Why I started Beethoven on the Beach
Updated: 2 days ago
When I moved to NYC in 1989 to pursue my Master’s degree at Mannes College of Music, I entered into a world where I was completely immersed in music (literally- I lived inside the school on the 6th floor overlooking the practice rooms. But that’s another story!) I had always dreamed of living in New York, where I had imagined that you could find music on every corner. And on the Upper West Side, this was pretty much true! Of all the wonderful things about living in New York, my favorite was spending the summer in the city. Summer meant wonderful weather and beautiful parks bursting with activity. And it also meant free events- free concerts, movies, plays, dance performances, art exhibits, you name it! The public parks were, and still are, bursting with wonderful free things to do in the summer. And the crowning glory of these events was the New York Philharmonics summer park concerts. All you needed was a blanket or a patch of grass, and you could listen to a world-class concert for free! When I started Orchestra Miami in 2006, there wasn’t a lot going on in the classical music world in South Florida. The Florida Philharmonic was no more, the Arsht Center hadn’t opened yet, and if there were high-quality concerts being presented (for example by Judy Drucker’s excellent series or by Sunday Afternoons of Music), they certainly weren’t free! I’ve always loved being outdoors and that’s one of the things I love most about Miami- the beauty of the sky and the fabulous “winter” weather. It just seemed like a no-brainer that there should be free concerts outdoors, and lots of them! In 2011, finally, the stars aligned, and we were able to present our first free outdoor concerts. On March 19, 2011, under a Super Moon in Collins Park on Miami Beach, we presented “Mozart Under the Moonlight”, our very first free outdoor concert. Through magic and alchemy, we were also able to perform it for free at Pinecrest Gardens, and voila! A tradition was born. I will never forget how magical that first concert was! We performed Mozart, of course as the title implied, but I had to program one of my all-time favorite pieces, Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. The poem by James Agee so perfectly encapsulates all of the emotions and feelings of comfort, peace and warmth of being outdoors on a blanket, surrounded by your people. Out of all the many concerts we have presented, this one to this day still is one of my all-time favorites and one of which I am most proud. I can’t get through listening to it without breaking down in sobs, it brings up so many very deep and profound emotions. And Susana Diaz’s stunningly beautiful voice just makes my heart melt. Here is the performance of that piece:
The tradition continued and I decided that we needed to start performing Beethoven, thus “Beethoven on the Beach” was born. We started with Beethoven's 5th symphony, and I’m so proud that over the last 11 years, we have performed all 10 (yes, that is correct!) symphonies, plus many of Beethoven’s other works, outdoors in Miami’s public parks for free. And since it's "Beethoven on the Beach", here’s the third/fourth movement from Beethoven’s Symphony N. 3 “Eroica” recorded from our March 22, 2019 Beethoven in the Banyan Bowl concert at Pinecrest Gardens.