By Megan Hussey
For 37 years, the Hernando Symphony Orchestra has brought an exquisite variety of live popular music to the people of Hernando County. And with the help of a $300 Community Arts Grant from the Hernando County Fine Arts Council (https://www.hernandoarts.org/community-arts-grants), they are one step--and one note--closer to finding a permanent home.
The mission of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council is to "encourage, promote, and support all the creative arts in Hernando." Since the inception of the Community Arts Grant program in 2017, the Arts Council has as of 2019 invested $10,000 in 27 projects that had served more than 38,000 people; projects undertaken by Hernando groups and nonprofit agencies to promote art and arts appreciation. And in awarding a 2020 grant to their county's symphony orchestra, the council lends its able support to the musical arts of this community.
"The Concert Series project will help provide the orchestra with a venue so we can continue to provide live music experiences for the public," reads the orchestra statement in a 2020 CAG Summary document. "The orchestra does not have their own facility from which to perform and pays a substantial amount in moving equipment from our current rehearsal location at Chocachatti Elementary School to the Central High School Theater. This grant would help cover expenses of renting the venue and cover the cost of moving our equipment."
The Hernando Symphony Orchestra most recently performed Spectrum, a concert of popular music, Feb. 22 and 23, at Central High School Theater, Brooksville. This show featured music from the Star Wars saga, Stevie Wonder songs, music from The Great Race and Ben Hur, and more. Their next performance will take place at the Hernando County Fine Arts Council's Art in the Park festival Saturday, March 14th, 1 p.m. under the big tent at Tom Varn Park in Brooksville.
Regardless of the venue, the orchestra approaches each performance with one goal in mind.
"We want to bring the gift of music," said Michele DiLuzio, Conductor and co-founder of the Hernando Symphony. "We want to give our community the chance to experience live music, and to offer an outlet for musicians to provide a high standard of music."
The Hernando Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1982, consisting of 13 musicians. Today's orchestra consists of 26 members, ages teen through 80s, that play violin, cello, bass, flute, piccolo, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, piano, percussion, and clarinet.
"We have auditions...We rehearse together once a week. On their own, our musicians perform many hours," said DiLuzio, who herself has been playing music since age 10. "The audience pays to see this, so we must put forth our best. They accept the music fully and present a prepared piece."
The music they present is the work of a pops orchestra, which could--depending on the theme and set list of the show--feature popular movie theme songs, the hits of Motown, and popular hits from the likes of Bruno Mars, Carlos Santana, and Josh Groban.
"We listen to our audience," said DiLuzio "We play the music they want to hear."
Over the years, the symphony has expanded its mission to provide scholarship funds to promote string education in Hernando County. And, beyond an April 25-26 (7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday) performance of Kaleidoscope, a special performance by the Hernando Symphony Brass Quartet at Central High School Theater, 14075 Ken Austin Parkway, Brooksville, the symphony also plans to expand its season beyond its usual schedule of December through April.
"I am working on adding two more concerts to our season beginning in October," said DiLuzio.
Thanks to the support of community partners and volunteers, and supporters of the Gift of Music program (in which donors purchase new music for the orchestra), the orchestra can expand its repertoire. Those who wish to offer their own support, or to buy tickets for an upcoming show, can visit http://hernandosymphony.com/ or call 352-584-1210. The symphony's email is [email protected] And thanks to the arts council grant, the Hernando Symphony Orchestra is one step closer to expanding into its own home venue.
"I am so grateful for the involvement of the arts council in supporting both the visual and the performing arts," said DiLuzio. "And for making sure that the arts get a home."