The Gulf Coast Symphony announced the next great venture in its mission to Create Community Through Music—the opening of a new Music & Arts Community Center (MACC) in Fort Myers.
The MACC will be a creative hub where people of all ages and abilities can share music and arts as common ground, and where diversity, expression and self-transformation is the very air we breathe. Not only does this undertaking allow for a major expansion of the Gulf Coast Symphony’s programming and educational outreach, but it provides a path forward for the Gulf Coast Symphony as it pivots operations to adjust to the limitations imposed by the current pandemic.
The Community Center has been a dream 26 years in the making according to music & executive director Andrew Kurtz: “A physical space of our own has been a goal since the symphony was founded—we will now be able to provide so many more opportunities for our community to experience music and the arts in one central location.”
The mission of the new MACC is to transform lives throughout Southwest Florida by providing equitable access to excellent music education and arts experiences. “Our vision is to build a civic culture that values lifelong involvement in the arts, where all can participate actively in music making and arts experiences. We also want every youngster in Southwest Florida to have access to music instruction both during the day and after school,” adds Kurtz.
The new MACC is on the 12.5 acre campus of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers, off of Daniels Parkway on Shire Lane. Asked about the new partnership, the Board of Trustees for the Unitarian Universalist Church said: “We eagerly set out on a new path together, toward a common community vision. We are proud of and grateful for this new partnership and join with the Gulf Coast Symphony toward making our new endeavor a resounding success!”
A truly collaborative effort between the two organizations, renovations are already underway to transform the campus into a world-class performing and educational space. Advanced theatrical lighting, robotic cameras, a video recording suite, and modern audio equipment are being installed to reshape the sanctuary into a 400-seat theatrical venue. Additional renovations and technical upgrades are planned for the existing classrooms, large social hall, and outdoor enclosed patio to create better learning and performance spaces.
Renovations are expected to be complete in Fall 2020 so that virtual or limited capacity programming can begin. A key adjustment due to the pandemic is the livestreaming of our programs, allowing for small (or empty) audiences, while providing a way for our devoted fans, many who are older, to safely enjoy our programs. The new onsite video recording suite will allow for performance recordings and livestreams, as well as distance learning instruction opportunities.
Initial offerings at the MACC include the creation of a new professional chamber orchestra, MusicWorks! after-school orchestral education program, a new ArtsWorks! visual arts education program, year-round classes for all ages, and robust musical performance programming.
The MACC will be home to the GCS’s new professional chamber orchestra (GCCO), whose members will both perform in concert as well as serve as teachers for our education programs and participate in our engagement activities. The GCCO will be as a professional symphonic training orchestra in the mold of the Chicago Civic Symphony, selecting graduates of music programs around the country, and preparing them for leadership roles in professional orchestras and ensembles. As part of our commitment to diversity and inclusion, the Gulf Coast Symphony intends to prioritize diversity in its hiring process.
MusicWorks!, the signature after-school orchestral education program which provides free music instruction to disadvantaged youth, will be a key program of the new MACC. This will be the second site for this program, the first started six years ago in the Harlem Heights community. This is being paired with ArtsWorks!, our new visual arts education program. Summer camps will be held when school is out.
Longer-term, once it is safe to do so, the Gulf Coast Symphony will offer programs at the MACC to ensure that every student in the Lee County School District has an opportunity to experience live music. In the interim, programs will be offered virtually on a new eLearning platform being developed exclusively for the MACC.
The MACC at full capacity will offer up to 54 month-long music and arts classes, each unique to Lee County. Course offerings will vary each month to provide countless educational opportunities for all ages. Additionally, the MACC will host a New Horizons Band, which provides an entry point to music making for adults, including those with no musical experience at all, or those who were active in school music programs but have been inactive for a long period.
Concert programming will include orchestra, pops, musicals, operas, recitals, chamber music, film screenings, jazz concerts, indie rock, and more. In partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University, we will also present their top chamber ensembles. Our new Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) program will help develop more diverse audiences and showcase the talents of under-represented artists living in Southwest Florida.
The MACC will be the center of musical activity in Lee County, the only full-time orchestral space in the county. With the programs from day to night, they expect to see children, families, parents and elderly participating in the widest variety of cultural opportunities in Southwest Florida.