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Playing side-by-side with TFO: Where are they now?

By Daryn Bauer
Community Engagement Manager

We are barely into the second month of our 50th anniversary season, but The Florida Orchestra has already performed “side-by-side” with 275 students – enough musicians to create four orchestras. As TFO’s community engagement manager, I help make these experiences happen, but do they make a difference to students?

The answer to that question starts with me. Born and raised in Tampa, I grew up listening to TFO perform live and participated in similar side-by-side rehearsals and concerts as a young bassoonist. These experiences not only cultivated my love for symphonic music, but they now play a key role in my work as I enter my second season as community engagement manager. Because I know first-hand how valuable one-on-one contact with professional musicians can be, I help make sure the current generation of young musicians gets that same once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

There is simply no substitute for sitting side-by-side with the professional musicians of TFO. Students get to see what it takes to play in an orchestra of this caliber, ask questions and hear up-close how a specific piece sounds in the hands of a professional. They also get expert advice from a renowned conductor such as Michael Francis or Larry Rachleff, working on various elements including dynamics and articulation.

So far we’ve worked with middle school through college students who attend schools throughout Pasco County, Blake High School, USF School of Music, and the Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. By the end of the season, we’ll have performed with about 100 more.

TFO has been providing these opportunities for more than 20 years, so I decided to reach out to others who have played side-by-side with TFO to see if those experiences had just as much of an impact on who and where they are today as it did for me.


“There is nothing like being an aspiring violinist and sitting next to a professional at such a young age. I remember thinking, ‘I definitely want to do this one day,’ and ‘Man, this is hard!’”

Violinist Anna Luce played side-by-side with TFO as a student with the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra in 2000. She now plays in the pit for the popular Broadway hit Hamilton and is violin faculty at Coda Mountain Academy in the summers.

From music to engineering

Steven DeBoer played clarinet in side-by-side concerts with TFO from 2004-2007 when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra and Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra. He went on to study mechanical engineering at USF. He is now an embedded software engineer and works on custom processors.

“The discipline required for practice transfers directly to engineering. You learn to focus on one task and owning a skill. I might not be playing clarinet every day, but the years of consistent practice are paying off.”

Now side-by-side as pros

Ashley Hedrick played bassoon in TBYO and side-by-side with TFO in 2001. She is a freelance bassoonist and contrabassoonist and performs throughout Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina with groups such as the Charleston Symphony and Opera Tampa.

“We were all in awe of their professionalism and seeing these were the people who made it. We knew there was a future as musicians.”

At left is Ashley Hedrick with TFO’s Maurizio Venturini in 2001 and again in 2017 while performing for Opera Tampa.

‘Words of wisdom’

TBYO and TFO are where I got my start and my love for orchestra. My mom brought me to my first orchestra concert at the Straz Center, and I instantly fell in love with orchestra music. I went on to get my bachelor of music and master of music in viola performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and I am now a music librarian for The Cleveland Orchestra.

One specific side-by-side experience that still stands out to me was the first time I sat principal viola. At the time, I did not really understand the difference between the principal seat and a section seat. I remember having a discussion with Kathie Aagaard during that side-by-side rehearsal about what it meant to lead a section. These would be words of wisdom that I would carry with me into my career as a performer.

I am truly grateful to The Florida Orchestra for laying the foundation on which my love for classical music and the orchestra has grown. I thoroughly enjoy my career in the orchestral world, and I would not be here today without the many wonderful experiences I had with The Florida Orchestra.

Gabrielle Petek, viola, TBYO alum 2000-2007

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