by Adriana Di Graziano, 2015 Florida Fellow
When I was first told by the people at Southwest Florida Community Foundation that I would be working with a local symphony, I thought to myself, “This program is about social change; what does an orchestra have to do with anything?” I learned quickly it had everything to do with social change.
Through their passion for music, Maestro Andrew Kurtz and his orchestra of exclusively volunteer musicians at Gulf Coast Symphony bring about positive change in different communities throughout Southwest Florida by nurturing people’s souls. Over the last 20 years, hundreds have enjoyed listening to and making music, regardless of their economic stature. The community as a whole benefits from great cultural enrichment and events that bring people together. Through my work this summer, I saw what an impact that makes.
During a discovery session for children to play and experiment with musical instruments, it was wonderful to see the transforming effect the experience had on them. Children from different social strata and cultures all lit up in the same way when they heard the different beats of a drum, the funny noises a violin makes when stroked too hard, or the sound of a flute changing according to the keys being pressed. These are children who would otherwise never get to run their fingers on the keys of a flute, make musical sounds on a violin or hear the tone of a double-reed instrument, the oboe.
In the same way, I loved assisting Managing Director Linda Onorevole when she taught financially-challenged adults about rhythm, melody and musical notes through a series of musical activities. I saw the excitement growing in the eyes of the participants after each song, every time they learned something new. A group of perfect strangers, who hardly spoke to each other at the beginning of the lesson, danced together to the rhythm of a Waltz and sang together, waving their arms, when “We are the Champions” played out loud. For about an hour they shared their emotions through music, and then parted as friends.
I am thankful to the Foundation for placing me as a summer intern at Gulf Coast Symphony because, much like a well-performed piece reverberates in an auditorium, so does the Symphony’s passion for change resonates in the community.
And it resonated with me. Two months ago I was a stranger to the program and new in the community. However, here I am at Gulf Coast Symphony trying to help them make an impact, moved by the same stories that compelled these people to start the organization in the first place.
When passion resonates, change happens.
In an added effort to assist nonprofits funded by the SWFL Community Foundation this year, the Foundation is hosting four students studying public interest communications at the University of Florida as part of the Foundation’s Florida Fellowship program. Funded by the Al & Nancy Burnett Charitable Foundation, the students are working in three of our nonprofit grantee organizations this summer for an 8-week paid fellowship. For more information on the SWFL Community Foundation, its grants processes or to be part of the change that the grantees are working toward in the region, contact us at [email protected], or call us, we’d love to have a conversation, 239-274-5900.