The downtown Florida Theater is one of Jacksonville’s treasures. Built in 1927 as Jacksonville’s largest movie theater, this Mediterranean Revival style building is one of only four remaining movie “palaces” in Florida. The main lobby is designed as a Moorish courtyard, complete with glittering stars, balconies and fountains. Longtime Jacksonville residents remember fondly hearing the Mighty Wurlitzer Opus 1569 pipe organ played at most events.
One of the most famous artists to perform at the Florida Theater was Elvis Presley in 1956. It is said that Judge Court Judge Marian Gooding sat through the entire performance to make sure Elvis’s body movements were not too suggestive!
As our population deserted downtown and moved to the suburbs, the Florida Theater fell into disrepair. A major renovation in 1983 restored the building to its original splendor. Sadly, the renovation did not include the Mighty Wurlitzer, now adorning Grace Baptist church in Sarasota.
Today, the Florida Theater seats 1,900 and offers an incredible variety of over 200 events each year. From Merle Haggard (country), to Pat Metheny (jazz), Beach Boys (60s rock), Jake Shimakuburo (ukulele), the Temptations (do-wop), magicians, Chinese acrobats, and more, there is truly something for everyone. Check out their schedule at FloridaTheatre.com.
Calling all acoustic players – there’s a new event going on at the Walter Jones Historical Park. On the 4th Sunday of every month, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, come join your neighbors for an informal sing-along on the front porch of the Museum. The gathering is hosted by the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society in partnership with the North Florida Folk Network, and will run through October.
When I attended last Sunday (without my guitar, ukelele, or dulcimer), the group had just moved inside due to the threat of rain and was happily singing “Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore”. So dust off that instrument and join in. See you next month!
That’s right – George’s Music offers FREE introductory learn to play classes just about every Saturday. Do you have an old guitar or banjo in your attic? Or perhaps you’ve purchased an instrument and a couple books and just haven’t gotten around to figuring out what to do with them. Well, George’s is a great place to start.
George’s Music is the Musicians Superstore. With stores on Blanding Boulevard near I-295, and on A-1-A in Jax Beach, George’s offers a wide selection of instruments and musical supplies. If you don’t have an instrument and are not sure what you’d like to learn to play, they’ll even loan you one for the free class!
Classes are offered at various levels for guitar, mandolin, ukelele, banjo and more. Check their schedule at George’s Music and be sure to call to register. I promise you will have a great time and leave knowing how to play a new tune!
Matt Ostler instructs a group of students on the art of playing a guitar finger-style at George’s Music
He’s the undisputed master of the ukelele, and this Wednesday, March 20th, Jake Shimabukuro will be at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville. Tickets are $30. For a preview of what Jake can do with 4 strings, go to youtube.com and search for “Jake Shimabukuro”.
The ukelele has become increasingly popular. The ukelele is both affordable and relatively easy to play. There are 3 sizes of ukeleles – the soprano, the concert, and the tenor – and I have one of each. Looking forward to this concert!
Lt to rt: Soprano, Concert and Tenor Ukeleles
The Cummer Museum is a place of beauty, a place that restores the soul. The Cummer was established in 1961 when art collector and garden enthusiast Ninah Cummer donated her riverfront home and art collection to the city of Jacksonville to be used as a museum. Since that time, the Cummer has expanded its original collection of 60 pieces to almost 5,000 works of art.
There are many ways to experience the Museum and Gardens. Take a docent led tour, hear music in the historic gardens, attend a lecture, or take an art class. Strolling through the various rooms, you will find world class art spanning from 2100 B.C. through the 21st century.
One popular event is the annual Garden Month, coming in March and offering outdoor concerts and community events. Also popular is the classical concert series held in the intimate Cummer Auditorium. Spaces fill quickly for these, so make your reservations early.
Information about the Museum as well as a calendar of events may be found at the Cummer website. See you at the Cummer!
Downtown Jacksonville comes alive each month at the popular First Wednesday Art Walk. The event, held rain or shine from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm, spans a 15 block radius in the core downtown area. Over 30 galleries, museums and other cultural venues, restaurants, bars and businesses participate each month.
Hemming Plaza is a good place to start. There you can pick up a map and check out the open-air artists in the plaza. And when you are tired of walking, enjoy a free concert at the comfortable Hicks Auditorium at the Main library. Programs vary, many featuring outstanding local musicians, and usually begin at 7:00 pm.
Best of all, the event and library performances are FREE!
Main Street at the First Wednesday Art Walk
Did you know that the Friday Musicale is the oldest musical organization in the state of Florida? And 2nd oldest musical organization in the country?
Founded in 1890, the Friday Musicale presents concerts free of charge to the Jacksonville community, provides educational outreach to local students, and awards college scholarships to music students. The Gala Opening Concert for the 2012-2013 season is this Friday, October 12th, at 7;30 p.m. with the Lynne Arriale Trio.
Most concerts are held at the Friday Musicale Auditorium at 645 Oak Street; many are offered both at 11:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Admission is FREE, but a $75 membership includes afternoon post concert receptions, admission to member events, and other benefits. More information is available at FridayMusicale.com.
Fall is in the air, and with the change in season, there is much to do in Jacksonville, Florida. Many newcomers are surprised to learn that we don’t spend all our time at the beach in the Sunshine State, and that we have many varied cultural events in our vibrant city.
Today, I would like to focus on two of my favorite chamber music/recital series: the Riverside Fine Arts Series and the Beaches Fine Arts Series.
The Riverside Fine Arts Series opens its Concert Series Friday, October 12th, at 8:00 with Julian Lage, guitarist. November events include the Bohemian Quartet, November 16th, and the Empire Brass, November 29th. Enjoy world-class music in an intimate atmosphere at the Church of the Good Shepherd in historic Riverside. Tickets are $25 with season discounts available.
The Riverside Fine Arts Organ Series opens this Thursday, October 11th, at 7:30 p.m. with Felix Hell performing with the Jacksonville Symphony in Jacoby Hall.
In 1972, the Beaches Fine Arts Series began offering world class music and dance in a series of 8 free programs annually. Most concerts are held at the stunning St. Paul’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Jacksonville Beach, FL. Upcoming performances include the American Boy Choir, Sunday November 21st at 4:30 and the American Brass Quintet, Friday November 9th at 7:30 p.m.
There’s even a reception after each of the Riverside Fine Arts Series and the Beaches Fine Arts Series performances, where you can meet and greet the performers, enjoy visual art work from regional artists, and perhaps pick up an autographed CD!
Everyone knows we have a major league football team, but did you also know we have a major league symphony orchestra? In writing this post, I must admit to being partial. After all, I was a music major and originally came to Jacksonville as a teacher and violinist in the symphony. But our orchestra is truly one of the finest in the nation!
Don’t know much about classical music? No problem! The Jacksonville Symphony offers a variety of programs relevant to today’s audience. From the classic masterpieces to contemporary works, a pops series, theater, opera, family concerts and more, there is something for everyone.
Each year, over 80,000 students benefit from the Orchestra’s educational programs, including in-school concerts and Youth Orchestra organizations. Symphony members are also outstanding community partners, performing in various venues throughout the state.
Performances are at the Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall in the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. There’s one more opportunity to hear them this season in a concert featuring Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Friday, June 1 (11:00 am) and Saturday, June 2 (8:00 pm).
Now is also the perfect time to check out next season’s schedule. Visit Symphony’s website for best prices and seating.
There are many exciting events in and around Jacksonville, Florida this Memorial Day weekend! Here are just a few:
Jacksonville Jazz Festival
The Jacksonville Jazz Festival is a weekend of jazz that’s the “2nd largest jazz festival in the nation”, and it is FREE!
Saturday highlights include Patti Austin with our own Jacksonville Symphony. The final day, Sunday features Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band.
A complete schedule may be found at makingascenedowntown.com/Events.
Florida Folk Festival
May 25-27, 2012
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
The Florida Folk Festival is a 3 day celebration of the music, dance, stories, craft and food that make Florida unique. More than 300 performances give voice and meaning to Florida’s heritage. If you like Florida folk life and culture, great music and food, and relaxing by the Suwanee River under a canopy of oak trees, then this may be the place you need to be this weekend!
Schedule, directions and ticket information are available at floridastateparks.org/folkfest.
Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival
May 13 – June 8
Continuing through June 8th, the nationally acclaimed Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival features internationally acclaimed talent. Performances are held in a variety of intimate venues from churches, to the Palace Saloon, a courthouse, and historic Fort Clinch.
The music is as varied as the venues – traditional string ensembles, vocalists, fiddlers, guitar, and more.
Christopher Rex, principle cellist with the Atlanta Symphony is the Artistic Director. Ticket prices range from $20 to $50, but a number of the performances are free. This festival is a gem – please don’t miss it!
A complete schedule and more information at aicmf.com.
Finally, our Jacksonville Symphony will be very busy this holiday weekend with concerts at Sawgrass TPC (Friday), the Jacksonville Jazz Festival (Saturday), Magnolia Point Golf and Country Club (Sunday), and Fernandina Beach (Monday).
The Memorial Day concert “Let Freedom Ring” will be at the 1st Baptist Church in Fernandina at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $20 and include music by Sousa, Copland, and the rousing 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. Concert information may be found on their website at JaxSymphony.org.