Ashley David and Gerry Hernandez are software engineers and trained musicians who like to think big. For the holidays, the husband-and-wife team combined all their talents to create an orchestra in lights, synced to music, with their Odessa house as the stage.
They didn’t expect the maestro to drop by.
Among the cars crawling past one night, these Florida Orchestra fans recognized Music Director Michael Francis. They chatted over a candy cane in front of the elaborate Star Wars vs. Star Trek themed light shows.
“It was such a pleasure to meet Gerry and Ashley,” said Michael Francis, who knew about the light show from a friend. “Not only do they have a tremendous passion for music, but they have the vision and talent to share it in such a unique way. I’m amazed at all the thought and ingenuity that went into their display.”
This is the couple’s third year doing the light show, which takes thousands of lights and most of a year to plan. The production features theme music from Star Wars and Star Trek movies and TV shows and special effects to help convey a story. To listen, drivers tune their car radios to 89.5FM, which only works within 100 feet of the house.
“There are a lot of other light shows, but we are music first. Everything revolves around the music,” Gerry said. “We appreciate classical-ish music because it ages better and the complexity behind it is necessary to evoke emotions and tell a story. We take the same amount of detail that goes into arranging a great piece – like dynamics and articulation – and put it visually in lights. We match what you’re hearing with what you’re seeing.”
Ashley calls it a light orchestra. “We’ll have certain props be certain instruments. We have different types of ambient light be brass instruments and strings. We arrange it in sections like you would see in an orchestra.”
“It takes every single skill we have acquired in our entire lives,” Gerry said.
Video from Christmas 2017
Unknown to Maestro Francis, stopping by the light show wasn’t the first time he played a role in the couple’s lives. In March of 2017, Ashley and Gerry planned a big night out with a surprise ending: Gerry proposed after a Florida Orchestra concert conducted by Michael Francis.
But it wasn’t easy.
“We get to the Mahaffey Theater, and I’ve got the ring in my pocket. I see everybody going through the metal detectors and I just stop in my tracks. Oh no!” Taking out the ring would ruin the surprise.
Quickly and quietly, Gerry told his secret to a security guard, who played along. “He’s like, ‘Gerry! I haven’t seen you in so long!’ like he knew me and pulled me aside.” He wanded Gerry as they talked like old friends and sent him on through. Ashley was confused, but none the wiser.
The couple enjoyed The Dali Experience concert featuring classical guitarist Cañizares – “It was just phenomenal!” – and walked along the waterfront side of the Mahaffey with the fountain in the background, where a friend was waiting to take photos of the big moment. “I like to joke that she never actually said yes,” Gerry said. “She was crying and couldn’t say anything.”
“I took the ring!” Ashley adds.
Music has been part of their lives from the moment they struck up a conversation about music software at a University of South Florida party in Tampa. She was studying flute. He was studying computer engineering, but he also was a percussionist who paid for college by playing, writing and teaching music.
They eventually both became software engineers and bought a house, but the music has always taken center stage.
The light show continues in the Odessa neighborhood of Ashley Lakes through Jan. 5, 2019. For details, see the Holiday Photonics Facebook page here.