Kerry Smith, Director of Artistic Planning for the Sarasota Orchestra, Joins the Club

Kerry Smith, Director of Artistic Planning for the Sarasota Orchestra, Joins the Club

When she was in college, if you would have told Kerry Smith that she would be anything other than a professional viola player, she would have told you to go fly a kite. How she ended up being an arts administrator and becoming the Director of Artistic Planning for the Sarasota Orchestra is a fascinating and heartwarming story. One that has seen her make beautiful personal connections and experience great loss of those she has come to admire most, including Bramwell Tovey, the Sarasota Orchestra's recently passed conductor.

Listen to this week's podcast to learn about Kerry's life and career, the enormous challenges and fulfilling experiences she has had in her role with the Sarasota Orchestra since coming here in 2019,  the incredible season of performances with guest conductors and soloists she has put together, and the next steps for the Sarasota Orchestra as it begins another search for a new conductor and the process of building a new music center.

All that and more on this week's episode of the Suncoast Culture Club Podcast.
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Robyn Bell: I love fancy titles. And my guest today has one of the fanciest titles at the Sarasota orchestra. Kerry Smith is the director of artistic planning. Oh. So fancy for the Sarasota orchestra. And if you ever wonder just what in the world, that means, well, you are in luck because she is here to tell us that and so much more. So Kerry Smith, welcome to the club. 

Kerry Smith: Hey Robyn. Thanks for having.

Robyn Bell: Thanks for coming. So Kerry, by doing this podcast for the past two years, I can't believe it's been two years. I have found that everybody has a wonderful story to tell us about their journey to the Suncoast and their current employment situation. So let's start there, Kerry, tell us about your background and the many things you've done in your career that led you to being the director of artistic planning for the Sarasota orchestra. 

Kerry Smith: So I grew up in Minnesota, so a very different part of the country, a very cold part of the country. Suffice it to say, I think I'm done with cold I've been here since 2019. , I did love growing up in Minnesota and there were a lot of wonderful things about growing up there, including fantastic public schools, which had great arts programs and a great orchestra program, which is where I started playing the viola. I started as an elementary schooler, right on the Viola, which has its pluses and minuses, 

Robyn Bell: the, the Alto voice.

Kerry Smith: That's right. That's right. And I liked it right away. We had a little instrument petting zoo. That's how I got to know some of the instruments. I knew I wanted to play a string instrument and I went straight for the Viola. So I continued. playing, obviously pretty seriously. I, I really enjoyed it and things kicked up fast. And in high school I played in a couple different orchestras, our local youth orchestra the greater twin cities, youth symphony, and then chamber groups and went to summer. Music camps. 

Robyn Bell: You did the whole shebang private lessons. Yeah. Let's get a better instrument. This $8,000 bow. 

Kerry Smith: Oh yeah. That was not very fun, but , I mean, I really feel for my parents because having this, daughter that's so into a coming home and saying, I really need a $40,000 instrument is. Like, okay, 

Robyn Bell: woo. 

Kerry Smith: Slow your role. But um, 

Robyn Bell: this was where my parents were glad I just played trumpet. Cause it was pretty cheap. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah, and, and I never quite got to that $40,000 instrument, but I do actually have a, a great Viola that my high school teacher helped me get a friend of hers, owed her a favor in Chicago. And I ended up with a fantastic SK Viola from William Harris, Lee, for anyone listening, that's that's interested 

Robyn Bell: and something that you will treasure forever. Because it's a great instrument, but because of the story behind how you got it, , you know what I mean? That's something you'll keep forever.

Kerry Smith: Yeah. Yeah, no, that's true. My high school teacher is a violist in the St. Paul chamber orchestra named Evelina Chow, who was a huge influence on me. I she's probably not, gonna listen to this, but I think she knew she was a huge influence on me. Every word she said, Like, you know, as the Buddah was speaking to me.

Robyn Bell: Yeah. You were, as I say, a sponge, just soaking it up. 

Kerry Smith: That's right. Yeah. Yeah. And it was, it was more than just musically. She was a deep thinker. She was kind of the first person I met like that. And, and she really challenged me to think about not only, you know, how I played, but why. Which was maybe actually I'm just realizing in this moment, maybe like, maybe that was the first step down, this interesting path I've gone down. But after high school I went to the university of Wisconsin, Madison, and one thing you'll hear through kind of my resume is that every school I've gone to has been publicly funded. So for any State College of Florida students listening, you know, I was in that same boat. So I studied Viola performance at the collegiate level which was great. And I,

Robyn Bell: let me interrupt you, you went to college thinking you were gonna be a violist in a symphony orchestra. Was that sort of your goal as a freshman in college, say. 

Kerry Smith: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And, and not even goal, I would say that if you told me anything, otherwise I would've just given you the hand and walked away. I was pretty stubborn. So, so that was my path. And I was, really a hard worker. I did well in Madison. I went on to do Grad school also in performance in Montreal with a great teacher named UTA PIO who's ESE, and now lives in Quebec. 

Robyn Bell: Wow. Did you have trouble with kind of visa or border stuff going to Canada?

Kerry Smith: I didn't, but it's because they're so used to American kids going up there. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. 

Kerry Smith: I think Canadians actually more and more now because of the price of college here, it's, they've kind of streamlined the process. And I have to say at the time I was really horrible with everything that comes With administration, 

Robyn Bell: the paperwork of life as I call it.

Kerry Smith: Oh yeah, no, I was terrible. And I, and I still managed to do everything legally, so , 

Robyn Bell: but that was quite a Trek. I mean, Madison, Wisconsin, Minnesota, not too far from Canada, but you're still getting colder. 

Kerry Smith: That's yeah, I really kind of put myself through it and. After my master's degree, I did a year in Montreal where I was just kind of freelancing and I was getting gigs as a violist. I played in a band I played with some orchestras around Montreal. But I also, I got an administrative job to kind of help pay the bills, pay my $450 rent 

Robyn Bell: those were the days. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. And it. Easy for me to pay my $450 rent. But I do like bringing that up because mm-hmm, um, you know, I know a lot of people are in that situation and, and now my rent is higher, but It's it's a big part of being a musician. You have to think about those things. When I was in my undergrad, actually my teacher told me, you might wanna think about learning, how to make your own clothes. And I thought she was joking. And then I got into sort of my freelance mode and I was like, oh, she was not joking. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. It's the, I think your point would be the sacrifices we have to make as musicians. If we want to do that for a living. and still have material things. 

Kerry Smith: That's right. Yeah. Especially when you get started, when you're new and personal managers are just kind of starting. Learn your name. So, but things were going and, you know, I was getting work, but I got this administrative job and I realized that this job that was supposed to subsidize my time between gigs was actually what I was looking forward to. So at this point I'm like 23 or 24. And I decide that I'm. Gonna make a change. And at first I thought I'm, just gonna go to business school. I'm gonna completely leave music behind. 

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

Kerry Smith: And go into finance as if I knew what finance, would even entail. But that was my first thought. And A I'm, I'm glad that that wasn't the path I, I went down, but I, I ended up kind of falling upon this internship opportunity at this chamber music festival called music at Menlo that's run by Wuhan and David Finkel, who run a chamber music society of Lincoln center. And it was a great experience. And at that point I'm like 24 or 25. And that is the first time I learn what arts administration is. 

Robyn Bell: yeah. 

Kerry Smith: So after that whole path, you know, four years in Madison, a couple years in Montreal, even, freelancing with these orchestras. I never really thought about the back end. Who's doing that. Who's putting the programs together who was thinking about, the people on stage and keeping track of people. Even when I was interacting with personnel managers, I wasn't thinking like, oh, this could be, you know, 

Robyn Bell: a career.

Kerry Smith: Yeah. Mm-hmm So anyway, suffice it to say I'm I have been kind of a, a late bloomer in terms of some of these things. A lot of people, it seems like, kind of are more aware of arts administration. You know, that it's a path.

Robyn Bell: Well, I would say many people. I talk to share your story, that they go in, they were in their high school band or orchestra or choir. And they go to college thinking they're gonna be an educator or a performer, and then they make their way to administration the way you have arts administration. So I, I don't know many that go right into college going, I'm gonna be an arts administrator. Mm-hmm , it's mostly like a master's degree, like a, the second thought the same. Yeah. Yeah. It worked well for. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah, it did. I, I ended up going um, to CCM in Cincinnati, the college conservatory music there, they, they had a program where you could get a master's in arts, admin, and also an MBA. 

Robyn Bell: What a perfect pairing. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah, no, it's a really great program and they've had so many mm-hmm great people kind of come out of that program. And I actually ended up leaving Cincinnati because I got this opportunity to go to the Colburn school in Los Angeles and work. Artistic administration. And that was just such a wonderful opportunity for me. I got to work for a woman named Laura lipins, who had been a manager at Opus, three artists and ICM for 25 years. And uh, I got to basically, , shadow her and learn how she thinks. 

Robyn Bell: Wow.

Kerry Smith: It was a huge privilege. It was so interesting. And I got to experience the Los Angeles, Phil harmonic and LA chamber orchestra and all of these wonderful Orchestras as an audience member, which is really great. And then working with the really talented students at the Colburn school Laura lipins when I worked for her was going through cancer treatment. Mm-hmm she was going through chemo and, and radiation and, and she did have stage four breast cancer, and she actually passed in December 2019, just a few months after I got here.

Robyn Bell: Wow. 

Kerry Smith: So, 

Robyn Bell: and that's gonna be a story that comes back here in a little bit in our conversation. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah, that's right. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. And you left Los Angeles. Where did you go from there? 

Kerry Smith: After lA? I landed in New Orleans. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. This is kind of where I start to pick up on you. Like, I know you from Louisiana because you came here from there. So I did research, right? 

Kerry Smith: That's right. I was at the Louisiana Phil harmonic orchestra, which is a great orchestra. I love the musicians there. The music director is Carlos Miguel Pretto. Who's now in his final season. So they're looking for a new music director. 

Robyn Bell: What was your job there? 

Kerry Smith: Director of artistic programming. So basically the same thing, same. Yeah, doing classical and pops and everything in between. I can't say enough. Good things about that orchestra. And about the city of New Orleans, which I think is probably my favorite city in the world now. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, it's so diverse. And the music and the culture love it.

Kerry Smith: Yeah. Yeah. I loved it too. But the opportunity at the Sarasota Orchestra was one that I couldn't pass by.

Robyn Bell: Well, let's take a second here and talk about these titles in Louisiana and also here, because they're, they're very similar. So describe to someone, you know, your elevator pitch, mm-hmm as the director of artistic planning, such a fancy title. What in the world does that mean, Kerry? 

Kerry Smith: the director of artistic planning role essentially works directly with the music director or artistic advisor to put programs together. And often this person is choosing a guest conductor mm-hmm selecting guest soloists and often with input from the musicians themselves, from the music director from other staff from marketing and taking all of that information. Plus their own taste, plus, crosschecking things against what manager's saying and coming up with the season, 

Robyn Bell: you're kind of at that 30,000 feet level, looking at the season as a whole on the, on the composers, the music, the guest conductors, everything. How do we not repeat the same styles of music? What is our audience gonna like? I mean, you have a lot of things to take in mind and a lot of moving parts. 

Kerry Smith: That's right. 

Robyn Bell: What's the hardest thing about your job?

Kerry Smith: You know, I think. The hardest part for me are the occasional moments where, and I think everyone is kind of familiar with this aspect of say the entertainment industry of we're gonna go another way.

Robyn Bell: Mm. 

Kerry Smith: I don't like saying that without saying, but I'm gonna keep you in mind or, but there are gonna be other opportunities. That kind of thing. 

Robyn Bell: The rejection letter . 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. And it's, it's not even,

Robyn Bell: I hate doing that too. And I'm on search committee here. I hate telling people, oh, we are going another route to, yeah. Yep. It's hard.

Kerry Smith: That's just, that's tough.

Robyn Bell: And, and that just kinda shows, I think some people don't have any problems with that, but those of us that maybe have feelings and are hard and we connect with people on a more personal level. That's where it gets hard for me to. go in a different direction. 

Kerry Smith: But I think that connection is really important, especially after the past few years. And mm-hmm, kind of the maturity that I've gained just from getting older. And, the connection between a conductor and an audience between orchestra members and an audience between a piece of music or a dead composer and an audience. That's everything. That's why we do this. So. I think it's really important to have those connections with the people you're working with, whether it's a guest conductor or guest artist, you see once every three or five years, or if it's a patron or if it's a colleague, right. Or if it's a manager. So 

Robyn Bell: absolutely. And Kerry, I came here about 10 years before you did. I arrived in 2009 and I quickly learned the name on everyone's lips. When I mentioned I conducted orchestras and that was the name, Paul Wolf, everybody here in town. It was Paul Wolf, Paul Wolf. But at the time Leif Bjaland was the conductor of the Sarasota Orchestra. He left. There was a search along, comes Anu Tali in 2013 a real source of excitement and energy for the orchestra and the town. And as women do you know, she maybe wanted to start a family uh, can only assume that the travel between Estonia and Sarasota with a new baby was I'm sure. Very, very challenging. She departs in 2019 and we were in the middle. Of a very robust search for a new conductor when March, 2020 hit like a Mac truck. The search was paused. Things were coming back slowly when really, to our surprise, we didn't realize the search had kind of come to an end. The Sarasota Orchestra announced it had named their new conductor and artistic director in Bramwell Tovey. So you arrived here in 2019. Before we go any further, tell us what life looked like for you. When you first came, you were searching for a conductor, the pandemic induced work stoppage, and then the choice of Bramwell as the new conductor. Take us up to that point. 

Kerry Smith: sure. So when I got here in 2019, we were actively in search mode and that 19-20 season, as you mentioned, had been set, we were, you know, all set to jump in and we did, we had a really good start of the search. We saw some great people. Mm-hmm and in February 2020 Bramwell Tovey came uh, he actually conducted at the Neel . And the musicians, board and staff just unanimously said, he's great. Mm-hmm , you know, and the search wasn't over but I think that in our minds, you know, we thought, okay, this is someone really special 

Robyn Bell: he set the standard. Yeah, 

Kerry Smith: that's right. 

Robyn Bell: Because that March that last concert that you had was here at the Neel, but it was with Keith Lockhart who 

Kerry Smith: that's right. 

Robyn Bell: Famously does the Boston pops. And that was the last concert before they shut it all down. So, yeah. I don't know if he was a candidate, but I knew that there were other conductors still to come in that year that we didn't have it. So thank goodness. It didn't happen a month. 

Kerry Smith: That's right. 

Robyn Bell: You wouldn't have never had Bramell here.

Kerry Smith: That's right. And actually, when he was coming here, he said he looked at his plane ticket. He thought he was going to Saratoga. I mean, he was not really clued in to the scene here at all. And he was really charmed. He was. You know, he told the story many times that he was so impressed by the orchestra, by the musicians. And especially by their preparation for Walton's first symphony, which is not performed very often and it's very tricky. 

Robyn Bell: Oh, it's hard. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: And so here, the search starts back, but then everybody said, look, we had our guy last February. Let's see where he is. You guys reach out to him. How did that work? 

Kerry Smith: That's right. We kind of, kept lines of communication open. That was actually such an interesting moment, that pandemic year for someone in my position, because. We had some concerts going, but we didn't have guest artists and guest conductors on the ground. So I wasn't really busy the way I would normally be. And managers weren't really busy the way they would normally be. So we had a lot of time to talk, we kept a lot of. Communication lines open. And he was receptive, it was unusual, you know, typically an orchestra would ask someone to come back for a second time, but because we were in this pandemic mode you know, the committee unanimously decided to jump.

Robyn Bell: and it wasn't like they were pressured. Let's get this done and no wrapped up. And it just was no reason to look further. 

Kerry Smith: That's right. We had a lot of time to really think about this carefully. 

Robyn Bell: Mm-hmm so you bring him here. I remember he conducts the one concert at the opera house, kind of as a I'm here.

Kerry Smith: That's right.

Robyn Bell: It was like the first sold out show since the pandemic and the whole. Area, like nobody else had sold out a show before that this is what I'm remembering. Mm-hmm and he did a great interactive talk with the audience. 

Kerry Smith: That's right. 

Robyn Bell: He was so charming. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: And then I remember I went home in the middle of the summer from work and I, oh, there's my brochure from the Sarasota Orchestra and I'm looking and, oh, he's gonna do the Rhapsody in Blue and all this.

Kerry Smith: Yeah.

Robyn Bell: Literally the next day 

Kerry Smith: mm-hmm 

Robyn Bell: we get an email from the Sarasota Orchestra. So on July 12 Bramwell Tovey passes away after had only conducted two performances with the orchestra, the entire community, and really the musical world is in shock. But in addition to the morning and the obvious emotional feelings of losing Bramwell, the Sarasota Orchestra it had just released the season brochure. He has to rethink some of this. And, and that's where your job sort of goes into overdrive. I bet. So tell us how you even approach this. What I would consider a mammoth test. I mean, I'm, you're the first person I thought of after his family, it sort of, I was like, oh Kerry.

Kerry Smith: Yeah. Thank you. I would say that it is a mammoth task. I mean it is it. Challenging, but the emotional side of what happened is the hardest part. The way that I tackled this and then with my colleagues, of course, because we do these things collaboratively and it was really important to have our senior leadership as part of these conversations. But I basically looked at some of these programs and thought, okay, you know, who would do a good job on this repertoire as opposed to thinking. 

Robyn Bell: change the repertoire. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. We decided right away, we were not gonna change the repertoire. We are keeping the programs in place to honor Bramwell's memory. And you know, I'm really happy about that. And, and all of the conductors we approached really understood that. So they, they also are coming in Bramwell's memory to honor him and to help us which has been very touching. I've seen. A great side of the classical music community, which can sometimes be a little frigid 

Robyn Bell: yes. It's some stiff competition out there.

Kerry Smith: That's right. 

Robyn Bell: But when they can rally around a situation like this in, in an individual, yeah. It can be really heartwarming. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. You know, the press release that went out kind of told this story and mentioned that his cancer had come back and mm-hmm and things like that, but in our minds and in Bramwell's mind. things were moving forward. , I still really firmly believe that that wasn't naive. That was the right thing to do. And, you know, just a couple weeks before Bramwell and Joe were having conversations, I had a conversation with Bramwell about the upcoming season. We were still talking about planning and, and then he just got very sick.

Robyn Bell: Yeah, it was kind of fast, wasn't it? 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. So that was obviously really hard and I, I'm still kind of trying to cope with it. So, you know, as you've seen, we have people in line who are going to help us next season. Some really fabulous, great human beings and fantastic artists who are going to step up, but there's still this voice in my head. That's sort of. I don't wanna move forward without Bramwell. I don't want this to be real. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. 

Kerry Smith: And it's kind of like a childlike voice. There's really nothing to do with it. It, it's just kind of part of processing there's it's like that voice of denial. 

Robyn Bell: Right. 

Kerry Smith: So yeah,

Robyn Bell: I think the whole community feels that way.

Kerry Smith: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: really. 

Kerry Smith: And I know it's hard because a lot of our audience probably feels like, well, we didn't get to know him that well. And so I think my objective is, in moving forward, not only in this season, but in subsequent seasons to try to point out or highlight like how special he was, what kind of gifts he gave us. And in the year where he was music director designant, because he really did. He really did help us. 

Robyn Bell: And I will say too, as a community member, you know, that kind of on the outside, looking in, it was the loss of, Bramwell, the new conductor that we were very anxious to get to know and watch and hear interpretations and, and feel his musical experience. But it's also, we know what the Sarasota Orchestra has been through. On the, whole. And it was like, oh, here we go. Again. Can, you know, did was the orchestra like the musicians? Do you know, did you get any, and it was during summer. So there wasn't a lot going on, but was there any of this feedback of this? We, we can't like this spirit of, we can't let this stop our momentum.

Kerry Smith: Totally. Yeah. I mean, one thing I will say about our musicians is that especially coming out of the pandemic, they're really strong. Mm-hmm, , they're really, we have a lot of great people in the orchestra who are artistic leaders in their own. Right. And you just have, like, I have this unique. Privilege to work with them. And there's just this sense of, you know, we're not going to let anything stop our momentum and that's what Bramwell would've wanted. He would've wanted us to continue that upward momentum. 

Robyn Bell: Yep. I totally agree. And I'm looking forward to all the programming and maybe we could just recap real quickly. You have, the Sarasota Orchestra has different categories for their performances, right? There's the masterwork mm-hmm that people know about. They get your pops series. You have. Chamber Soirees. 

Kerry Smith: That's right? 

Robyn Bell: Yes. 

Kerry Smith: And then our discoveries, 

Robyn Bell: the, yes, the discoveries. And so you're involved. The programming for all of these, 

Kerry Smith: all of them. Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: Okay. All right. , and then of course, what, don't forget our gala, right? With Yoyo Ma. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. With that guy yeah. 

Robyn Bell: That who, who that has to be exciting.

Kerry Smith: I'm so excited. I've never met him or cross paths with him. And I'm really excited to do that this year.

Robyn Bell: Yep. What a musical icon he is. And so if you had to pick, like, I don't know, three or four programs that you're like, you know, some, some, all programming is special, you know, as a conductor that does program a concert, you put a lot of thought and effort to it, but sometimes there one and you go, whoa, this is gonna be so cool.

Kerry Smith: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the programs that I'm most looking forward to not to pick favorites, but . Is one that's actually coming to the Neel which Bramwell was set to conduct. But Peter OGEN, the former music director of Toronto symphony is going to conduct for us. It features James Ehnes. 

Robyn Bell: Oh yes. You know, Sarasota native or Lakewood ranch resident. We should say violinist. Yeah. He's fabulous. 

Kerry Smith: Yes. James Ehnes will be performing the Sibelius violin concerto. And then Lakita Mitchell, the soprano will be joining us for Mahler's fourth symphony, which the orchestra hasn't done in like 20 years. So, 

Robyn Bell: oh, that'll be special.

Kerry Smith: It will be really special. It'll sound great here. And I hope that, Lots of folks come out for it. 

Robyn Bell: Well, and here at the State College of Florida, we're very excited to host the orchestra for, for those three master work concerts uh, because last year, due to COVID we missed that usual collaboration. So we're very excited. Those begin here at the Neel in January I know this is a. Lift for the orchestra to pack up all their gear and head a little north, but it is wonderful for the Bradenton community. And for the music students at SCF to have the orchestra perform here, and last year I was so fortunate. You agreed to do this and that you brought one of the guest conductors, Yaniv Dinur to our recital hour class. Remember this, he spoke to all of our students. About kind of his life and his career. And then what was really cool is he talked about the music. He was conducting that night because we all had tickets and we all went as a class to watch that show. And it, it was like for some of those kids who had never been to a symphony concert, the combination of him speaking to us and making that connection and thus going to the concert, I could see just, you know, light bulbs. They were so excited for that. And it was just, thrilling. So. Thank you for that is my point on that long DRO. I, I appreciate it. 

Kerry Smith: I, it was so much fun and I hope we get to do it again. I'd love to continue that. 

Robyn Bell: Yes, it needs to be an annual event for certain, and I've reached out. I have some donors. We, we have a special fund in the foundation where we have some donors we're calling it the. Music major experience fund. Okay. Where they can donate to help us buy the tickets to go to not just the Sarasota Orchestra, but many other performances in town. Cuz it's really important that our music major students, you know, get that experience. And sometimes, you know, if you're a member of the choir in high school and you come here to be a vocal major, maybe you've never been to as symphony. But boy, Hey, we're gonna have Mahler four right here and there's this wonderful vocalist. You need to come hear this. So it's a wonderful collaboration. Um, Kerry. Are you able to share with us the steps the Sarasota Orchestra is gonna take now to fill this conductor position? What will it look like? 

Kerry Smith: Well, you know, in, in complete honesty, we're five weeks out from. Bramwell is passing and we are taking steps. We're talking things through now, but I think there's going to be a part of us that sort of has to process for mm-hmm some time uh, before we can kind of get things lifted, but we are working on it. It is, an important goal for us and it is important for the board. And, for our musicians, for the music center it's important that we have artistic leadership in place. 

Robyn Bell: It is so maybe we take some time, we maybe even spend a whole season just getting through this. We breathe, we formulate a really good plan to go forward,

Kerry Smith: right?

Robyn Bell: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Now you. Mention the new music center. So of course, through all this, the orchestra announced a new home in the planning and fundraising phase, right now, this new music center to be located on a Fruitville road, just west of I 75. I know that orchestra has an entire team of planners and fundraisers for this endeavor. And it's gonna take some time, I think, maybe a five year plan or whatever, but what does your role as this director of artistic planning look like for this and how would a new conductor for the orchestra be involved in this project? 

Kerry Smith: well, a new conductor would be integral to this. They would have input on, the designs, the acoustics they'd be a major part of fundraising, you know?

Robyn Bell: Yeah. 

Kerry Smith: All sorts of strategy for this moving forward in terms of my role I would probably also be brought along, but we do have so many experts that are working on the details. , when. We were initially presented this information in the spring. You know, just right before that announcement, they were talking about. All the zoning and permits they needed and that there was kind of sewage and sort of drainage permits they needed to get in Amazon, 

Robyn Bell: all the stuff. I don't nothing about 

Kerry Smith: yeah, I can tune in in four years. That's fine. I'm not gonna be helpful at this point,

Robyn Bell: but you know, the sky's the limit. I mean, if they plan something with the builtin organ or a choir loft 

Kerry Smith: that's right.

Robyn Bell: That really changes. What you can program as, as the person that's helping with all the music selections. Right.

Kerry Smith: That is very, very true. It's very, you know, that's also a, a huge part of our goal is to make a great home for ourselves, make a great home for For other local arts organizations that need a great acoustic space. And yeah, it would be great to have a choir loft that would be really exciting. 

Robyn Bell: Right. And do so, you know, you, you play the Pines of Rome and you actually have a balcony where brass and players that's. I mean, I don't know, people understand that. So much of the orchestral repertoire is determined by the space that you have, what you can and can't play. If the Sarasota orchestra wants to do the Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony Number Three, right. They could really only do that here at Neel cuz we have the organ or they have to go to a church that has an organ. So to me it's really important in making those plans and let's, don't leave anything out so that we don't have to X any. Selections or repertoire. Yeah, right. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. I'll actually never forget the first time I heard that Saint-Saëns symphony and the, that big C major chord in the last movement when I jumped out of my seat and I would love to thrill people in the Sarasota Manatee, area with the Saint-Saëns. So I, yeah, I'm really optimistic. I think we have a lot of great things ahead for us. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. It's gonna be great. Yeah, it's gonna be great. Now I know Kerry, you probably have a lot of friends and colleagues in this business who do what you do, but I can't imagine any of them having these same work experiences that you've had since 2019, you've had a conductor search, a pandemic, a conductor named, and then tragically taking away. And now. You know, do over if you will in time. So I think that one question in every job interview where they say, tell me about a time when you had to face adversity and describe how you handled it. Where would you even start? I mean, you have really an entire team at the Sarasota Orchestra, the administration, the fundraising arm. And of course the musicians who have kept this orchestra going forward and you were all to be commended. How would you describe your three years here. And what does that look like? Kind of professionally as compared to maybe other people that, you know?

Kerry Smith: Well, I would say, I wouldn't make any different choice. I'm very happy with, with where I am And I think it's just something I've learned. You know, I mentioned earlier in our conversation, my mentor passed away and then Bramwell passed away in July, which that was not on my 2022 bingo card, as they say. Right. I did not see that coming. So I'm trying to. Focus on joy in life and in my work and the positive in my work. Mm-hmm yeah, I would do almost anything to bring both of those individuals back and to undo the pandemic. I would gladly give up that experience, but, you know, it's going to shape who I am and how I do my work. And. I'm just going to continue kind of moving forward and doing good work for, for both of them, for their memory. 

Robyn Bell: Well, I find the work that you have done remarkable. Just on the outside, looking in and we've been able to connect several times on some projects and I've just really enjoyed getting to know you. I keep thinking, how can I get her to come play Viola in my pops on Monday nights? 

Kerry Smith: how's another make your nos yack out. 

Robyn Bell: but it needs to be played. It's like driving a Porsche that sits in your garage. 

Kerry Smith: That's right. 

Robyn Bell: Listen, that's another podcast topic. You enjoy living on the Suncoast of Florida.

Kerry Smith: I do. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, 

Kerry Smith: I really

Robyn Bell: do. You take advantage of the, you know, the beach and the cool stuff to do. Cause so many of us don't don't 

Kerry Smith: I, well, and I should do more I will say that I've fallen in love with kayaking. And when I first got here, I went out on Lido on a kayak and I had this encounter with a Manatee. It came right up, which, you know, , that's the only time that's happened to me. And I've tried like three or four more times since then. And. and, you know, the guide was like, yeah, it looks like a, you know, like a 30 year old female. And I was like, I'm a 30 year old female. 

Robyn Bell: That was not nice. 

Kerry Smith: no, it was, it was like this connection because I felt like this Manatee was weirdly like a reflection of me, but it was one of those moments where it was like, wow, you know, one of the best things about Florida is the natural world.

Robyn Bell: It is. 

Kerry Smith: Yeah. 

Robyn Bell: And we hope to keep it that way. 

Kerry Smith: I agree.

Robyn Bell: they keep telling me, you know, I don't know, 2050 Longboat, Key's gonna be underwater. And maybe my house in Palm Aire is gonna be oceanfront property. I don't know. It's really scary. 

Kerry Smith: It is scary, but we'll see. 

Robyn Bell: Well, one of the great things about the Sarasota Orchestra is this wonderful technology. People can go online and they can purchase packages. They can buy single show tickets. And they should, because it's a wonderful orchestra to support. You have worked your tail off to give us some incredible pieces of music and selections and just whole concepts, this upcoming season. And so you can do that by going to Sarasota and selecting. Hopefully season tickets, you should just go to everything, but that Yoyo Ma concert, is there anything I can do to get a ticket for that? Is it already sold out? 

Kerry Smith: It's not sold out and I think we can probably help you out. 

Robyn Bell: yay. And we're excited to have this Sarasota Orchestra back in Neel if you are a Manatee county resident and you really like the Neel Performing Arts Center, I think there's a. To pick just that Neel series for those Thursday night concerts. 

Kerry Smith: That's right. 

Robyn Bell: Yep. And the pops, of course, as a pops conductor, I'm always digging the pop shows that you guys put on. They're they're fabulous. And , I go to as many of them as I can, and I learn so much so that those are fun to put on very different than scheduling a classical, 

Kerry Smith: but I love it. Mm-hmm yeah, I think it's great. And actually, This season will be featuring Byron Stripling he'll be coming in actually for a program that Bramwell was set to conduct, he's conducting a program called Gershwin Berlin and friends mm-hmm and then he'll also be conducting our outdoor pops at Ed Smith stadium. Concert called dancing in this street, which is a Motown tribute. I think it's gonna be pretty fun. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. That's a really popular annual event that they've started out there at Ed Smith stadium. I went to this last one, our, our colleague here, Don Bryn had done all the arrangements for that. It was very excited for him and it's always a fun show and everybody in the stadium just loves it. The Sarasota Orchestra continues to just bring their, a game for our community and Kerry. You're a big part. And I wanna thank you for coming on the podcast today and telling us about yourself and your fascinating career. I obviously wish you in the Sarasota Orchestra, the best of luck in your next steps with your new music center and a, and an eventual new conductor and artistic director. And the community is just grateful to be a part of both processes. So thank you very much, Kerry. 

Kerry Smith: Thank you, Robyn.