The Sarasota Orchestra salutes American idols as it takes the field at Ed Smith Stadium.
The 40-plus players get in their last warm-ups before the main event and settle into their positions on the field, while the conductor analyzes the evening’s playbook — the sheet music. Then the call on the mound comes. It’s showtime.
The Sarasota Orchestra’s distinct musical identity is epitomized in an upcoming performance. It is not only comfortable in a concert hall; it is equally adept at Pops concerts highlighting the popular songs of radio and Broadway musicals in an unorthodox locale — a baseball stadium.
The Orchestra in the Outfield: “A Salute to American Idols” program May 9, at Ed Smith Stadium, is the second time the orchestra will present fresh arrangements of popular songs in American history in an outdoor setting.
“We’re going to reach people who have never heard the Sarasota Orchestra before, and they’ll want to go to a Pops concert or even go hear Beethoven,” says Pops conductor Andrew Lane. “I like to think this one concert will broaden the audience’s horizons. There’s really nothing like listening to a full symphony orchestra play.”
The stadium concert started last year as a collaboration between Pat Joslyn, vice president of operations and artistic planning for the Sarasota Orchestra, Gordon Greenfield, vice president of marketing, sales and public relations for the Sarasota Orchestra, and David Rovine, vice president of Orioles-Sarasota, to produce a fun and family-friendly outdoor concert. The patriotic programming includes everything from tunes from Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder, “The Wizard of Oz,” “How the West Was Won,” to more classical offerings including “A New Birth of Freedom” by Aaron Copland and an Armed Forces medley. In addition to America’s musical idols, Sarasota’s own “American Idol” Syesha Mercado will be a featured soloist with the orchestra and sing such vocal pyrotechnics as “Skyfall” (from the James Bond film “Skyfall”), “Fever” (popularized by Peggy Lee), the Etta James standard “At Last,” “One Rock and Roll Too Many” (from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Starlight Express”) and “Listen” (from the musical “Dreamgirls,” which Mercado performed in during the 2009-2010 national tour).
And wrapping up the hometown theme is 15-year-old Kaitlin Folsom. A freshman at the State College of Florida Collegiate School, in Bradenton, Folsom won the orchestra’s singing competition, “Anthem Idol,” to earn the honor of opening the concert with the national anthem.
“My job is to deliver things the audience hasn’t heard like they would with an orchestra,” says Lane. “It’s really fun music, and for an outdoor setting it’s giving the audience a new sound they’re not used to hearing, like an Elvis or Stevie Wonder medley.”
Lane says that he and the orchestra learned a lot last year playing in the open air at the ballpark. The Pops conductor, who is in his 11th season with the orchestra, enjoys the different perspective playing in a ballpark affords. The orchestra is situated on a stage on the third baseline, so everyone in the stands can see all 40-plus members of the orchestra.
Getting every note the musicians play to sound as good as in the acoustic space of a concert hall and making sure everything runs smoothly is Joslyn’s responsibility. As vice president of artistic administration and operations, she is responsible for the operations of the outdoor concert. From the angle of the stage to the closing fireworks finale, Joslyn has to ensure every aspect is in perfect harmony.
“My main focus is helping plan programs and engage all the guest artists and conductors,” says Joslyn. “I book all the performance venues, execute all the contracts and oversee the staff who manages the day-to-day operations of the orchestra.”
Armed with a notepad and calendar that never leave her side, Joslyn organizes the staff’s game plan for the day of the concert. Her crew will arrive at Ed Smith Stadium around 7 a.m. to wheel the stage to the perimeter of the field, set up the orchestra’s seating and equipment and, most importantly, set up the 40-plus microphones for each individual musician. Once the acoustics are as close to concert hall quality as possible, then the explosives expert will set up the fireworks for the closing of the concert.
And even though a year’s worth of planning goes into a few hours of musical entertainment, Lane and Joslyn look forward to the challenge.
“It’s a great venue, and once you know what works, we’re ready to do it again,” says Joslyn. “The sound we had last year was a good experience, and everyone in the stadium could hear everything. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house.”
Sarasota Orchestra members and staff’s musical tastes are as eclectic as the organization’s programming. Below are what some of the musicians and staff are listening to now.
Sujie Kim, bassoon: Little Dragon, a Swedish electronic music band
Brad Williams, principal trombone: Keane, the English indie-rock band known for the songs “Somewhere Only We Know,” “Everybody’s Changing” and “Is It Any Wonder?”
Margot Zarzycka, Ida S. Krawitz chair violin: Kongos, a South African alternative/rock band that scored a major international hit, “Come with Me Now”
Kaitlin Folsom, national anthem student singer: The Beatles, the Four Seasons, Adele, Amy Winehouse and Jimi Hendrix
Pat Joslyn, vice president of operations and artistic planning for the orchestra: Elton John, Chicago, the Carpenters, Joni Mitchell, The Mamas and the Papas and The Beach Boys. “And I own lots of bluegrass music. I love bluegrass.”