For half a century, some of the finest young musicians in the world have gathered every summer in Sarasota.
They come here for the Sarasota Music Festival, and annual program of the Sarasota Orchestra.
The festival offers a chance for student musicians to study intensively with some of the best music professionals and educators in the country. For people who live in the Bradenton-Sarasota area, it's also an opportunity to experience some of the finest up-and-coming talent in the world of classical music.
The 50th anniversary edition of the festival is already underway. It continues through next June 21. There are plenty of concerts recitals and lectures remaining.
People who haven't had a chance to attend the festival's performances in the past might be put off by the idea of classical music played by students. But these aren't just any students, festival officials say. They're more like pre-professional musicians.
"It's almost misleading to call them students," said RoseAnne McCabe, the administrative director of the Sarasota Music Festival. "We have 60 of the finest pre-professional musicians in the country."
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.
So the level of musicianship is high even at the student recitals, but the festival also includes concerts that feature faculty members.
Among this year's performance highlights:
Artists Showcases, which are intimate faculty concerts on Thursdays in Holley Hall at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, 709 N. Tamiami Trail. Upcoming are "Sonata" on June 12, with a program that includes sonatas by Beethoven, Prokoviev and LeClair, along with Chopin's "Polonaise Brillante." "Virtuousity" on June 19 features work by Poulenc, Schubert, Rand and Heinze.
Friday Festivals offer chamber works performed by faculty and students at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. "Memories," June 13, features a Bruch string octet and a Dvorak piano trio. On June 20, the program includes Brahms' "Clarinet Quintet" and Beethoven's "Piano Trio No. 6."
Saturday Symphonies feature full orchestras of faculty members and selected students at the Sarasota Opera House. "Majestic," on June 14, is highlighted by Mozart's "Symphony No. 41." On June 21, the "Anniversary Celebration" includes Brahms' "Symphony No. 3" and Poulenc's "Concerto for two Pianos."
Besides concerts and student recitals, the festival also includes Saturday afternoon lectures with festival officials offering musical insight. Two are coming up, at 1 p.m. June 14 and 21 at Holley Hall. 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.
The classes offer a different kind of classical music experience that's popular with music students and aficionados.
For music lovers on a budget, the master classes are a great way to experience the work of the students and 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, festival officials say, may be the three student recitals. At 7:30 p.m. today and next Sunday (June 8 and 15), and 3 p.m. June 20, students perform selections of their own choice at Holley Hall. Tickets for the recitals are only $5.
To order tickets and see a detailed schedule of events, go to sarasotaorchestra.org/festival.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.