsal space for the orchestra in the Sarasota civic center. The construction was completed in November 1955.
In 1961, Paul Wolfe began a 35-year tenure as artistic director and conductor. His leadership allowed the orchestra to establish a core chamber and four resident chamber ensembles, expand the Youth Orchestra Program and consolidate the then Florida West Coast Symphony and the Music Festival of Florida, to create the Sarasota Music Festival. In 1985, the orchestra merged with the Sarasota Music Festival.
Leif Bjaland succeeded Wolf as music director in 1997, and served in the post until 2012. His work during his tenure included the instigation of a concert series titled 'Journeys to Genius'. In February 2011, Anu Tali made her first guest-conducting appearance with the orchestra. In June 2013, the orchestra named Tali as its next music director, effective August 1, 2013, with an initial contract of 3 years. She is the first female conductor to be named music director of the orchestra. The orchestra extended her contract for another 3 years in 2016. In October 2017, the orchestra announced that Tali is to stand down from her music directorship of the orchestra in 2019.
- Alexander Bloch (1950-1962)
- Paul Wolfe (1961-1995)
- Leif Bjaland (1997-2012)
- Anu Tali (2013-present)
- Mallory Gnaegy (2013-09-04). "Sarasota Orchestra celebrates 65 years". Sarasota Observer. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- "Alexander Bloch Dead at 101; A Composer and Conductor". New York Times. 1983-03-18. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- Susan Rife (2012-02-12). "Leif Bjaland prepares for final concerts with Sarasota Orchestra". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- Richard Storm (2011-02-20). "Guest conductor brings nuance out of standards". Sarasota Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- Susan Rife (2013-06-11). "Sarasota Orchestra hires Anu Tali as music director". Sarasota Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- "Anu Tali Announces She Will Step Down as Music Director in 2019" (PDF) (Press release). Sarasota Orchestra. 25 October 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
- Susan Rife (2017-10-26). "Music director leaving Sarasota Orchestra in 2019". Sarasota Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2017-10-26.