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Sarasota Concert Association

The Sarasota Concert Association (SCA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering a greater appreciation for world-class classical music. We offer the community two engaging concert series and special events that showcase a diverse range of exceptional talent.
The Great Performers Series, now in its 80th season, brings world-renowned orchestras, recitalists, and chamber groups to premier venues such as the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the Riverview Performing Arts Center. Additionally, we present Special Events throughout each season to further enhance our mission of bringing exceptional music to Sarasota. Our Music Matinees highlight the outstanding regional talent that resides in our community. The Matinees are hosted at First Presbyterian Church free of charge providing an accessible and enriching musical experience for all members of the community.

The mission of Sarasota Concert Association is to present internationally renowned orchestras, chamber ensembles, and solo artists to the greater Sarasota community, and to showcase outstanding regional musicians in a series of free public concerts.

A closeup view of a musical instrument

A History of Outstanding Music

For 80 years, the Sarasota Concert Association has brought celebrated artists from around the world to our region. The organization was launched in 1938 by members of the Women’s Club who wanted to bring affordable, world-class concerts to Sarasota. We’ve stayed true to that mission ever since. SCA continues to showcase the world’s greatest performers at a relatively low admission price.

The First 50 Years

The Sarasota Concert Association was organized in 1938 as a “Community Concert Association,” but was able to present only two seasons, 1938-39 and 1939-40, before concerts were suspended during World War II. It was not until November 1946 that the Chamber of Commerce Civic Affairs Committee urged that Community Concerts be revived. Mrs. Dudley Palmer was elected president and 1,500 memberships were sold, providing funds to present the first post-war series. The concerts were of such interest that meeting dates all over the city were changed rather than interfere with scheduled concerts.

The second post-war season was sold out during its first week of sales, and Helen Jepson was scheduled to perform the first concert. An unexpected problem arose when the Musicians’ Union blacklisted the city-owned auditorium because Sarasota did not have a contract for union members to use city facilities. How odd it must have seemed that the Baltimore Symphony was allowed to play in the auditorium, but Miss Jepson could not appear there. The Ringling Circus generously offered to erect a tent for the performance on a site one block east of the courthouse on Ringling Boulevard, but because of rains and poor drainage these plans had to be canceled. The concert was ultimately held in the American Legion Coliseum, now a Walgreen’s drugstore, and the boxing ring used for regular weekly fights became the stage.

The newspapers took full pictorial advantage of this unique situation and Miss Jepson enjoyed getting into the spirit. There were newspaper photos of her climbing through the ropes and a shot of her in boxing gloves punching a boxer while her accompanist looked on in horrified astonishment.

Since the blacklisting was still not settled at the beginning of the third season, concerts were presented at the Golf Street Auditorium, which held only 900 people. In December the Union’s ban was lifted and concerts were returned to the Exhibition Hall, which was built by [the] WPA in the thirties. This was not ideal, for the acoustics were poor and seating uncomfortable. Patrons tried to arrive early to find the folding chairs which were uncomfortable, rather than the ones that were very uncomfortable, or worse yet, sit in the balcony on benches without backs.

It was necessary for the board of directors in the early years to engage in campaigns to sell season tickets to the community. There were sales teams with captains and sergeants, and door-to-door efforts. If the total budget for artists was under $10,000, it was an advantage, for the artists would give a discount to the Association.

For many years, on concert days, Pappy Saunders could be seen combing the community for appropriate greens and flowers to appropriately decorate the stage. His beautiful arrangements provided a nice touch at no cost to the Association.

In 1970 when the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall was opened, the Association moved its concerts there. This finally gave the Association a worthy home and 500 more available seats.

Problems of any sort sometimes arose. Jussi Björling was booked twice and canceled twice. The Indianapolis Symphony went on strike and canceled. The Symphony was replaced by two fine artists, Jerome Hines who did a scene from Boris Godunov in costume, and the very young violinist Itzhak Perlman. Robert Merrill and Richard Tucker were scheduled for a joint concert, and before this could take place, Mr. Tucker died. Robert Merrill agreed to appear as a soloist. Some of our subscribers who did not get the word about Mr. Tucker’s death were quite irate that we could schedule a Merrill-Tucker concert, and then change it!

A major symphony orchestra is included in each season, and our audiences have enjoyed the finest orchestras for North America and around the world. The Minnesota Orchestra has been one of the most popular with our audiences, and the most frequently presented.

In 1990, the board decided to become independent from [Columbia Artists] Community Concerts and the Sarasota Concert Association, Inc. was formed. Our 1991-92 Season was our first as an independent presenter. Artists from around the world and the United States approach us to appear here; we literally have access to thousands of performers instead of a few dozen.

Contributors: (1995) Rolo Simonds, Carl Werner, Herman Baar, Margaret Smith, Donald Morrison, Robert Kimbrough and Emily Kimbrough.

history of SCA Conductor Mauceri

World-Class Artists

Since January 1939, the Sarasota Concert Association has been bringing world-class musical performances to Sarasota audiences.  Listed below are just a few of those great artists and orchestras who have appeared as part of  our Great Performers Series. In addition, we also featured acclaimed musical comedian Anna Russell.




Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra
Rotterdam Philharmonic
Chicago Symphony
Baltimore Symphony
State Symphony of Russia
Houston Symphony
Academy of St Martin in the Fields 
Atlanta Symphony
Moscow Philharmonic
Detroit Symphony
Rotterdam Philharmonic
Minneapolis Symphony
St. Petersburg Philharmonic
Boston Pops
Orchestra National de France
Pittsburgh Symphony
Czech Philharmonic
St. Louis Symphony
National Symphony
Cleveland Orchestra
San Francisco Symphony
Montreal Symphony
Russian National Orchestra
Buffalo Philharmonic
Royal Philharmonic
New York Philharmonic
BBC Symphony
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie

Thomas Hampson
Deborah Voigt
Helen Jepson
James Melton
Cecilia Bartoli
Helen Traubel
Leontyne Price
Theodore Uppman
George London
Lily Pons
Cesare Siepi
Leona Mitchell
Leopold Simoneau
Risë Stevens
Eleanor Steber
Nicolai Gedda
Richard Tucker
Shirley Verrett
Jerome Hines
Simon Estes
Frederica von Stade
Samuel Ramey
Dorothy Kirsten
Robert Merrill
Phyllis Curtin

Bruce Liu
Claudio Arrau
Robert Casadesus
Andre Watts
Rudolf Firkusny
Eugene List
Murray Perahia
Lang Lang
Rudolf Serkin
Olga Kern
Jorge Bolet
Grant Johannesen
Emanuel Ax
Alicia de Larrocha
Dubravka Tomsic
Yefim Bronfman
Jonathan Biss
Claude Frank
Jeremy Denk
Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Joyce Yang
Mischa Dichter
Behzod Abduraimov
Phillippe Entremont
Hans Richter-Haaser
Gary Graffman

The official newsletter of the Sarasota Concert Association

Fall 2023 PDF

Winter/January 2021 PDF

Spring 2020 PDF

Winter 2020 PDF

Spring 2019 PDF

Fall 2019 PDF

Bringing World-Class Artists to the Suncoast!

 The Sarasota Concert Association is a nonprofit organization that fosters greater appreciation for world-class music at affordable prices by offering the community two engaging series. 

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