The Naples Philharmonic Orchestra debuted in 1982, performing in churches on Marco Island and at the Naples High School auditorium. Since the opening of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in 1989, the orchestra has grown into an internationally recognized ensemble with musicians from all regions of the United States, Europe, China and Russia.
Each season, the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra performs more than 150 concerts. These include classical, pops, ballet, chamber and family programs. The orchestra accompanies Edward Villella’s Miami City Ballet each season for George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ and the ballet’s repertoire series, traditionally performed in January, February and March. The orchestra also performs each season with Sarasota Opera, the Philharmonic Center's new Resident Opera Company.
In recent years, the orchestra has also been invited to accompany renowned artists including Luciano Pavarotti (in his first Florida concert in five years), Andrea Bocelli, Kiri Te Kanawa, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the Monte Carlo Ballet.
In November 2004, Jorge Mester debuted as the orchestra’s new music director. Maestro Mester, one of the world’s most dynamic conductors, is conductor laureate of the prestigious Aspen Music Festival, which he led for 21 years. He also served as music director of the Louisville Orchestra and the Pasadena Symphony. From 1998 to 2002, Maestro Mester was artistic director of Mexico City’s leading orchestra, Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico. During his 12-year tenure as music director of the Louisville Orchestra from 1967 to 1979, Mester made 72 recordings.
The Naples Philharmonic Orchestra has appeared in two nationally televised PBS specials – A Century of Broadway, conducted by the orchestra’s former principal pops conductor, Erich Kunzel, and featuring mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, and Fiesta at the Philharmonic, also conducted by Kunzel and showcasing Grammy Award-winning flutist Nestor Torres.
The orchestra has released several CDs including the Telarc recording of concertos by Rodrigo, conducted by Erich Kunzel and featuring guitarist David Russell. The orchestra’s recording of The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba on Summit Records was nominated for a 1994 Grammy Award.
The 100-voice Philharmonic Center Chorale was founded in 1991 and the Philharmonic Youth Chorale was established in 1998. The Philharmonic Youth Orchestra debuted in 2002.
The Naples Philharmonic Orchestra also presents an extensive series of educational programs each season for children of all ages.
A NAPLES PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA TIMELINE
|1982: The Naples/Marco Philharmonic is founded as a chamber group on Marco Island. In its first season, the ensemble performs four concerts.
1983: The first full orchestra concert is performed on April 15 at Barron Collier High School; Walter Hendl, former conductor of the Chicago and Dallas symphonies, is featured as a piano soloist.
1984: Myra Janco Daniels is elected president of the orchestra board. A fund-raising campaign goal of $100,000 is quickly met. Daniels and board members begin to discuss a permanent home for the orchestra; Timothy Russell is named music director, a position he will hold for nine years.
1985: The orchestra board initiates a fundraising campaign for a proposed concert hall in Naples; An orchestra office is established in Naples at the Collier Building on U.S. 41; The orchestra performs at Naples High School, Lely High School and Marco Island's Wesley United Methodist Church; A music library of more than 600 scores is generously donated.
1986: Curtiss Frank pledges $2.5 million if the project is completed in 24 months after groundbreaking; A $2 million donation is received from Frances Pew Hayes; A $3 million, 6.65-acre site in Pelican Bay is deeded by Westinghouse Communities of Naples for construction of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts; The Philharmonic League, a support group for the orchestra, is founded with 25 members.
1987: Boran Craig & Barber construction company is contracted to begin building the orchestra's permanent home. At the time, donations and pledges total more than $9.7 million. More than 400 dignitaries attend the groundbreaking.
1988: The 1988-89 orchestra season in high schools and churches sells out; Miami City Ballet founder Edward Villella announces that the Philharmonic Center will be the ballet company's West Coast Florida home and the orchestra will accompany MCB.
1989: The Philharmonic Center announces its inaugural season. More than 6,000 tickets are sold in three days; The Philharmonic Center receives $3.4 million from the State of Florida, through the sponsorship of Representative Mary Ellen Hawkins; The Philharmonic Center has its grand opening November 3; The inaugural concert features the Naples/Marco Philharmonic conducted by Timothy Russell; The program includes Wagner's Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5.
1990: A full-time orchestra is hired. More than 2,000 applications are received from around the world; 450 musicians travel to Naples to compete for one of 24 positions; The $500,000 Canadian-made Casavant Frères pipe organ is generously donated and installed at the Philharmonic Center, through the efforts of Byron Koste and the developers of Pelican Bay; The orchestra name is changed to the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra.
1991: The 6,000-square-foot John E. Kohan Administration Building is completed; The Magic Carpet Concert series begins; The volunteer Philharmonic Center Chorale is formed under the leadership of James Cochran.
1992: The Naples Philharmonic Brass Quintet wins first place at the prestigious Summit International Brass Competition.
1993: Internationally renowned conductors Erich Kunzel and Christopher Seaman are contracted as the orchestra's principal pops conductor and music director; Keith Lockhart joins the orchestra as guest conductor; The orchestra accompanies opera greats Roberta Peters and Kiri Te Kanawa in concerts on Florida's East Coast; Three CDs are released on the Summit Records label.
1994: Glenn Basham is named concertmaster of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra after Millard Taylor's retirement.
1995: The orchestra's recording of The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba is nominated for a Grammy Award in the category Musical Album for Children – the award goes to The Lion King; Orchestra guest conductor Keith Lockhart is named conductor of the Boston Pops.
1996: The Naples Philharmonic Brass Quintet earns second place at the Concours International de Quintettes de Cuivres in Narbonne, France.
1997: The orchestra releases its first CD on the Telarc label to an international audience.
1998: The Philharmonic Youth Chorale is established.
1999: The Kohan Administration Building is expanded to three stories; Clotilde Otranto is named resident conductor.
2000: The orchestra accompanies Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli in concerts in Miami.
2001: The Philharmonic Youth Orchestra is formed.
2002: The orchestra is featured in a nationally televised PBS show A Century of Broadway, which is broadcast in major markets around the country.
2003: Fiesta at the Philharmonic, a second nationally broadcast concert, airs on PBS.
2004: Maestro Jorge Mester becomes the new music director of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra; Some of the country's leading pops conductors are contracted to lead the Pops Series.
2005: The orchestra accompanies Frederica von Stade and Harolyn Blackwell in gala concert events.
2006: The orchestra begins its 25th-anniversary season. The orchestra is rated one of the most fiscally sound orchestras in the country by the American Symphony Orchestra League.
2007: The orchestra celebrates 25 years with a grand fund-raising gala featuring Kathleen Battle, Samuel Ramey, Bernadette Peters and Joel Grey.
2008: The Sypert Salon Series of chamber music is introduced.
2009: Jack Everly is named the orchestra's principal pops conductor.
2010: Renée Fleming performs in concert with the orchestra. Sarasota Opera becomes the Phil's resident Opera Company.
2011: Itzhak Perlman and Leon Fleisher perform with the orchestra; The Naples Philharmonic Orchestra opens its 30th-anniversary.