The Jacksonville Symphony Celebrates a Shining Holiday Season


Steven B. Libman, President & CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony 


Each December, the Jacksonville Symphony embarks on the most intense, and some might say exciting, part of our annual season. Within the span of three weeks, we will present 17 concerts before 21,000 patrons that celebrate the joy of the holiday season. Each of these programs creates magical, transformational moments that families will enjoy for generations, and many of our patrons return year after year. Imagine this–a young couple goes on a date to one of our holiday concerts, they subsequently marry and continue attending the concerts. Then, they bring their children, and after many years, their grandchildren. And so, the joyful tradition continues. Furthermore, we generate 27% of our total ticket sales revenue during the month of December, a testament to how important these concerts are to the community. Let’s explore these special concerts in greater detail. 

On December 1 and 2, Associate Conductor Kevin Fitzgerald will lead the Jacksonville Symphony through a Florida Blue Classical program that will begin with Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “Dramatic Overture,” followed by Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto played by returning, internationally recognized pianist Joyce Yang–part of the David M. Hicks Piano Series. The evening will conclude with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s celebrator Symphony No. 4. 

The holiday festivities really kick into high gear when the Symphony presents the always fun “Holiday Pops,” sponsored by Paysafe, from December 7 to 10, in six concerts. The program will be led by guest conductor Tim Hankewich and will also feature Broadway veteran Ryan Silverman, the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus and Dancers from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. Please join us as we rejoice in what is affectionately known as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” We will present well-known holiday classics as Jacoby Symphony Hall is transformed into a stunning winter wonderland. 

On December 11, our Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestras, led by Assistant Conductor and JSYO Music Director Grant O’Brien, will present the ever-popular “Holiday Concert.” This special concert features the talents of the young musicians who study with us throughout the year. Hours of rehearsals result in a fun concert for the students and family members.  

This is then followed by something truly amazing. In the Moran Theatre, the Jacksonville Symphony produces the “First Coast Nutcracker,” presented by VyStar. This glorious ballet, which runs from December 15 to 17, features Tchaikovsky’s stunning “Nutcracker” in six performances, including two special matinee performances for 4,000 students. Conducted by Fitzgerald, this is the only “Nutcracker” in Northeast Florida to feature live music! From the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” to the “Waltz of the Flowers,” this annual ballet, complete with stunning sets, costumes and a bit of magic, features the talents of hundreds of students and several professional ballet dancers. The Jacksonville Symphony is also the only major orchestra in the country to produce a fully staged professional “Nutcracker.”  

In Jacoby Symphony Hall, while the “Nutcracker” is running in the Moran Theatre, the Symphony also presents “Handel’s Messiah,” a stunning masterpiece by George Frideric Handel. Conducted by Music Director Courtney Lewis and featuring the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus, “Handel’s Messiah” has now become a holiday staple for the Jacksonville community.  First performed in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 1742, “Messiah” is now one of the best known and most frequently performed choral works in the world. Featuring the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” as part of the work, the Jacksonville Symphony’s performance of “Messiah,” which will run on December 16 and 17, always leaves our audiences spellbound with the majesty of this incredible work.  

In so many ways, these holiday concerts bring our community together as we celebrate our shared hope for a joyous future with loved ones. As we celebrate our 74th season of presenting world-class symphonic music for the First Coast, we wish our community a joyous holiday season and a very healthy New Year.