Steven B. Libman, President & CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony
Although we are presently in the midst of an incredible heat wave, our administrative, artistic and production teams are very busy with preparation for the opening of our 2023/24 Season. Our 74th season has so much to offer the community – from phenomenal classical music to Pops concerts featuring iconic music from the legends of rock all the way to our other very popular music series, our Symphonic Night at the Movies Series, Coffee Series, Symphony in 60 Series, Organ Series, Family Series and our new Jazz Series.
About 24 months of planning goes into each season, so that means my team started putting together ideas in 2021 for a season that will begin in 2023. To secure our very talented guest artists, including composers, conductors, vocalists and some musicians, we need to match openings in our calendar with openings in their calendars, and that takes a great deal of time. Internally, we meet monthly and sometimes weekly as preparations come together for each season.
As the only symphony in America that produces a full “Nutcracker,” we also work with set, costume and lighting designers, often enhancing the costumes and scenery during the summer months.
Here is a small taste of what the first concert of each series has to offer.
We will begin our season with the free Community Concerts on September 15 and 16, 2023, sponsored by Haskell. Conducted by Associate Conductor Kevin Fitzgerald, the concerts will feature selections from music that will be heard throughout the season including, “Phantom of the Opera,” the first movement from Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, Flying Theme from “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” two selections from the opera “Carmen” and other works. This is always a fun concert for the entire family.
The morning of September 15, we will also launch our very popular Coffee Series. This special 11 a.m., one-hour concert will feature Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Tempest Fantasy – Overture” and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
Our Symphonic Night at the Movie Series will open on September 22 and 23, featuring Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” with award-winning music by John Williams. Movie concerts are always special because our audience gets to watch and listen to the Jacksonville Symphony play live on stage as the movie is playing. All movie scores are recorded “live” in a studio and then we hear the music when the film is running. However, at a Symphonic Night at the Movies performance, we get to experience the music performed live, creating a memorable and thrilling event.
On September 29 and 30, our Florida Blue Classical Series will begin with Music Director Courtney Lewis conducting Beethoven’s glorious Overture No. 2 from his only opera “Fidelio.” That will be followed by the world premiere of the Organ Concerto written by Lowell Liebermann and played on the Bryan Concert Organ by Paul Jacobs. Jacobs is the first organist to win a GRAMMY®. The evening will close with Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 2.
The Paysafe Pops Series will begin with The Music of Earth, Wind & Fire Featuring Serpentine Fire. The Jacksonville Symphony musicians will work with celebrated guest vocalists to bring to the stage a great fusion of funk, soul, jazz and pop. Jacoby Symphony Hall will be filled with the music of the GRAMMY® award-winning music of Earth, Wind & Fire.
On October 14, 2023, our vaulted JF Bryan Concert Organ Series will begin with a concert by Greg Zelek. Zelek has been guiding our series for several years, and if you have never seen an organ concert, then you are in for quite the experience. The Jacksonville Symphony is also one of only a handful of orchestras to have a true pipe organ in their concert hall.
Our ever-popular Family Series will begin on October 15 with a special concert titled “Stories for Kids by Kids: Spooktacular.” Conducted by Assistant conductor Grant O’Brien, this concert, which is a partnership with Duval County Public Schools, will be a treat for children and adults.
The Symphony in 60 Series will begin on October 26, and the opening concert will feature Music Director Courtney Lewis as we celebrate Pride Month and a concert featuring composers selected by Lewis. Our Symphony in 60 concerts are also special because they last about one hour, and there is a preconcert cocktail hour.
On November 19th, the Symphony will present the Chase Jazz Series featuring the Jacksonville Jazz Collective. This new series is designed to generate a new audience to experience the joy of jazz music in Jacoby Symphony Hall. Jazz is America’s “classical music” – it was created in America in the late 19th century with roots in blues, gospel and ragtime.
In December, the Jacksonville Symphony kicks off the season of joy with three special programs. The “First Coast Nutcracker” – a fully staged production of the timeless ballet featuring Tchaikovsky’s masterful score, sponsored by VyStar, has become a cherished holiday tradition for the First Coast. The Symphony will also present our annual “Holiday Pops” concert, sponsored by Paysafe. Also in December, we will present George Frideric Handel’s masterpiece “Messiah.”
Over the arc of 40 weeks, the Jacksonville Symphony will present 83 concerts. I have only written about a handful of them, so the magic and beauty of our 2023/24 Season awaits you. I look forward to seeing you soon in Jacoby Symphony Hall.