South Florida Symphony makes impressive debut at Broward Center

By David Fleshler

Chee-Yun performed Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the South Florida Symphony Thursday night at the Broward Center.

A fine orchestra made its Fort Lauderdale debut Thursday, signaling the arrival of a significant new ensemble on the South Florida music scene.

The South Florida Symphony has changed its name from the Key West Symphony, moved its headquarters to Fort Lauderdale and lined up an impressive group of soloists for a four-county concert series that will stretch through May. The orchestra performed its first season concert Wednesday in Key West, and on Thursday brought the program to Fort Lauderdale, with a repeat performance scheduled for Saturday in Miami Beach.

Many orchestras can’t afford to put enough string players on stage, ending up with a thin sound dominated by brass and winds. But the 69-member South Florida Symphony fielded 44 violins, violas, cellos and basses, achieving a tone that was rich, symphonic and well balanced. Although there was occasional scrappiness in the violins and the tone of the wind section could be richer, playing was generally tight, in tune and accurate.

Conductor Sebrina Maria Alfonso is a commanding stage presence with an energetic style, and she deployed her forces with finesse. In the Brahms Academic Festival Overture, which opened the program, she drew out all of Brahms’ contrapuntal inner voices, allowing the complexity of the work to come out, rather than turning it into a blaring, brassy set of student drinking songs.

Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was the evening’s centerpiece with Chee-Yun as soloist.

The South Korea-born, Juilliard-educated violinist gave an aggressive and fearless interpretation, with a shining tone and absolutely secure bow arm that allowed not a trace of roughness to disturb the performance. She made the most of Beethoven’s improvisatory figures at the opening, bringing them to a level of intensity rarely heard in performances of this work. Her phrasing and impassioned playing were at their finest when the orchestra takes up the first theme in minor to the accompaniment in triplets in the violin or the long minor-key section over solemn repeated notes in the trumpet.

But her vibrato was too uniformly intense, sacrificing the gentleness and quiet nobility of some passages, such as the violin melody after the cadenza and several sections of the second movement. The dance-like last movement came off with vigor. Although the rapid notes of Fritz Kreisler’s cadenza got away from her a bit, she and the orchestra joined for an exciting close, as she tore through the rapid arpeggios toward the end.

As an encore, she played Kreisler’s rarely heard Recitative and Scherzo, a showpiece of chords, rapid bouncing-bow passages and runs that she tossed off with virtuoso flair. Chee-Yun is the first of several high-quality soloists who will be heard with the orchestra this season, to be followed by violinist Lara St. John and the pianist Barry Douglas.

The second half was devoted to Elgar’s Enigma Variations, one of those works that reveals the full range of an orchestra’s palette, at times soft and mysterious, at other times triumphant, with  intricate passagework, complex textures and anthem-like melodies.

The Nimrod variation was velvety and well paced, rising through a skillfully built crescendo to a climax that was majestic without being overbearing.  The final variation was satisfyingly big and brassy. But the most impressive sections were the light and graceful ones, such as the Dorabella variation or the transparent, gossamer opening of the first variation, in which winds take the melody over a shimmering accompaniment in the strings.

The Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater was only about half full, but attendance should improve as word spreads about the high quality of this new and important addition to the region’s music scene.

The program will be repeated 8 p.m. Saturday at the Lincoln Theatre in Miami Beach. Call 305-673-3331 or go to

Posted in Performances

24 Responses to “South Florida Symphony makes impressive debut at Broward Center”

  1. Posted Oct 08, 2010 at 11:59 am by William Thomas


    Are you aware that the Key West / South Florida symphony orchestra musicians were not paid for last season’s concerts.

    There is a complaint in with the musician’s union and the union has asked that musicians notify the union if they are asked to perform with this orchestra.

    As of the middle of September 2010, the musicians still have not been paid.

    William Thomas

  2. Posted Oct 08, 2010 at 1:18 pm by Jeffrey Apana

    I would imagine that the orchestra can afford to put more musicians on stage because they are paying the musicians significantly less than most of the other organizations in town. According to contracts I have reviewed, the orchestra has offered to pay musicians almost 10% less than last season, for up to 15% more work (not including the additional drive time).

  3. Posted Oct 08, 2010 at 4:50 pm by Jacqueline Lorber

    Last season, an anticipated grant did not materialize for the Key West Symphony Orchestra. This temporary setback affected only one out of three successful performances for the Key West Symphony Orchestra. Since that time, we have made a dedicated and concerted effort to reimburse our musicians and have crafted a mutually agreeable payment plan with them. Their continuing residency with us is a testament to their comfort and satisfaction. To date, we have tried to notify the South Florida Musicians Association, AFM Local 655, of our resolution in this matter and they have failed to recognize our communication efforts.

    Jacqueline Lorber, CEO, South Florida Symphony Orchestra

  4. Posted Oct 09, 2010 at 10:25 pm by michael a. taddonio

    I do hope that the situation is resolved. Reminds one of the Florida Philharmonic. This is why I’m not dedicating myself to an orchestra or any cultural group like I did with the Florida Philharmonic. Give me a classical radio station and recordings.

  5. Posted Oct 12, 2010 at 11:10 am by Zakaria Enikeev

    I’m playing with them and understand how difficult it is to operate in those very difficult times. A lot of big orchestras such us Detroit have problems nowadays. For over 10 years the orchestra payed musicians and they ALL had a great time and enjoyed playing with the orchestra. I have no problem waiting for my money (money for just 1 concert)… just give them some time.

  6. Posted Oct 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm by Concerned Musician

    I also have performed with this orchestra in the past, and am one of the musicians who has not been paid. Ms. Lorber’s comments are completely untrue. There was no mutually agreeable resolution reached, rather, management notified the musicians months after the concert took place that they had decided to proceed with a payment plan. We were never asked if this was okay with us, and no official or legal document was ever signed. Additionally, the fact that they were able to higher a full orchestra is no sign that they have players who are happy to wait for their money. In most cases, the players who did this recent October concert were new. The players from the unpaid concert (January of 2010) were ignored for months, treated disrespectfully by management, and were also blamed for the orchestra’s financial troubles. The readers of these comments should also know that many players financed their own travel expenses down to Florida and were not paid back – essentially “funding” the orchestra’s activities. If management were to show some remorse or apologize for what they did, then perhaps Mr. Enikeev assertions that the orchestra is all fun and enjoyment might someday ring true, but many players missed rent, suffered credit card penalties and other financial setbacks because of Ms. Lorber’s poor management. She told the musicians that the contract would be broken and that the grant hadn’t come through only hours before the January concert, in what many believe to be a conscious effort at deception. Mr. Enikeev may be happy to wait, but each players circumstances are different, and a contract is a contract. If they didn’t have the money, they should have operated the orchestra within their budget and not funded their activities with the money of hard-working musicians.

  7. Posted Oct 13, 2010 at 1:27 pm by James Smith

    The above mention by Jacqueline Lorber, CEO of the South Florida Symphony Orchestra that the orchestra has “crafted a mutually agreeable payment plan with” the musicians is nothing but a lie! The orchestra has not mutually agreed on anything with their musicians. After months of not even taking responsibility, the orchestra “announced” to the unpaid musicians that they will receive a very small payment after each concert during this season. They did this, and changed their name, in order to buy themselves time, and string the musicians along. In addition, her statement that the musician’s “continuing residency with us is a testament to their comfort and satisfaction”, is another lie. Less than fifty percent of the orchestra returned this season, precisely because they were not comfortable or satisfied by the way that they were treated. This is a terrible organization that has walked all over it’s musicians, and is run by two women who should not be running anything! If you respect the arts, and artists, you should boycott this group!!!

  8. Posted Oct 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm by Another Concerned Musician

    Contrary to Ms. Lorber’s purposely false statement, the former Kew West Musicians are far from satisfied or comfortable, and by no means continue their residency with the South Florida Orchestra. Attesting to this is an article that the maestra Sebrina Alfonso herself posted, “Opening a New Season, the Key West Symphony Triumphs” by Harry Schoeder (Solares Hill – Musical Notes, October 2010) in which it clearly states: “Most of the musicians were new to the Keys: of the 70 on stage, only 11 were holdovers from last January’s concert”. This of course shows that both Ms. Alfonso and Ms. Lorber are perfectly aware of the severity of their acts and do not mind stepping all over people. Ms. Lorber has been making false statements ever since she was appointed to the CEO position and it looks like she does not plan on stopping either. Everything that the Concerned Musician and James Smith mentioned above is unfortunately true, and that is not even the whole story. I am appalled at the lack of decency that these two women have. As for Mr. Enikeev, maybe for you hanging out and going to the beach for a week is worth anything, but as far as the rest of us are concerned, it is not. We are professional freelancers, this is how we make a living and we have standards by which both sides of the pre set agreements must respect written contracts.
    It is really unfortunate that in our days such scheme can go on without any consequences. They screw over dozens of people, change their name and shamelessly continue their “mission’ as if nothing happened.

  9. Posted Oct 14, 2010 at 6:45 pm by Frank Loesser

    Key West Symphony for all of its existence has played fast and loose with its obligations to musicians. The orchestra’s only reason for existence was to serve the conductor’s need for a place to conduct, as existing orchestras were not showing interest. The treatment of musicians in the January series is merely the the organization finally showing its true colors. As any management professional can tell you, playing concerts to meet *past* payroll is a recipe for disaster. No orchestra can catch up, let alone one in south Florida in this economy. And does anyone else find it strange/ludicrous that the Key West Symphony’s formula for recovery is to emulate the Florida Philharmonic, which was a notoriously unsustainable model. This in an economy that is worse than anything that ever beset the FPO. Beginning, middle, and end, this is not an organization that is serious about its obligations to those it hires, or even about its own future.

  10. Posted Oct 14, 2010 at 10:21 pm by Unpaid Musician

    This has been a heartbreaking situation for those of us that were members of the unpaid orchestra from January. Not one of us wishes any artistic organization any ill will, especially in these times that are so fragile for the arts. However, we were treated, quite frankly, like trash by the Maestra and Ms. Lorber if we dared to speak up and get some answers as to when we would be paid. The South Florida community should be aware of this situation and should judge accordingly. This is not acceptable.

  11. Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 12:54 am by Steven Moran

    Ms. Lorber: A few seasons back, I served as the orchestra’s Principal Bassist for an entire season. The orchestra promised me $150 dollars for each of the season’s four concerts for transporting my sizable double bass by car from New York City to Key West and back. The management, and sadly my former friend and classmate at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory, Sebrina Alfonso strung me along the entire season, assuring me I would be paid the mutually agreed to cartage. At the end of the season, their answer to me was basically, “Tough luck, sucker.”.

    Since this situation probably does not qualify as a “temporary setback”, does this mean the organization will be finally paying me the $600 it’s owed me for years?

    The orchestra has my contact info. Please get in touch with me about this. Somehow, I’m skeptical of the prospect of hearing from you though.

    Steven Moran

  12. Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 12:59 pm by January 2010 Unpaid Musician

    I (and most of us who performed in this orchestra’s January 2010 concerts and have yet to be paid our salaries plus the reimbursements for our travel expenses) STRONGLY disagree with CEO Jacqueline Lorber’s post (above). She says that they have made a “concerted effort” to pay us, and that they’ve crafted a “mutually agreeable payment plan” with us. THIS IS A LIE!!! WE, THE UNPAID MUSICIANS OF THE ORCHESTRA, NEVER AGREED TO ANY PAYMENT PLAN, but rather, Sebrina Alfonso herself e-mailed the musicians in late July and IMPOSED UPON US what their payment plan was, essentially giving us no choice but to go along with it. This is VERY different than a “mutually agreeable” plan. We would urge Ms. Lorber to choose her words much more carefully if she is going to try and defend the symphony’s position. Neither she nor Sebrina Alfonso have expressed any inkling of genuine remorse for what happened; had they done so, I along with most of my colleagues might have been more open to being “mutually agreeable”, and might have been more inclined to agree with our colleague Mr. Enikeev (above). Instead, they have essentially scolded us for THEIR breach of contract (they were supposed to pay us immediately after the final concert), and for demanding transparency and updated information with regard to this topic (the dearth of information received over the last 10 months has been absolutely pathetic). In addition, they’ve had the audacity to blatantly rub in our faces that they have in fact raised enough cash to program an ENTIRE new season (with mostly new and unsuspecting musicians, of course), and that THOSE musicians will be paid within 2 weeks after the final concert, however WE must now wait ANOTHER 6-8 MONTHS before we get paid in full! Why should the musicians who played this last concert get paid before those of us who worked back in January 2010? In reality we must ALL be paid promptly, but at the very least in chronological order. In this particular situation we MUST be paid first, or else the SFSO is risking a wave of even more negative publicity in the very near future.

  13. Posted Oct 15, 2010 at 5:18 pm by LC

    I know of two musicians, one from FL and one from NYC who are still waiting for their pay from services played in January 2010. Yet they can still engage artists and even more orchestra musicians for 2010-11 season? Live up to the contract and obligation and pay your musicians as agreed. Ten months is too long to wait for a paycheck.

  14. Posted Oct 17, 2010 at 7:02 pm by Paul

    This is NOT cool. I understand it’s a difficult time, but it is managements responsibility to make sure that funds are available to pay the musicians. It’s simply disrespectful, and it certainly harms the reputation of SFS greatly in my eyes.

  15. Posted Oct 17, 2010 at 11:30 pm by David Lange

    How fun is this. A bunch of angry musicians, some involved, some with nothing to do with what happened, but plenty to scream about and alot of anonymous names all trying to what – shut it down so that it never gets resolved?
    Wait, let me get my popcorn. This is better than the Housewives of New Jersey!

  16. Posted Oct 18, 2010 at 4:50 am by William Thomas

    To the unpaid musicians, and other concerned people, you should be not directing your comments here, but should continue to contact other parties with this information and updates: the unions in South Florida and NYC, the managers of the soloists, and the press in Key West and wherever else the SFSO will be playing.

  17. Posted Oct 18, 2010 at 12:52 pm by Sue Collins

    You can all start sending me your hate mail but i have watched these post for too long. For those of you who do not have the courage to put your name on these you should stop hurting it for the people who do understand. I worked with for the symphony for many years and watched every one of you taken to dinner, PAID, bring your spouses down at the expense of the symphony and treated by this community as family. When the bottom fell out because of the ecomony i watched thousands and i mean thousands of dollars in grant money cancel with no notice and yes we worked as hard as we could to keep it going because you all love it here and we loved having you.

    Look around you everyone is closing their doors and cut backs in the thousands of dollars and one little orchestra works night and day to keep pushing forward to pay you back and be the one of the orchestra’s who made it past these difficult times. Most of you played for 11 years and loved life until it got hard and you threw the symphony under the bus over one paycheck out of 33 paying jobs she has supplied to you. I hope your more loyal to your new jobs. Sebrina managed to keep a orchestra going with a huge budget on a 2×4 mile island how is that for dedication. Your major organizations with corporate funding cant do that.

    I urge you all to come to key west and look at the forclosed houses the lack of work and be glad you made alot of very good memories here while you were on vacation. I know who has been on that roster and shame on you for not even posting how good it was to you all for so many years here. And dont tell me about one check. people gave up more than that to make sure you were paid and spoiled now where is your support? I truly am sorry this happened to you and so is alot of people who poured their hearts into this being a success, this wasnt just a job to us we were all a family. And i am very proud to have been part of every thing the Symphony accomplished in its 11 years and know that this too will pass it does take a village. And my name is SUE COLLINS and I was the General Manager of the Key West Symphony and still a huge supporter of the South Florida Symphony Orchestra.

  18. Posted Oct 18, 2010 at 9:26 pm by Richard Fleischman

    Hi Sue Collins,

    I’m putting an orchestra together in the suburbs of Ohio and Indiana and taking it to New York City and I’m going to call it the New York Symphony.

    Wait…doesn’t that sound a little ridiculous? Well so does gathering musicians from all over the country, and transporting them to South Florida, and calling it the South Florida Symphony.

    By doing this your and the “Maestra” (laughing out loud) are thereby implying that either:
    a)there are no wsorthwhile South Florida musicians
    b) the better musicians couldn’t possibly be in South Florida
    c) nobody left in South Florida will work for us since we are obviously not to be trusted.

    Additionally, your spelling is atrocious. Before you post and proudly claim to be General Manager of ANYTHING, I suggest you proof read so you don’t come off as an un-educated hick.

  19. Posted Oct 19, 2010 at 10:12 am by David Lange

    Mr Fleischman, Mr Loesser, concerned musician, who ever you are in one of these many “cowardly” postings.
    You should check your own writing before you toss stones like a sissy.
    I must thank you for getting me over the hump of not having my Housewives of New Jersey as you have been most entertaining.
    But you are a bore and stuck in your little world and not much of a man. You write behind a computer and your venom is disgusting.
    So I leave this post only to say, Ms Collins, you are a hero. In this world of music I have witnessed true cowards and you a butterfly who flies above the muck.

  20. Posted Oct 19, 2010 at 7:17 pm by Let's Get Some Understanding

    Mr. Lange, this isn’t a joke. It doesn’t help the symphony or its administration or musicians if you compare this situation to a television drama. Musicians don’t do this as a hobby, this art form is something we are blessed to have as our jobs, and we work hard and make tremendous sacrifices to do so. When a labor dispute comes up, it’s a serious matter, and the reason people are not commenting with their real names is because not everyone sees eye to eye about the what the symphony did, and they do not want to cause more turmoil with their colleagues beyond what the situation with the symphony has already stirred up. The plain facts are that the symphony hired people to come down, they gave them a written contract, and then they broke it. They left dozens of people with debt, and then didn’t follow up with their musicians in any timely manner. They also told us on stage at the concert that we would have our checks within 2 weeks, and that never happened. Then, some people got money and others got nothing – for no reason. Nobody WANTED this to happen – none of us wanted to find out that Jacqueline Lorber was not being truthful with us – all it means is that we’ll never see a dime. And for Sue Collins to in one paragraph call us family and then the next call us spoiled? There were plenty of people who were on this job for the very first time, and have no idea who Sue even is. All they know is that they were invited down and then stiffed, and now they have the added insult of seeing a review like this one that says “most orchestras can’t afford so many violins.” Well, this orchestra can’t and so they shouldn’t have put them on the stage. Hold benefits, hold concerts with less players until it gets sorted out. But the comment by Mr. Loesser is accurate – they played fast and loose with their obligations to musicians – they have not had a qualified administrator there in years. I would have thought they could’ve smoothed things over with their musicians, but they didn’t even try to. What the group needs is a manager who knows how to deal with people, and sadly, they don’t have that. They knew that they didn’t have the money, there is no way they found out about the grant not coming through just 4 hours before the concert – which is when they told us. What’s worse is that they told us the money WAS coming, and then we found out after we’d all gone home that the funding had fallen through a while ago – and wasn’t on the way at all. Mr. Lange – surely, you can appreciate the unpaid musicians response when seen in this light.

    Again – it’s not a TV drama – its real life and that money is how these musicians pay their bills and meet their responsibilities. If you had been left out in the cold, you wouldn’t appreciate a bunch of spectators getting popcorn to laugh at your own unfolding crisis – and that certainly isn’t helpful here. If you’re so interested, than I suggest that perhaps you put your efforts towards fundraising for the symphony so that they can pay off their debts. We’d certainly all appreciate it.

  21. Posted Oct 19, 2010 at 11:31 pm by January 2010 Instrumentalist

    I have noticed, by reading Sue Collins’ entry on this page, that there is a fundamental difference of perspectives, which is the root of much of this problem. Obviously she has revealed the management’s belief that they are doing the musicians a Huge favor (and that we should be eternally grateful) by allowing us to have a ‘vacation’ for a week in Key West (or wherever they happen to set up the office in FL), while in reality, it is the Musicians who are doing Sebrina Alfonso a favor by showing up to play for her for less money than other jobs pay so that she can have an orchestra at all!! And as someone who has played in this orchestra a few times over the years, let’s just clarify that sure -it Used to be a vacation- until Sebrina herself started sabotaging that part of it by scheduling our evening rehearsals earlier and earlier, effectively cutting into our sun time. So actually, the vacation part? Well, not so much like it used to be, and yet, we Still continued to fly down there year after year because we knew how much Sebrina Needed US in order to carry out her “Master Concert Series”. Let’s just get that straight.

    If Sebrina would only be willing to relinquish a bit of control and hire someone to run operations (not a corporate-type-we-love-to-hate like Ms. Lorber, but someone who actually gets musicians and their needs), then she might find herself with more time to focus on conducting as well as avoiding major snafus such as this one. But she is so wrapped up in administrative bullshit, and we all know what the administrator vs. employee dynamic is in most organizations. Perhaps Sebrina isn’t aware of orchestras that operate in democratic, self-governing mode (ex: Colorado Symphony)? This is precisely with the purpose of eliminating the administration from the equation. If anything, the musicians’ collective Hires the admin people and these people do what the Musicians tell them to do, and not the other way around. Now There’s some food for thought..

    The main message that Sue Collins is missing from the musicians’ complaints is not that we are “spoiled” and that we are now whining because one paycheck didn’t come through; most of us were willing to give Sebrina and Jacqueline Lorber a second chance to make this right, despite having real credit card debt after having had to Pay to Play (remember, we shell out the dough for our flights down there as well as for food for the week -not inexpensive on a tiny island like Key West- which have yet to be reimbursed). The greater problem is that this unfortunate occurrence has forced Sebrina to show her true colors (or are they Ms. Lorber’s true colors? It’s not very clear Who is running this organization..), which, sadly to say, are more a shade of arrogant and shamelessly disrespectful towards the musicians in question, rather than humbled and apologetic. If Sebrina would only say “I’m Sorry for letting you guys know only 4 hours before your final concert that you’ve been working for free this entire week even though we knew that there were no funds with which to pay you”, and Mean it, Then we could perhaps start having a real dialogue…

  22. Posted Nov 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm by Scott Radloff

    And so, it continues…

    I was hired to play bassoon with the South Florida Symphony on this season’s first “Master Concert Series.” As of this date (Tuesday, November 16), I have received no payment whatsoever for either wages or travel expenses.

    We were supposed to be paid no later than October 23rd, according to our contracts. It is now almost 1 month beyond that date.

    I have made several attempts to contact Sebrina Alfonso and/or Jacqueline Lorber, with no success. Any messages I leave or emails I send go unanswered. Given the continued lack of payment and now the refusal to respond, I can only assume at this point that there is no intention on the part of this organization to pay me now or in the future for the services I rendered in good faith on their behalf.

    The South Florida Symphony’s continued practice of “hiring” musicians, doing so without adequate funding in place to meet its financial obligations to those musicians, then failing to pay them and refusing to respond to their inquiries is unethical. By governing the South Florida Symphony in a manner that makes this conceivable, Sebrina Alfonso and Jacqueline Lorber show themselves to be morally bankrupt.

    Sincerely, and with great sadness,

    Scott Radloff

  23. Posted Nov 18, 2010 at 6:37 am by William Thomas


    You need to contact the union there and also wherevr you’re form. You can do it anonymously.

  24. Posted Nov 19, 2010 at 10:23 pm by Rick Purcell

    I know a few of the musicians who are still owed money from January of 2010 by The outh Florida Symphony. These are not the same musicians who are “still” in residence with The South Florida Symphony, as the organization claims in earlier blogs. Why does the South Florida Symphony continue to lie about the musicians who they still owe money to? This situation needs to be resolved immediately. To not pay the musicians the money that is owed to them is unethical and immoral and places a black cloud over the credibility of The South Florida Symphony and the people running this organization. If this mattered is not taken care of properly (paying the musicians the money they are owed for their past service), then perhaps it is time for a complete “changing of the guard” of the conductor and officers of this Symphony. Otherwise, this organization should be boycotted by other musicians and patrons until the past debts are paid.

    Rick Purcell Pittsburgh Musicians’ Union Member (Local 60-471) and a life long full time musician.

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Fri Oct 8, 2010
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