History of the South Florida Symphony Orchestra
The South Florida Symphony Orchestra is the manifest dream of Music Director and Conductor Sebrina María Alfonso. She was joined in her vision by townspeople and city leaders interested in making live symphonic music accessible to the community and its young people both as a performing art and as an educational experience. This is not an easy undertaking by an island community located at the end of a sparsely populated, one hundred and fifty-mile long, rural chain of islands. Maestra Alfonso was born and raised in Key West, a sixth-generation Conch. Even with clear success and accolades during the years she studied and performed across the country and in Europe, Key West continued to hold a special place in Sebrina María Alfonso's heart. With the support of her family and friends, Ms. Alfonso returned to Key West and founded the Key West Symphony Orchestra in August 1997. A fundraising concert was performed in March 1998. The event attracted enough interest that core supporters suggested a debut of a full orchestra in December of that year. The KWSO reserved the Tennessee Williams Theatre and recruited forty-eight musicians from symphonies around the country. Symphony organizers adopted by-laws, named a diverse Board of twenty-two directors and elected officers. Fundraising moved into high gear with support from the community and corporate sponsors. On Friday, December 11, 1998, lights dimmed at the Tennessee Williams Theatre and the KWSO dream became a reality. Both the inaugural concert and the children's free educational concerts on the previous Wednesday were received with bravos and rave reviews.
Aspiring to bring the awe and inspiration of classical music to a greater part of the region, critically acclaimed Maestra Sebrina María Alfonso, collectively with dedicated arts patrons, launched the Key West Symphony Orchestra 19 seasons ago.
Alfonso made her New York debut conducting the American Symphony Orchestra at the finals of the Stokowski International Competition. She studied with Frederic Prausnitz at the Peabody Conservatory and with Harold Farberman and Daniel Lewis at the Conducting Institute. During her doctoral studies at Peabody, she served as artistic director and conductor of the John Carroll Opera Company in Annapolis, Frederick Symphony and Goucher Symphony Orchestra. In 1998, the Key West native's dedication to music and her dream to establish a first-class orchestra came true with the creation of the Key West Symphony Orchestra. For more than a decade, this small, but cultural Florida community has enjoyed world-class music and renowned soloists under the musical direction of Alfonso. Committed to continuing arts and music education, the Key West Symphony has been instrumental in mentoring area children through various training programs, master classes and free community concerts.
In 2002, Sebrina María Alfonso became the first Cuban American conductor invited to conduct Cuba's premier orchestra, the National Orchestra of Cuba, where she received standing ovations. Several sold out shows and years later, Alfonso received accolades for her appearances as a guest conductor with such esteemed orchestras as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Jose Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the Prague Radio Symphony, the Orchestra de Rus in Sienna, Italy, and the Women's Philharmonic, among many others. She even conducted an underwater concert for over 400 divers which received world-wide recognition.
Prominent performers with whom she has worked include Robert McDuffie, Sharon Isbin, Elmar Oliveira, Nicolette Benedetti, Awadagin Pratt, Natasha Paremski and Jeffrey Chappell among others. With her national reputation continuing to expand, Sebrina has been the recipient of feature stories on CBS radio news, CNN, the AP Press, MS Magazine (New York), Deco Drive and Miami News (ABC) and has been reported in Reuters.
Ms. Alfonso is an advocate for American composers and it is this commitment that has seen her organize group commissions for various orchestras and has recorded works of James Grant under the MMC label of Boston with the Prague Radio Symphony. She is also a featured conductor with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra of American Composers. During the summers at the Conductors Institute, Sebrina held fellowships and was invited to perform several world premieres, including her own composition Freedom Crossing, a work which commemorated the tenth anniversary of the Mariel Cuban boat-crossing in which thousands risked their lives to gain their freedom.
Born and raised in Key West, Florida, Ms. Alfonso had an intense desire to bring orchestra music to the Key West Community. In July 1997, Ms. Alfonso presented a plan to the arts community in Key West, outlining the educational, cultural value and economic impact of an orchestra to the community. The 1998-1999 concert season began with the realization of that effort with great success which has now expanded to include the entire South Florida Region.