15 Memorable Moments of Our 15th Year
By Zandra Wolfgram
Sinfonia Gulf Coast is nothing if not resilient. With music and artistic director Demetrius Fuller at the helm flanked by dedicated staff and tireless volunteers, thanks to loyal patrons and generous sponsors, even a global pandemic could not keep this pioneering art organization from safely marking its milestone 15th anniversary with aplomb.
Here is a look back at just 15 fabulous reasons why we are proud to celebrate our 15th anniversary season:
1) Broadway’s soulful songstress Morgan James kicked off the inaugural Moonlight Serenades: Elegant Outdoor “Fall Fresco” performance series with Moonlight Cabaret on October 30, 2020. Guests gathered in Miramar Beach in elegant tents under the stars on the Market Shops’ lawn for a stellar performance that became a special, intimate “you had to be there” music experience.
2) Classi-Palooza! Lived up to its name. This fun and funny al fresco concert on November 15, 2020, conducted by Sinfonia assistant conductor Aaron King Vaughn showcased 10 musicians from Sinfonia’s orchestra — in classical garb complete with powdered white wigs! —to perform snippets of the most famous and popular “classi” music from Baroque to Broadway.
3) Violectric — a Grammy-winning acoustic and electric string ensemble — illuminated the stage and the audience’s senses on November 19, 2020, through the use of cutting-edge technology and interactive experiences. From classical pieces to rock and pop tunes from the likes of Led Zeppelin to Lady Gaga, this electrifying creative concert lit up everyone’s spirits.
4) On March 25, 2021, Sinfonia Gulf Coast launched the Emerald Coast arts season with a kinetic Kick-Off Lunch for Crescendo! 2021 offering both indoor and outdoor seating at Bijoux Restaurant + Spirits in Miramar Beach. With vaccines now underway, the pent-up demand to socialize and support the arts was palpable. The sold-out social event featured a delicious wine paired lunch beautifully prepared by Chef by Jack McGuckin, a sparkling retail Pop Up Shop by The Jewel, dazzling raffle prizes and more. Sinfonia board president Jeff Dannelly, in a dashing dark blue suit, warmly welcomed the crowd, saying, “It's great to see so many friendly faces, and people that we haven't seen in a long time. For those of you that are new, welcome. Welcome to a phenomenal lunch experience but also an event to showcase and get ready for Crescendo!—the biggest fundraiser for Sinfonia, raising funds for Sinfonia and its music education initiatives.”
5) Jeff Dannelly was right. Crescendo! 2021 continued with three unforgettable vintner dinners held at 6 p.m. on April 30, 2021. Marisol and Tony Gullo hosted a dinner at Churchill Oaks Clubhouse in Santa Rosa Beach. A dinner prepared by Philip Bauer of PBJ Goes Gourmet with vintner representative Heather Kormos poured special vintages from St. Helena Winery.
6) J. Leon Gallery + Studio in Destin was transformed into an illuminated jewel box for vintner dinnerhosts Shawn and Richard Tomasello. Revana Family Wines collaborated with chef Jack McGuckin of Bijoux Restaurant + Spirits for this creative culinary journey.
7) For their vintner dinner Valerie and Michael Thompson, proprietors of Thompson 31Fifty Wines paired their boutique wines with a bold menu created by executive chef Lee Guidry of Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, which also served as the host venue.
8) Crescendo! 2021!, coined a cultural extravaganza, lived up to its name … and more. This year’s theme was Moulin [vin] Rouge and the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa was marvelously transformed into a turn-of-the century Parisian dance hall — complete with luscious “rouge” draping and décor, low-lit ambiance, velvet lounging sofas and flowing ruby red wine. Ladies (and gents) in their finest red “dress” were more than eager to mix and mingle. But first, they were welcomed with chilled champagne served by sparkling drag queens. Sipping pink cocktails guests played plucky party games and bid on beautifully displayed silent auction items before enjoying a delicious catered lunch. Dessert was delicious and so was the carrot cake. Yes, we’re talking about a high-brow burlesque show that warmed up the crowd for the fantastic finale — a cache of cheeky can-can dancers! Not surprisingly, Crescendo! 2021 was a record-breaking event, raising more than $512,000 for Sinfonia and its music education programs.
9) A round of applause is due for the Treble Makers, an indefatigable band of 100 generous supporters whose generous contributions help make Link Up, Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s collaboration with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Institute of Music, possible for more than 4,000 third, fourth and fifth graders throughout Okaloosa and Walton counties.
10) Hailing from the Peach State, D’Vine — a talented trio made up of two sisters: Paula McGuire Saunders and Pamela McGuire Deas and, their friend, Sheryl Pollard Riggins — returned to Sinfonia’s season line up to deliver a heavenly performance. The gospel brunch concert — complete with a Bloody Mary Bar — was one of the first concert events held in the beautiful ballroom at The Effie Hotel, located on Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort’s bayside. This heartening and healing concert on April 11, 2021, was just what everyone needed after enduring 2020. D’Vine indeed!
11) Sinfonia Youth Orchestra, led by music director Aaron King Vaugh, presented its first-ever 10-day Summer Camp designed especially for young string players and also showcased the orchestra’s top talent by staging several special public appearances and concerts at Crescendo! 2021, HarborWalk Village and the Destin Community Center.
12) Sinfonia Gulf Coast is grateful to its 30 founding partners and 2020-2021 season presenting sponsors: Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Hancock Whitney Bank, Silver Sands Premium Outlets and Visit South Walton as well as more than 50 other generous local corporations, businesses, media outlets and individual sponsors for making the 15th anniversary season possible.
13) Sinfonia Gulf Coast volunteers are indispensable. They help with everything from gathering raffle items for events to ushering patrons to their seats at concerts. As Beth Clavier, director of events and patron services for Sinfonia Gulf Coast, says, “Everyone’s contributions are a part of piecing the puzzle together.”
14) Patron support was stronger than ever during this unprecedented season. Heavenly and Bill Dawson of Santa Rosa Beach have supported the orchestra since 2016. For Heavenly, being a Sinfonia donor is its own reward. “Supporting the concerts is a give back to us in that we’re supporting a cause that is really special. These well-dressed musicians are up on stage showing off their talent in such marvelous ways and with the maestro’s conducting and to see the audience’s response to the great music — it all comes together so beautifully.”
15) To entertain, educate and inspire is at the core of Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s mission. This year its purpose galvanized music lovers across Northwest Florida who can be proud knowing the outreach programs of the art organization they have loved and supported for 15 years has served more than 155,000 local children.
Relive many of Sinfonia’s magical moments recaptured in the 15th Anniversary special edition program.
Your support is instrument to Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s success. Want to play a part? Make a tax-deductible donation and support Sinfonia Gulf Coast and its music education outreach to our community.
Here’s to the future 15 years and beyond and redefining the symphony experience once again with the soon to be announced 2021-2022 season.