Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Our new website is up and running....

For more details on who we are, please visit our new website, see you there!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Community Orchestra Befriends Local Charter School


The Venice Community Orchestra has joined with the Island Village Montessori School to enhance the K-9th grade charter school’s new string instrument instruction initiative. Under the arrangement between the orchestra and the school, the school will provide weekly rehearsal space at its North Venice campus, and provide opportunities for beginning music students to sit in and play along with them. The artistic director and conductor of the orchestra, Angela Navarro, will also collaborate with the school’s music director, Peter Simms, to plan programs and concerts that will entertain and educate the entire student body while providing the valuable experience to the string students to play side-by-side with seasoned performers.

At the formal kick-off to the joint program, the Venice Community Orchestra recently performed a program of classical works and a sing-along of holiday favorites for 200 of the school’s pupils and faculty. During the concert’s intermission, two orchestra players, violinist Martin Himmelfarb and flutist Jeanette Himmelfarb, donated a violin outfit formerly used by their son David, when he was a beginning player, to the school’s string training program.
According to school executive director Kym Elder, who also plays cello in the orchestra, the string program, though only underway for a few weeks,  has already attracted 18 violin students, three cello students and six guitar students, not counting the children who are taking private lessons. The demand has become so strong that the school has retained well-known Venice area performer and string teacher Karen Tuttle to instruct the new string students.

The Venice Community Orchestra was organized in 2011, by founder John Mabardi, a cello student, to provide a place for players of all ages and levels, from retired professionals to beginning amateurs, to come together to have fun making music. Today the orchestra is composed of 20 musicians who rehearse weekly at the IVMS. During its brief existence, one of its high-school age violinists was hired by the Venice Symphony Orchestra and an 8-year-old cellist was recruited by the Sarasota Youth Symphony. “There are no auditions required to join us, just the desire to enjoy making music together,” the retired corporate executive noted. “Our friendship with the Island Village Montessori School will be a wonderful experience for our players and the kids, both.”
Founded in 1976 and established as a Sarasota County charter school, the Island Montessori School provides individualized education for students from pre-K through 9th grade. In addition to its core curriculum in language, humanities, math and science, the school offers programs in art, music and athletics.

Kym Elder, IVMS Executive Director introduces the VCO to the audience
The children are full of enthusiasm in anticipation of the concert

Following a most recent performance by the VCO to kick off the joint program between the VCO and IVMS, Kim Elder accepts on behalf of the school, Martin and Jeanette Himmelfarb’s donation of the ¾ size violin that belonged to their son when he was 6 years old.

From left to right, John Mabardi, Founder of the VCO; Angela Navarro, Artistic Director and Conductor of the VCO; Peter Simms, Head of the music program at IVMS, Kym Elder, Executive Director IVMS; Martin and Jeanette Himmelfarb both amateur musicians with the VCO

Contact: John Mabardi, Founder VCO
941 350 0311

Sunday, October 14, 2012

We are looking for one or two additional Board Members

I recently met with a senior representative from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. The GCCF is a well known local benefactor in several areas including arts and culture. We discussed what makes the Venice Community Orchestra a unique organization in Venice; the fact that we are the only local multigenerational orchestra in the area. The VCO provides a venue for musicians of all levels to play in a symphonic orchestra; no audition required. Experience has showed that we attract:
  • The more mature and professionally retired player who once played well in a prominent orchestra but wants to maintain his/her skills;
  • The pro who simply likes to play while helping others in reaching higher levels of playing;
  • The beginner who can learn by sitting next to better players who pulls them along to a higher level of playing;
  • The younger musician who aspires to become a pro musician, and;
  • The inveterate amateur who simply likes to play.
Our conversation focused on our most recent accomplishments including building the orchestra from an idea to a complement of 25 musicians in one year,  self-funding a music library that will sustain us for another 8 to 12 months and holding 6 concerts of classical music selections for 1,500 attendees. 

We also discussed  our key challenges, namely to identify an affordable space for weekly rehearsals, and to fairly compensate our music director/conductor.

To meet the above challenges, our Board of Directors needs to build its fund raising capability. This can be accomplished by adding one or two Board Members who would be as passionate as we are about our mission and be ready to help in raising the necessary funds to meet our challenges. 

If you are interested in joining our Board or if you know someone who might be interested in contributing to our success with fund raising activities, please advise. The rewards are immeasurable; they are derived from working with a congenial group of musicians of all ages and from the satisfaction in building a unique cultural and artistic organization to serve the Venice area community.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mark your calendar...

I'm asked frequently about future events and dates; publishing them on our blog makes it easier for all.

  • Wednesday November 7, 2012 @ Jacaranda West Country Club. After dinner concert.  - COMPLETED 
  • Wednesday December 12, 2012 @ The Unitarian Universalist Church of Venice. 2 to 3 pm. Festive & Seasonal music concert  for Island Village Montessori School children in Venice. COMPLETED
  • Tuesday January 8, 2013 @ Jacaranda Trace Retirement Homes. 7:15 pm.  COMPLETED
  • Tuesday February 5, 2013 @ The Plantation Golf & Country Club. After dinner concert. Light Classics & Showtunes.
  • Sunday 24, 2013 @ Venetian Golf & River Club. Starting 12:15 pm, Classical Music Selections as background music during brunch time.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    As we continue to grow musically and in number...

    For the last couple of weeks we’ve seen friends returning home and temporarily leaving the VCO until next season. On the other hand, we’ve had new members, and friends who’ve been busy with The Boston Pops or the Venice Symphony orchestras rejoining us for the summer.  Welcome back to Franz Schneider – Cello, and welcome to Guinevere Childers – Violin and Sam Burns – Violin. We are also thrilled by Karen Tuttle’s participation as Guest Conductor for this summer. We look forward to a great music filled summer.

    In the longer term we have a few milestones to meet. With a year experience behind us and following a lot of discussions and deliberations with a few orchestra colleagues I’ve come to the conclusion that in order for the VCO to grow to next level both musically and in size, we need to formalize our “Not for Profit Organization”status. This will be done by filing for a 501c3 status.

    This decision is driven by several factors. The most important ones being our desire to find an affordable place to rehearse and perform, a place that we can call “Home”, be able to compensate a Music Director, continue to acquire new music and meet other expenses that arise from time to time.  Essentially we need funding to assure the longevity of the VCO. Achieving 501c3 status will enable us to apply for grants from various local organizations to meet our longer-term growth objectives.

    Filing for 501c3 while continuing to manage the orchestra business requires work. To this end I am grateful that several members have offered to help. I specially want to recognize Jeanette Himmelfarb and Kristin Bailey who will help us in preparing the necessary Fl. State and IRS papers for filing, and coordinate with Angela the various activities around music selection for rehearsal, program planning and music acquisition while continuing to enjoy making good music.

    As always, I welcome any suggestion or answer any question you might have on the above plan.

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Classical Music Selection played on Feb 25, 2012 ...

    Click right here for the first 15 minutes of our concert at The Jacaranda Library in Venice, Fl

    The Venice Jacaranda Library
    February 25, 2012 at 2 pm

    Part 1

    Air #11 - (Handel)
    Cambria - (arr. L.V. Metcalf)
    Two Minuets - (Rameau)
    Ode To Joy - (Ludwig van Beethoven)

    Part 2

    Symphonic Miniature - (F. Heilmann)
    Plucky Fellow - (F. Metcalf)
    Bouree in F  - (Babell)
    Simple Gifts - (Shaker Hymn - arr. by Heilmann
    Publ. by - Elder Joseph Brakett)

    Part 3

    Theme and Variations (Metcalf)
    Rondeau - (Jean Joseph Mouret)
    Keitele - (Kyllonen)
    Highlights from "The Sound of Music"
    (Rodgers/Hammerstein - arr. Bruce Chase)  



    The Venice Jacaranda Library is a treasure-house of knowledge and an asset to the Community.  It is a place of learning and entertainment, a gathering place for culture, literary, artistic and musical, and a good companion for their patrons, regardless of their circumstances.  The same can be said about good music at any time. With the Venice Jacaranda Library as its gathering place, the Venice Community Orchestra comes together to make music and bring joy, entertainment and culture to all members of the Venice Community, players and audience alike. Beginning early this year the Jacaranda Library has been hosting us in the “Meeting Room” right here where we conducted our weekly rehearsals in anticipation of today’s concert. Since our humble beginnings this is the first time we’re performing in front of an audience in a public venue. We would like to extend our invitation to all our guests and patrons of the library to drop by during our open-door rehearsals on any Saturday morning and enjoy some casual music making.

    The Venice Community Orchestra is open to musicians of all levels, without audition.


    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Special Thanks...

    There are many facets in the life of a young orchestra and they all need a lot of attention.  During the last few months a few of us spent a lot of energy on developing and running the orchestra various activities. To name a few: attracting new members, coaching the orchestra in playing together, promoting the orchestra, selecting and donating music to play, finding a new home for rehearsals, planning a performance, and designing and printing programs.

    The orchestra as a whole is indebted to all our musicians for contributing their time, talent and enthusiasm. However, special thanks is due to Beverly Anders, violist, who opened her extensive music library and provided us with beautiful sheet music to perform; Karen Tuttle, music teacher, who not only provided us with sheet music but gave of her time and expertise in helping organize the orchestra and attract players; Lauren Allegri, wind player, who tirelessly transposed string music for woodwinds and thereby added a full dimension to our orchestral sound and created the opportunity for wind players to join in our fun; the management and staff of the Jacaranda Library, who donated this wonderful rehearsal and performance space and put up with our cacophony during some of our less than tuneful rehearsals. 

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    My Sunday presentation to the JCV Men's Club...

    Last weekend I was invited by Marty Himmelfarb - Violin, who is also President of the Jewish Congregation of Venice Men's Club to make a presentation on the Venice Community Orchestra. Here is the essence of my presentation.


    Thank you Marty for your invitation to talk to the JCV Men’s Club, I am humbled but thrilled to be here to talk about the VCO.

    When Marty’s asked me if I could talk about the VCO, my immediate reaction was  “What am I going to share with an audience who I know has a very rich and interesting work & life experience?” Seriously…. What does someone who’s picked up the cello some 3 1/2 years ago and assembled  20 musicians to play together can share with you? 

    It didn’t take me long though to decide that it is something I must do if I am serious about this project; and I am very serious about it while I also have fun developing it. I will first describe our orchestra then gladly take your questions and conclude with a few lessons learned. Before we get into it, any amateur musician in the audience? Let’s chat at the end of my presentation…

    The VCO’s goal is to provide a forum where musicians of all levels can play together while building bridges with the Venice Community, and that is precisely the reason I’m thrilled to share this story with you today.

    We started the VCO in May 2011 with a harpist, a flutist and myself. By the end of October 2011 we had 25 musicians on board! Quite a few had joined us from The Venice Symphony orchestra & the Sarasota Pops just for the summer while their orchestras are inactive. We look forward to having them rejoin sometime in May since we are the only orchestra in the area practicing 12 months a year.

    Today we have 22 members composed of young adults to senior amateurs, retired or active professional. We play and rehearse once a week at the Jacaranda library under the direction of a qualified coach/conductor. We play classical and traditional music; so far we’ve performed three times at the Good Shepherd Church who was hosting us during 2011. We are looking forward to our fourth public performance at the Jacaranda library on February 25 at 2 pm. Sometime this year we will start exploring the possibility of playing Mendelson 9th String Concerto in C Minor.

    You’re probably wondering how did this come about?

    I started to learn how to play the cello in 2008 and for a long time travelled back an forth once or twice a week from home in Venice to Sarasota for cello lessons or to play with a Sarasota based amateur orchestra. In September 2010 I attended a 4-day music camp in Atlanta and as I was wining about my travel issue with a fellow camper, she suddenly said to me: “Why don’t you start an orchestra in Venice near your home!” Yeah right… in Venice …

    At the end of the camp my cello and I had a 9 hrs drive from Atlanta to Venice. I loaded my CD player with music and suddenly my wheels started to turn. How do I start this? Is it realistic? What do I need to launch this project? 

    Intuitively I postulated that one needs to be an accomplished musician with a recognizable name to build an orchestra. That was my first mistake….

    I knew that there was no amateur string orchestra within a 25-mile radius and decided to investigate. I called about 8 music teachers in the area, some of them symphony orchestra musicians as well as a couple of Florida based orchestra conductors to discuss my project. The more I talked the more I became convinced that the project would be viable for Venice.

    Now I needed a place to practice, a conductor and like any other small business start-up, I need to move fast in recruiting musicians to start create momentum and keep building from there.

    Here again I approached a couple of schools and various churches until I met a younger priest from the Good Shepherd church on Center Rd in Venice who was interested to help in exchange for the occasional play at the church. GS also had a Choir Master/Organist who graciously volunteered to help us out. I had a home to practice and a coach/conductor who has now become a friend! All I needed to do was to cycle back with the contacts I had developed along the way and run a few ads in our local papers. The rest is history…. 

    In January this year we moved to the Jacaranda library where you can join us or hear us rehearse every Saturday from 10 am to Noon.

    In retrospect, the rewards are by far more than expected. I don’t know who gets more out this project, me or the musicians, but I strongly suspect it's me.

    Thank you for your time and attention; I’ll be happy to take any question you might have.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    The music we will play in 2012 ...

          Every now and then a new musician will join us, so posting the music we play makes it real easy for anyone to check if their inventory of music is complete. Please note that 5 of the pieces we will play during 2012 are carried forward from 2011.

    1.  Danny Boy – Londonderry Air
    2.   Dona Nobi Pacem – W. A. Mozart (2011)
    3.   Lara’s Theme From Doctor Zhivago – Maurice Jarre
    4.   Lean on Me – Bill Withers (2011)
    5.   Simple Gifts - Shaker Hymn (2011)
    6.   Star Spangled Banner – Francis Scott Key
    7.   Symphonic Miniature (2011)
    8.   William Tell Overture – G. Rossini (2011)
    9.   Your Raise Me Up – Brendan Graham (2011)
    1.   Brook Green Suite – Gustav Holt
    2.   Concerto In D Minor – J.S. Bach
    3.   Mendelson Simfonia No. 9
    1.   Brentwood String Orchestra Folio – 16 Pieces
    2.   Rodgers & Hammerstein String Colors – 14 Pieces
    3.   String Colors – 14 Pieces

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Most current activities ...

    Last Saturday we started rehearsing at the Jacaranda library. By all accounts it was well received by our membership, the library staff and a few library users who happen to be there on that day. Most importantly while we continue to have fun, we started to create awareness with library users and I have already received a couple of inquiries regarding the possibility of library guests joining us.

    We decided to postpone our Feb 5 performance at the Old Venice Train Station Depot and focus our rehearsals on our planned Feb 25 first performance at the Jacaranda library. The library administration will take it upon themselves to promote the event. I understand that Angela will soon suggest our Feb 25 tentative program. 

    Most recently, a member of the Venice Concert Band who played with us during the Christmas concert decided to join us for weekly play. She understands that we are not rich with wind instrument music but that didn’t deter Lauren Allegri from joining us next Saturday. Being techno savvy, she will take it upon herself to transpose string music for her bass clarinet and possibly for other wind instruments she will invite to join us. Something tells me that this might be the starting point in adding a few wind instruments to the VCO. 

    There are loads of articles on seating arrangements for small orchestra’s on the internet. I reviewed some of them and circulated a schematic with a proposed new seating arrangement; as usual better ideas are always welcome.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    The VCO at the Jacaranda Venice Library ...

    We recently decided to move to the Jacaranda Venice Library. That was a difficult decision, but after a lot of thinking and listening to our members we decided that it was the best course of action. Some of the elements that came into play are related to the challenge of night driving for some of our members, the loss of some of our high school musicians who prefer rehearsing during the weekend, the growth of our membership and the benefits of increased exposure to the Venice community by rehearsing during one of the busiest days at the library.

    I look at this move as a very timely opportunity. Our weekly presence in the library will fit perfectly with the objective of building bridges with the Venice community. Of course, we will continue to maintain the relationship we have with the GS community who gave us a home to rehearse and play during 2011. 

    Beginning Saturday January 7th we will rehearse weekly from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Jacaranda library. This will give us the opportunity to increase our presence in the community during 2012.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    We come together to play music; we play music to come together...

    I am in the process of compiling a short bio on each of our musicians. In her bio, McLaren Davies sums up her experience with the Venice Community Orchestra by the following sentence - We come together to play music; we play music to come together. To say the least, I am captivated by her thoughtful message.

    I think that McLaren captured the essence of our purpose and summed it up very nicely. From now on, I will use this sentence as a tag line for the VCO to better convey who we are. I'd love to hear my fellow musicians reaction to this post.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    The VCO Official 2011 Picture ...

    Photo by Al Churilla 

    Our first public performance ...

    Yesterday was the first time we played in front of an audience. This was a big milestone for us. We took that opportunity to thank Good Shepherd's parishioners for hosting us during our weekly rehearsals and introduced the orchestra. We played AIR No 11 by Handle. If you want to hear us please click below.
    Click here to hear us play

                                 Click on the link above this picture to hear us play                           Photo by Al Churilla

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    The Coach and I after our first public performance...

       Can't thank enough our Coach for her talent and friendship               Photo by Al Churilla

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    A visit to Venice High string orchestra

    Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit Venice High school. I attended a string orchestra class led by Ms. Iras Roback their music teacher. Ms. Roback was gracious enough to invite me to hear her 30 students play and take advantage of my visit to promote the VCO. The students were just back from their summer vacation, yet their play was wonderful! I can't wait to revisit in a few months for one of their concerts.

    I thought that the students are very fortunate to have the opportunity to play five days a week with such a great coach! I wished I had the same opportunity!

    I brought along and distributed a VCO promo flyer to the entire class and let them know that we would be delighted to welcome VHS musicians on Thursday rehearsals. Hopefully a couple of Ms. Roback's students will decide to join us soon.