For classical music students, the Sarasota Music Festival is a chance to study intensively with some of the best professionals and educators in the country.
For local music-lovers, it's a chance to see and hear some the finest up-and-coming talent in the world of classical music, the international stars of tomorrow, right here at home.
The 49th annual edition of the Sarasota Music Festival, a program of the Sarasota Orchestra, begins Monday and runs through June 22. Performances begin Thursday.
Some of the concerts are performed by faculty members, and some by students, and some by groups that combine the two.
But the students are so advanced that if you close your eyes you won't be able to tell the difference, a festival official said.
"We have 60 of the finest pre-professional musicians in the country," said RoseAnne McCabe, the administrative director of the Sarasota Music Festival. "It's almost misleading to call them students."
The average age of the students in the festival is about 23, McCabe said, and the 60 who are selected are culled from about 500 applicants. It's not unusual for students to land high-profile positions with major orchestras soon after they're in Sarasota for the festival.
One of those is David Coucheron, who was a festival student in 2006 and is now the concertmaster for the Atlanta Symphony. He'll return to the festival this year as the featured soloist in Bruch's "Violin Concerto No. 1" on June 8 at the Sarasota Opera House.
The faculty for this year's festival also includes two alumnae. Flutist Christina Jennings, who was a festival student in 1992, is now on the faculty of the University of Colorado Boulder, and violinist Noah Bendix-Bagley, who studied at the festival from 2003 through 2005, is now with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
The festival's concert lineup starts June 6 and features 12 performances from chamber groups and the student orchestra.
The orchestral highlights include Mozart's "Symphony No. 38 (Prague)," at that same June 8 concert that features Coucheron; Beethoven's "Symphony No. 6 (Pastorale)" June 15; and Mendelssohn's "Symphony No. 3 (Scottish)" June 22. All those concerts are at the Sarasota Opera House.
Besides concerts and recitals, the festival also includes two "Levin Lectures," with festival artistic director Robert Levin offering entertaining and informative musical insight, on June 8 and 15. Tickets are $5.
The public is also invited to observe any of the festival's 60 master classes in piano, violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn.
The master classes, at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, are generally about three hours long. Tickets are $5 for individual classes, $10 for all the classes in any one day, $30 for a week and $75 for all three weeks.
The classes offer a different kind of classical music experience that's popular with music students with aficionados.
"A student will play a passage and you think they've played it perfectly," said Gordon Greenfield, the Sarasota Orchestra's vice president of marketing. "Then the teacher will suggest something and the student will play it again and it will be even better. It's a fascinating way to see how music is made."
For music lovers on a budget, the masters classes are a great way to experience the work of the students and the teachers, who are among the top artists in the form. There are always several classes going on at once, so attendees can observe one class for a while and then go check out another.
The best buy for your classical music dollar, Greenfield said, comes from the two student recitals. At 7:30 p.m. June 9 and 16, students perform selections of their own choice at Holley Hall. Tickets for the recitals are only $5.
A full schedule of events is available at www.sarasotaorchestra.org/sarasotamusicfestival.
Details: June 3-22, at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, 709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, and Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets: $5-$55. Information: 941-953-3434, www.sarasotaorchestra.org/sarasotamusicfestival.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.