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Gulf Coast Flute Choir to perform its first world premiere

The group will play "Twilight on the Gulf" on April 21-22 in Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton.

The Gulf Coast Flute Choir rehearses for its spring concert to be held April 21 in Lakewood Ranch and April 22 in Bradenton.
The Gulf Coast Flute Choir rehearses for its spring concert to be held April 21 in Lakewood Ranch and April 22 in Bradenton.
Photo by Monica Roman Gagnier
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It’s a bittersweet moment as Gulf Coast Flute Choir Artistic Director Angela Galestro leads a rehearsal April 13 in the basement of the First United Methodist Church in Bradenton. After five years in the position, Galestro is stepping down. 

But she’s leaving on a high note. Her last concerts with the flute choir will mark the first time the group has performed a world premiere. Under Galestro’s stewardship, the flute choir commissioned an original composition by Orlando’s Paul Cuevas called “Twilight on the Gulf.”

“Twilight” follows the region’s history in four movements that are dedicated to, respectively, smugglers and pirates, Native Americans, Spanish colonialists and the circus. 

The circus movement is called “Screamers” and is inspired by the melodies played by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus back in the day when the show featured wild animals and crazy clowns.

“It’s a grand finale of sorts,” says Galestro in a telephone interview. “I’ve been with the flute choir for five years. I’ve enjoyed my time. I feel I have left my fingerprint.”

Galestro is leaving to concentrate on the other jobs she has, including teaching at the State College of Florida and the Sarasota Music Conservatory and playing in her band, The Dialogue, which just released its first album. She has also served as a substitute for Betsy Hudson Traba, principal flutist for the Sarasota Orchestra. 

Galestro holds a doctorate degree in musical arts from Shenandoah Conservatory, a master’s degree in flute performance from the University of Akron and a bachelor’s degree in orchestral flute performance from Stetson University.

Gulf Coast Flute Choir Artistic Director Angela Galestro leads the choir's as it rehearses the April 21 world premiere of "Twilight on the Gulf" by Paul Cuevas.
Photo by Monica Roman Gagnier

While a search committee looks for Galestro’s successor, her job will be held on an interim basis by the flute choir’s assistant artistic director, Thom Gravelle. One day, he would like the position on a permanent basis, but not until he retires from his full-time job as a graphic artist at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Gravelle says.

Made up of about 25 musicians all playing one kind of flute or another, the Gulf Coast Flute Choir was formed in 2000 by local flutist Cyndi Brue. “She was teaching a lot of adult students and they expressed a desire to play in an ensemble. That was the impetus for Cyndi,” says choir member Janet Schmoll.

In the early days of the choir, they would feed their audiences, which sometimes were as large as 150 people, after their performances.But that tradition has fallen by the wayside. “I think that was part of the draw,” Schmoll says. 

With the exception of the 2020-22 period during Covid, the choir has performed two live concerts a year since its inception— one during the Christmas season and one in the spring.

Even though he’s not officially on staff, Gulf Coast Flute Choir members give Galestro’s husband, guitarist Jonathan Smith, credit for keeping the group alive during the pandemic. 

Thanks to his diligence and technological knowhow, the flute choir performed concerts on Zoom, with each of the 25 or so members appearing in a little box on the screen as their parts were played.

Each flutist recorded their part in advance. Smith synchronized the recordings using a tool called Click Track to provide an orchestral sound. “We wouldn’t have survived without Jonathan,” Gravelle says. 

Why is the group called a choir and not an ensemble? Schmoll explains that the different types of flutes —piccolo, C flute (the one familiar to most people) and alto, bass and contrabass flutes — function like voices in a choir.

There are no auditions for the Gulf Coast Flute Choir, which is a 501(c)3 organization, and its members play at varying levels. Dues are $50 a year or $25 for season.

The choir is composed primarily of older women, but Gravelle says he has been reaching out to younger musicians and men since coming on board in 2016, after moving to Bradenton from Milwaukee. 

“In the past couple of years, we’ve had some very strong musicians come in and that has raised the threshold,” Gravelle says.

Like Gravelle, Galestro has focused on diversity, broadening the winter concert from familiar Christmas tunes to include a medley of Jewish songs that she commissioned as well as an African-style Noel. “As a younger female director, I wanted more diversity in our program,” Galestro says. “Performing the works of living composers also makes it more accessible.” 

Becoming a 501(c)3 organization, which is a nonprofit with a dedicated mission, in 2020 has given the Gulf Coast Flute Choir more flexibility to raise money. 

On April 9-10, the choir participated in its second Giving Challenge, which brought in more than $3,600 for the group. With help from matching grants from the Patterson Foundation, the 2024 Giving Challenge raised more than $17.2 million for 724 participating nonprofits in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.

Having access to more funding has allowed the choir to purchase its own contrabass flute. “They are not in plentiful supply, but we have one on order,” Schmoll says. The large standing instruments generally cost between $11,000 and $32,000. 

Galestro, Gravelle and Schmoll each said they joined the Gulf Coast Flute Choir after relocating to the area because they were in search of some place where they could play their flute (or lead them, in Galestro’s case) and feel a sense of community.

“It’s a very congenial group and we love having new people,” Schmoll says.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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