Above is the Jacoby Symphony Hall opened in the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Jacksonville in 1997. There is a seating capacity of 1,800; that today is packed with, four districts from Duval County, elementary students on a field trip with their teachers and chaperones. One of the many benefits of being part of the Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS) program, besides the kids, is that I get opportunities to chaperone a trip to the local theater for a presentation of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
The Orchestra was founded in 1949 and has been led by Fabio Mechetti since 1999. They have performed in Carnegie Hall but dedicate most of their time to educational programs in and out of schools. The Casavant organ (Opus 553) was built in 1914 and was renamed the Bryan Concert Organ four years after its first debut in the Jacoby Symphony Hall. It has 4 manuals (keyboard), 97 ranks (set of pipes), 80 stops (controls a rank of pipes to produce a particular note), 6, 215 pipes, and weighs nearly 20 tons; impressive! Organs date back to the 3rd Century BCE and have an extensive history (but that’s another blog).
I was allowed to ride the bus and sit with Talidra and Gabrielle. They tried on my huge sunglasses in their Sunday dresses and then used my camera to take pictures; we were excited. The symphony played some historical favorites (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart) and some new songs (from Broadway to Hollywood) that will be in their future programs. The room was well-behaved and the students got a musical treat, Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and his Comets, from 1956, and their hands were clapping along.
Downtown was packed with yellow buses and officers directing cars and cross-walks. We were around the 17th bus to leave after all buses did a headcount. With every kid accounted for it was time for lunch and lessons, in the classroom, about what instrument each student liked best. Before going to the concert the students had learned about the different instruments and the sounds they make. Now they were able to have a more educated opinion getting to see the actual size of woodwind, string, brass, and percussion instruments and the sound possibilities they can make together.