After canceling season, South Florida Symphony will try to raise money with chamber series

By David Fleshler

Music director Sebrina Maria Alfonso led only one program in the South Florida Symphony's season last October before the rest of the season was cancelled.

The South Florida Symphony is trying — once again — to make a comeback.

The orchestra, formerly known as the Key West Symphony, made an impressive debut last season in Fort Lauderdale before collapsing under a firestorm of accusations of unpaid debts to musicians.

The orchestra has scheduled a series of chamber concerts in Fort Lauderdale this summer as fundraisers and a prelude to what it hopes will be a return to orchestral concerts next season.

Jacqueline Lorber, the orchestra’s chief executive officer, acknowledged mistakes last season. She says that the orchestra should have waited to have funds in hand before attempting to proceed with a three-county concert series involving celebrated soloists such as the violinist Lara St. John.

“We had some folks who made promises that weren’t kept, and we had to call off the season,” she said.

After the orchestra’s debut concert in Fort Lauderdale received positive reviews last October, many former members of the orchestra leveled scathing accusations of unpaid fees, unreimbursed travel expenses and promises that weren’t kept by the orchestra’s management. Many of the accusations appeared as comments on South Florida Classical Review.

“They were using dead people’s names,” Lorber said. “It really was very distorted. We’re out there trying to raise money for the season, and then there are all these lies and misinformation that caused a lot of damage.”

Pressed on which of the former musicians’ claims were not truthful, Lorber acknowledged that the orchestra owed money to its musicians. But she said it wasn’t true that they weren’t paid, but rather that they weren’t paid in full.

“Everyone knew we had a balance due to the musicians,” she said. “But what was said was that we didn’t pay the musicians [at all].”

She said the orchestra had raised money and would “very shortly” settle its debts to the musicians, though she declined to name the new benefactor or provide a timetable or any other details.

Since the cancelation of last season, Lorber said, the orchestra has acquired several new board members and raised more money. She said she is confident that the South Florida Symphony’s 2011-2012 season would take place. The orchestra will perform Dec. 1 in Key West, with venues yet to be announced in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Other concerts in Key West will be Jan. 25 and March 8, she said.

The chamber concerts consist of performances by the pianist Jeffrey Chappell May 17, the South Florida Symphony Orchestra String Quartet June 21 and the South Florida Symphony Orchestra String Sextet July 26. The concerts, which will include refreshments and fund-raising auctions, will be at Josephine S. Leiser Opera Center, 221 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

For more information call 954-522-8445 or go to


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6 Responses to “After canceling season, South Florida Symphony will try to raise money with chamber series”

  1. Posted May 11, 2011 at 9:18 am by Brian

    What they are doing is illegal. You can’t have a business model in which you don’t account for expenses paid to the people who actually do the most important work for your company. Duh!!!

    Also, I know several musicians who have played in this orchestra. Some were paid in full, some were paid partially, and many were not paid at all.

    “We had some folks who made promises that weren’t kept, and we had to call off the season,” she said. If by folks, meaning you, and promises, meaning paying your musicians. Their incompetence is comical.

  2. Posted May 11, 2011 at 10:37 am by Unpaid musician #50?

    I am glad to hear that Lorber and the SFSO are going to settle their debts with the musicians. That bill was due in January 2010. What date shall I expect a check?

  3. Posted May 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm by David Lange

    The orchestra is working to pay off its debts and not go bankrupt. When this is said and done, South Florida is going to finally have the wonderful concerts I and hundreds others have enjoyed.

  4. Posted May 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm by Andrew

    Yes, exactly what South Florida needs- another ensemble raising funds to import musicians, who will take their paychecks (assuming they get paid) and go home to spend it and invest elsewhere. When will we get it?
    – raising money to drain our community of musicicans rather than create an enviornment to keep and support our local professional musicians is a lose-lose proposition for our community. The ONLY group that I know of who is trying to build that community is Orchestra Miami. I went to their outdoor concert in Miami Beach this year- beautiful, professional on every level- great program, excellent soloist, solid playing, a conductor who really made music- Why aren’t we supporting them? Oh, and this concert, which must have cost a pretty penny, was FREE.

  5. Posted Aug 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm by Bill Thomas

    It’s still happening. They are selling tickets AND They are now looking for musicians to play this year’s concerts. They still owe thousands to players from previous concerts. How can they continue this practice?

    This letter from Jeffrey Apana, Secretary-Treasurer
    South Florida Musicians Association
    Local 655 AFM

    South Florida Symphony – Play at your own Peril


    We are contacting you because musicians from your jurisdiction have previously been contacted to perform with the South Florida Symphony/Key West Symphony. Please be advised of the following information, and please spread this warning to your members. Also, please be advised that for musicians who performed for the orchestra in January 2010, the two-year statute of limitations for them to file claims will soon run out.

    South Florida Symphony: Play at Your Own Peril

    South Florida Symphony is gearing up for its 2011-12 seasons in Key West, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach despite still owing tens of thousands of dollars to its musicians, and the orchestra has refused to tell the musicians if or when they will be paid.

    The orchestra began to experience financial difficulties in 2010. Many musicians who performed for the orchestra in January of 2010 still have not been paid, nor have they been reimbursed for their travel expenses. The orchestra subsequently cancelled their April 2010 concert.

    The orchestra resumed operations in the fall of 2010, cutting musicians’ pay while increasing the workload and adding significant travel time. Musicians were to be paid for the first concert set by October 23, 2010. Many received only partial payment, and as of this date are still owed for wages and travel. The orchestra cancelled the balance of the 2010-11 season less than two weeks before the December concert, likely after many musicians had already made travel arrangements, and has not held an orchestra concert since.

    The orchestra has announced a 2011-12 season, beginning in December 2011. Should you be contacted to perform, please be advised of the orchestra’s history and liabilities toward previous musicians. As there is no AFM agreement covering this work, the ability of the AFM to assist you, should the orchestra continue its past behavior, is severely limited. For more information, please contact South Florida Musicians Association, Local 655 AFM at 954-527-4458 or [email protected].

    Thank you,

    Jeffrey Apana, Secretary-Treasurer
    South Florida Musicians Association
    Local 655 AFM

  6. Posted Sep 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm by Sebrina Alfonso

    The SFSO is proud to announce that we will go into our 2011-12 Season stronger than ever as we will have made whole our debts to our musicians. Last night myself, Jacqueline, our Chair Jim Rickard and our board took a moment to celebrate this great moment. This new board and Jim worked tirelessly alongside Jacqueline taking on the issues left by the previous board and never looked back. They committed to seeing this through. They went through training through Boards in Action through the Broward Community Foundation, have worked with us doing fundraisers monthly since last season to raise the funds needed to move foward and continue to be our mouthpiece in the community.
    This week we will have our new website up with our events, fundraisers and daily activity. You will be able to keep up with all that is going on and participate in any way you like to become a part of the Symphony Family.
    We especially thank the musicians who have donated their services at our fundraisers over the last year and your kind words of support. Their dedication and beautiful music kept us all moving forward.
    We also thank the patrons who believed in us and supported us through these rough waters. Your love for us and Symphonic Music provided the wind beneath our wings.
    We dedicate this season to our musicians and patrons and will continue our quest of being a critical part of enhancing the lives of the people of our communities and being a leader in Music Education and Outreach. We are honored that you have given us this opportunity to serve your soul.
    Join us for a musically emotional and joyous season.
    See you at the Symphony!

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Tue May 10, 2011
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