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Southwest Florida Symphony

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Music, Performing Arts, Symphony Orchestras

Mission:

The Symphony and its family of affiliates are committed to sharing their passion for music with the entire Southwest Florida community through continuous improvement of the artistic quality, programmatic breadth and cultural relevance of our concert programs and presentations. We are determined to accomplish this mission by creating an infrastructure of educational programs, institutional support and personal participation that we can build upon with pride in the 21st Century.

Geographic areas served: Fort Myers and the greater southwest Florida region

Programs: Each season the Orchestra offers a series of five Classical Masterworks concerts. Performances are usually at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers. For program dates and details, visit the Symphony's website at www.swflso.org

Community Stories

49 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Tom U.

Board Member

Rating: 5

This is a well-run professional orchestra in a community almost too small for music of this quality. The board and staff have engaged quality professional musicians from the state of Florida and beyond to play an aggressive schedule of masterworks, pops, small stage and what they call Brave New Music -stretching the boundaries with live orchestra to film, crossover popular performers and other interesting programs.
Like other arts performance organizations without their own venue, they take the performances into the community. This almost sixty-year-old orchestra also includes a far-reaching educational program, taking up the slack where public schools have lost interest.
With a budget of about $1.8 million, they are an important employer and contributor to the arts in Southwest Florida.
I'm thrilled to have been part of this organization for several decades, watching growth and improvement with constantly growing public acceptance.

Previous Stories
2

Board Member

Rating: 5

I've been a subscriber, sponsor and trustee for the Southwest Florida Symphony for over two decades, which gives me pretty good perspective. Entering our 56th season, we have a better board, stronger staff, more sponsors and a better orchestra than ever! We were fortunate to hire a world-class music director two years ago, which has paid great dividends. Audiences have loved his programming and his preconcert lectures alone are worth the price of admission; he brings the night's program to life. This is the only fully-professional orchestra in Lee County, with musicians travelling from distant cities to perform here. If you have any appreciation at all for pops or great classical music, you owe it to yourself to attend a concert. I promise you won't be disappointed. I feel that our sponsorship dollars are extremely well spent supporting this organization. Lee County is a richer place because this symphony orchestra is here and thriving!

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Board Member

Rating: 5

The Southwest Florida Symphony has been serving our community for 57 years. Our Symphony is beloved by many because our concerts are always excellent! As a donor, patron, volunteer and experienced music lover, I can say that this symphony is a group of highly trained professionals who deserve all the patron support available in the community and through donors and sponsors. We have a dedicated group of some 230 Society fundraisers who continually volunteer their time to present wonderful events which support the symphony and education/scholarship efforts. The support of the Society is continual, ever-present and always enthusiastic. Our education programs bring youth ensembles/concerts to the community, give scholarships to music students of the highest quality, and we have a wonderful Youth Orchestra.

Review from Guidestar

2

Donor

Rating: 5

As a subscriber to the New York Philharmonic as well as the Southwest Florida Symphony, I can vouch that the Fort Myers area is extremely lucky to have a symphony and music director as good as we have. I have enjoyed the orchestra's concerts for twelve years, and the quality keeps improving

2

Donor

Rating: 5

We attempt to use our donor dollars to improve our community and feel that our investment in the Southwest Florida Symphony is the best value we receive. This orchestra has survived the economic downturn, and appears to be on stronger financial footing than at any time in recent history. We always leave concerts thrilled and wanting more. Maestro Kabaretti's pre-concert lectures are worth the price of admission and the musicians tell us that they truly enjoy performing here. I have no idea what the personal attacks below are about, but feel that this resource should be about the organization, not personalities. This orchestra is our professional orchestra, with an active board, dedicated staff and great programming. Keep it up.

Review from Guidestar

3

Donor

Rating: 5

What an outstanding professional orchestra graces the stage at the BBMann hall during the Musical Season in Fort Myers, Fl. Both the Classical Series and the Pops performances are wonderfully rewarding, enriching and entertaining. Maestro Nir Kabaretti fills almost as many seats for his pre-concert lecture as he does for the music performance. The audience loves him and the musicians admit that he gets the very best from them. The upcoming season promises to be sensational, so get your tickets early, especially for Night at the Opera which brought down the house last season.

8

Board Member

Rating: 5

How many "positives" does it take to overcome one "negative"? I have been a Board member at the SWFLSO for 3+ years and am thrilled with my association. Prior to moving to SW Florida we were attendees and strong supporters of one of America's acknowledged five best symphony orchestras. I have studied music at a Music School Settlement and a Conservatory.

This Orchestra has grown by leaps and bounds under the strong leadership of Tom Uhler and our professional musicians, who were responsible for selecting Nir Kabaretti, as Music Director, from the five candidates who conducted three years ago. See www.nirkabaretti.com. Our budget for this year was, and next year is, $1.5mn and we produce world class music!

There is a vendetta being carried forward on these pages which hardly deserves comment except for the few who might believe what they read. Come and listen for the '16-'17 season and then make up your mind - unassisted by nay sayers!

6

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been a subscriber for the last two years and my wife and I have enjoyed the musical experience tremendously. The passion of the conductor and the quality of musicianship is rival to those found in much larger cities, We have often brought friends who also commented on the professionalism of the orchestra and chorus. We would recommend the Symphony to anyone who loves good music and an entertaining evening.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Just got the Season Preview materials yesterday and I am so excited about the concerts that we have coming this season. WOW!!! My "Snow-Bird Friends" are planning their visits around the concert schedules because they know they will hear a fabulous orchestra conducted by a wonderful Maestro. Last season's program was innovative and it looks like this season is heading in the same direction. Thanks to the hard-working staff and the board that supports them. Let the music begin.

Previous Stories
5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Southwest Florida Symphony is the only orchestra in Lee County that is staffed by professional musicians. The SWF Symphony is dedicated to enriching the cultural life of the sitizens. It achieves this goal through wonderful concerts staged at Barbara B. Mann Hall and with the educational programs that are presented in the schools. Concerts performed by this group are lauded by the citizens and tourists that frequent Mann Hall. I invited evryone to come enjoy the symohony!

6

General Member of the Public

Rating: 3

I'm a past volunteer so I had opted to stay out of the infighting mainly because I still have many friends within the symphony. But after reading all the posts and ironically meeting a nice couple at a 4th of July cookout, I've decided to put in my two cents.

The board member mentioned in several posts has left many shaking their heads over the years since joining the board. Her behavior is often erratic and borderline manic. She talks a big talk but it's usually of no substance, full of innuendos and nonsense to fill the time. Every now and then a light bulb may go on in her head but those times are very few in between. Her excuse for her behavior usually is, "I'm just young." But anyone over the age of 35 is NOT "just young". She aligns herself with different groups at different times and pit each group against the other when it serves her purpose. One minute she's nice to someone and the next she's talking bad behind their back. Apparently this behavior is well known to all who've ever dealt with her. The couple I met painted an even worse picture of an amoral and unstable individual.

The Symphony Family used to be a strong and cohesive group and I believe they can be again, once the board member is removed. It breaks my heart to see damaging posts because of the actions of mainly one individual with mental issues. The gal who is now the Executive Director, has been an integral part of the Symphony Family for many years. I support and believe in her capabilities, 100%! She truly cares for the organization as a whole and is dedicated to the continued musical enrichment the symphony brings to our community.

6

Donor

Rating: 1

Southwest Florida Symphony needs an overhaul pronto. Certain board members treat it as their personal social club. The BOT member in post below and her group of friends act like a bunch of high schoolers. They complain about the Executive Director not having any qualifications for the job but she's smarter and more dedicated than all those hags put together. Plus it's obvious that the incoming Vice President has carnal relations with the ring leader of this ugly bunch. He acts businesslike but it's self-serving. Will not support a symphony that does not function properly. It's like Sodom and Gomorrah there.

5

Donor

Rating: 1

Our beloved Symphony is doomed. The Board of Trustees member mentioned by CVOETBERG is a nasty piece of work. I was surprised to see someone already mentioned her. For a lawyer and an adult she acts immature and crazy. Her behavior with and towards certain members has been less than professional and inappropriate at times. Her behavior not only caused resignations last year but this year as well. She's an embarrassment to the entire symphony since joining in 2014. Which one of her friends has the gambling issue? We will no longer donate until the symphony takes out its trash.

6

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

First time Southwest Florida Symphony attendee. Great guest artist (Glen Phillips) performance on May 6th, unimpressive symphony and even less impressive (rigid and unfriendly) organization. No future inclination to attend, no matter who the guest artist. Seems like a typical backwoods town symphony deeply corroded by nepotism with no vision. Not surprised by the vast amount of empty seats.

Previous Stories
3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

First time Southwest Florida Symphony attendee. Great guest artist (Glen Phillips) performance on May 6th, unimpressive symphony and even less impressive (rigid and unfriendly) organization. No future inclination to attend, no matter who the guest artist. Seems like a typical backwoods town symphony deeply corroded by nepotism with no vision. Not surprised by the vast amount of empty seats.

12

General Member of the Public

Rating: 2

I'm a first time Southwest Florida Symphony attendee. My beautiful wife and I attended the crossover concert on May 6th, and we were generally pleased with the performances - particularly the Glen Phillips portion. I read the 2 previous comments and can attest to what my wife and I saw as a very disjointed event. Judging from all the previous posts, this organization's turmoil seem to have started in 2014 and just progressively got worst. It's a shame! There's not much entertainment available in this region.

14

General Member of the Public

Rating: 2

My husband and I have occasionally in the last four years attended the Symphony's Masterworks and Pops Series and have noticed the changes described by RBernhardt67. The Southwest Florida Symphony is typical of any small town symphony. It consists of very hard working musicians and once possessed a diligent and passionate group of volunteers. There is certainly room for improvement in regard to the current Maestro, who lacks charisma and enthusiasm but which may be a direct result of the very public and bitter power struggle between the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee.

The decline became very apparent after the death of the former Executive Director and the resignation of very knowledgeable, highly respected and well liked members of the Board. The Symphony has since then been in a free fall, especially after the resignations. One BOT member with an unsavory reputation in the Southwest Florida legal community then brought on board as replacements, her "close" male friends (one of which I was told has a gambling addiction).

The writing is on the wall; it is only a matter of time before this once thriving organization implodes from the in-fighting between its various committees (all worker bees) and from having no one with any leadership qualities. Until then, we will remain snowbird patrons. It's the least we can do to support the musicians.

24

General Member of the Public

Rating: 2

This organization gives me worried thoughts. The new Maestro has a charismatic effort when dealing with the Orchestra. He is musical, it is obvious. This is not the worry I have, however. I am very concerned with the Management side of this organization. As a long time seasonal resident of the area, I have met many of the people in the musical society. I was aghast when I found out about an illegal firing of a musician that happened over this past summer. I was then even more disheartened, when I found the organization was required to submit into a legal battle at their own fault. I was becoming wary after previous Maestro (Hall?) suddenly was required to leave, especially when he had such a popular following. Something strange happened there. None of the upper management people remain, which elicits more suspicion. I fear the current higher ups lack experience and education that is necessary to effectively run an organization like this. I have much suspicion that operations are "making everything look good" but in effect, there is no foundation or expertise - worrisome! A friend told me the current Executive Counselor/Director is not a capable professional, but that is opinion of his. I cannot complain to the vigor at which the musicians perform or the enthusiasm of the crowd. Please forgive my type, as English is a third language!

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

This was my first year as a Board member and season ticket holder. Both my wife and I and our guests were treated to fantastic concerts in a wonderful venue. The orchestra performances under the direction of our new Music Director/Conductor Nir Kabaretti sounded inspired and we can't wait for the 2015/16 season to begin.

Review from Guidestar

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

The Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra had an outstanding 2014/2015 season with the new Maestro Nir Kabaretti. He worked with the Orchestra and they have exceeded expectations. Many full time residents are thrilled that there will be a Summer concert conducted by Maestro Kabaretti in Sanibel, Ft. Myers and Cape Coral in August. Thanks for recognizing the need for the arts in the "off season".

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Great Orchestra, great leadership, great music, great fun.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Great symphonic music led by a young music director that has brought this professional group of musicians to new heights . The youth orchestra program, the educational programs in the schools and scholarships awarded have enhanced the music education programs in the local school district. The funding for the school music programs was reduced several years ago and the Southwest Florida Symphony has stepped up to enrich the programs that remain. BRAVO!!!!

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I thoroughly enjoyed the concerts this past season - 2014/2015. Excellent music. To the members of the orchestra, well done.

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

As a short-term yet enthusiastic patron of the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra (aka SOUTHWEST FLORIDA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS ASSOCIATION), the musical, educational and social quality is truly enticing across audiences. The new multicultural Music Director, NIR KABARETTI, and his TEAM, produces engaging programming for audiences ranging from youth to elderly - namely, educational, sophisticated, and enjoyable for all. BRAVO!

Review from Guidestar

1

Donor

Rating: 4

I have been involved inside and outside of the Southwest Florida Symphony for about 20 years. During that time I have seen ups and downs. The organization has struggled throughout it's history to bring a level of quality music, education and culture to the slowly maturing arts community of Fort Myers, Florida. As the community and the audience has matured, so has the SWFL Symphony. It has reached now reached a level only dreamed of years ago. Top quality musicians, an effective and productive Board and Executive staff, and a World-Class Music Director. Programming and execution were superb this last season, and I am confident the best is yet to come!

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

In the twenty years I've served this board, things have never been better! The strongest, most dedicated board ever, a transformed staff, a truly world-class music director and inspired programming promise even greater things to come. In an age when many fully-professional orchestras are suffering, the Southwest Florida Symphony is in great condition. Subscriptions, overall ticket sales, donations and sponsorships are all UP. We're adding concerts and new programming this coming season. Stay tuned; the best is yet to come!

Review from Guidestar

16

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

Going downhill quickly. Future not bright way it is going with the staff. Musicians are ok. Concerts ok. Organization is non-functioning state.

Previous Stories
7

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

No hope here unless complete staff and board overhaul.

1 Carol178

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Symphony shines in our community. I have been a patron, concert goer and volunteer over the past 14 years and have watched this organization evolve into a top notch organization. The concerts during the 2014-15 season were amazing. The board, the staff and the Symphony Society are as one, aligned in working to meet goals and create opportunities for all of the residents to be able to take advantage of this class organization.

The conductor candidates were quire impressed with our musicians. Often in non-profit organizations some board members are not very engaged. That is not the case with the Symphony's board. Several years ago the Symphony board worked to create a very clear and aggressive strategic plan. All the committees (governance, education, development, finance and marketing) have identified and prioritized the items in that plan and are addressing and completing a very large number of those. This strategic plan was not put in a drawer!

Attendance at the classics concerts increased by 21% this past season, a true indication of the audience's take on the qualify of the music.

The financial environment for the arts has been tight. Nevertheless, the symphony carefully managed expenses and the overall budget, resulting in a positive net profit for the 2103-15 season with forecasts of continued positive net income for the upcoming years, while still being able to expand programs for the audiences and students in the area.

If you have not attended a concert, this is the time to do so.

Review from Guidestar

17

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 1

This organization does not function in a legitimate fashion.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

Read the the reviews. I am an artist . I am a stand up comedian. I just wanted to pass on a little info. Check out a web site called Reward25.com. It helps non profits and charity with no cost to the organization. It can raise awareness and also can help get well deserved contributions simply by filling out surveys for companies. Its free to sign up. Good luck.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Music is food for the soul and when I moved here twelve years ago from a greater metropolis up north, I wondered if I had to listen to the radio or CDs for this. I found the Southwest Florida Symphony is fulfilling my need and more. Joining the Society is a learning and fulfilling experience which expands our education. How fortunate to we live in a community which has such musicians to satisfy our need of quality and relaxation.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The South West Florida Symphony brings music into local schools when the arts are no longer a great priority for them. Their youth programs in the form of competitions and symphony presentations have given me the opportunity to become a advocate for music in the schools during these bad economic times.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The SW Florida symphony orchestra is a great asset to the community of Lee County and beyond. We are attending concerts for a long time and feel thrilled that the quality of the musicians and conductors over time has greatly grown. As the Arts seem to be neglected more in our electronic society, we need the life experience of musicians of top professional quality and their willingnes to teach in schools and introduce the classical music to the young generations. Our SW FL Symphony has done so for all the time we can remember. Looking forward to the next season!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I moved to Fort Myers 16 years ago, I wondered what there was in the way of fun and culture here. Our new neighborhood consisted of all new residents who were wondering the same thing. A month or so later, a choir member in my parish told me about the symphony chorus which I immediately joined - and to which I still belong, now called the Symphonic Chorale. We have been on concert tours in Europe and in Barbados and were received with such enthusiasm. In the meantime, I learned more about the Symphony Orchestra and the volunteer activities involved. There were plenty available - and there are still plenty available. Many of my friends in Fort Myers belong to the Symphony Society, a fund-raising arm of the Symphony. We arrange popular social activities for fundraisers. A number of us also host muscians who have enriched our lives over the years. At any given concert, from the moment the baton is raised to the finale, the audience is in for a real treat. What is there to do in Fort Myers? Check out the Southwest Florida Symphony! It's a cultural gem in our town.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This is a fabulous asset to our community which we have supported since the 80's. Their fundraisers are fun and the variety of music performances offers something for everyone. Visitors to the area are always amazed at the quality of this professional orchestra.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Over the past eleven years we have attended performances of the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, it has grown in its professional presentation and its reach in our community. We have enjoyed the range of its performances, as well as outstanding talents of its professional musicians. Its efforts to reach students in our schools is admirable, as their SFSO experience is often the only exposure to music and instruments they will have. This year's "Cupcake Concerts" with small ensembles presenting at libraries and community centers (free), was a terrific experience for our young people and they were thrilled to actually touch many symphony instruments.

Charles20

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra fulfills an important role in estaablishing an environment of cultural enrichment to our community. In addition to inspiring masterworks concerts and thrilling pops concerts, the orchestra plays a vital part in the education of our young people in the appreciation and enjoyment of classical musinc.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The music that the Southwest Florida Symphony makes brings such happiness. It's a joy to discover a previously unknown piece and so satisfying to hear an old favorite played by such a team of skilled artists.