Preserving Music Materials from the Past for the Future
The Sarasota Music Archive Reinvents Itself
One of the largest music archives in the southeastern United States, the Sarasota Music Archive attracts music enthusiasts with its vast archive of musical treasures. It recently transformed itself with a reinvented space, updated technology and equipment, and the use of a concert-quality grand piano.
(Sarasota, FL) Sarasota Music Archive (SMA) is one of the largest music archives in the southeastern United States—and one of Sarasota’s artistic gems. Located in Sarasota’s Selby Public Library, the SMA’s vast collection boasts hundreds of thousands of music recordings in a wide range of media formats—from Edison wax cylinders to eight-track tapes to LPs and CDs. This treasure trove also includes an enormous collection of sheet music, books, and memorabilia. A group of dedicated volunteers keeps the music alive by taking in donated items, cataloguing LPs, CDs and music scores, copying old recordings to new formats, and managing a small store to sell duplicates and handle requests for copied sheet music. Thousands of music aficionados from across the community—and the country—love what they do.
With an archive of several hundred thousand recordings, there’s a lot to choose from. According to Dave Berry, SMA’s coordinator and a board member, “You can listen to anything from Miles Davis to rare recordings of Benny Goodman to classic episodes of ‘Fibber McGee and Molly’ from old-time radio. The largest collection, though, are LPs of classical instrumental music, including orchestral, chamber music, solo piano, and other instruments as well as vocal music of art song and opera. It’s easy to lose yourself in here.”
Berry loves it when a visitor’s eyes light up at the discovery of a recording they haven’t heard since childhood. That attitude is widely shared among SMA members, many of whom are avid concert goers and daily listeners of music. It’s easy to see they share Berry’s joy at visitors’ discoveries. And they also share his dedication to the cause.
“We serve the music community of yesterday, today and tomorrow,” says Sylvia Eckes, a professor emerita of piano at Ohio University and a SMA board member. “Our archive is a priceless resource. It is made possible through the countless gifts of music scores and recordings that people have donated over the years. It’s up to us to preserve these musical treasures so that they’ll still be here for future generations to enjoy.”
Area music lovers are enjoying SMA’s treasures in the here and now, of course. Their experience is better than ever, thanks to a lot of hard work.
Over the last few years, the SMA has dramatically transformed its second floor space in Selby Public Library. It is now a well-organized, welcoming haven. Here, visitors get ready answers from expert volunteers or leisurely explore SMA’s legacy of great music at state-of-the art listening stations. There’s more than a century’s worth of recordings to listen to, so it’s best not be in a hurry.
But not all of SMA’s great music is recorded or printed. This coming season, visitors can look forward to live performances by area and visiting virtuosos on a piano that does their talents justice. Phyllis and Saul Lowitt, well-known patrons of the arts, recently donated a Yamaha grand piano to Selby Public Library that will be used for SMA’s performances. “The Lowitts’ gift is a major contribution to our community’s cultural life,” says Eckes. “The library is now a venue for offering high-quality performances. The Yamaha is a fine instrument and lends itself well to the acoustics of Geldbart Auditorium.”
The Sarasota Music Archive also fosters music appreciation and education by presenting high-caliber lecture and performance programs. Eckes serves as coordinator for the weekly series, which runs January to March, and includes opera, classical, jazz, or folk music performances and six informative opera lectures. “The ‘Close Up On Opera’ series is presented by John Goodman, a well-known expert on the subject and also president of Sarasota Music Archive,” says Eckes. “John chooses operas that are presented during the current season by the Sarasota Opera and the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Live in HD’ program. It’s a very popular program.” (A complete schedule is offered below.) She explains that SMA also features occasional events and lectures presented by area-based music educators and experts, and a large, annual flea market of donated music instruments and other memorabilia.
The Sarasota Music Archive is located on the second floor of the Selby Public Library at 1331 First Street in downtown Sarasota. The Archive is open to the public, Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Archive is closed Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit www.sarasotamusicarchive.org or call 941-861-1168.
2017 Lecture and Performance Series
Wednesdays, 10:30-11:30 a.m.
The “Close-Up On Opera” lecture series is presented by musician and lecturer Dr. John Goodman, who chooses operas that are presented during the current season by the Sarasota Opera and the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series.
- January 4: Focus on Youth: Featuring two young musicians who are winners of the Grieg Pre-College Piano Competition in Winter Park, Florida, and two musicians from Sarasota who are winners of the Suncoast Music Scholarship Competition sponsored by Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota. The artists are: Connie Huang from Orlando, piano; Amy Lao from Jacksonville, piano; Cypress Potter from Lakewood Ranch, violin, assisted by Richard Ridenour, piano; and Joshua Guaita from Sarasota, piano.
January 11: Close-up on Opera: Charles-François Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet”
- January 18: Close-up on Opera: Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”
- January 25: Standard Songs in Jazz, Country, Blues and Folk Music with the area’s beloved singer and songwriter, Mindy Simmons, known as “Sarasota’s Songbird.” Simmons performs at major folk festivals throughout the state, including the South Florida Folk Festival, the Will McLean Festival, and the Gamble Rogers Festival. Simmons has shared concert stages with Loudon Wainwright III, Cliff Eberhardt, Cosy Sheridan, Vance Gilbert, and John Hammond Jr., to name just a few.
- February 1: Close-up on Opera: Mozart’s “Idomeneo”
- February 8: Masters of the Keyboard, Bach, Mendelssohn, and Schubert with keyboardist Yi-heng Yang, a renowned performer of modern and historical keyboards, who has been noted for her “astonishing skill and vividness” (The New York Times) and “absolute mastery” (Boston Musical Intelligencer). Equally at home with modern and period instruments, she maintains a diverse range of musical activities, from performing in a historically informed style to premiering works by living composers.
- February 15: Close-up on Opera: Verdi’s “La Traviata”
- February 22: Close-up on Opera: Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites”
- March 1: Songs by Finzi, Quilter, and Ravel with David Davani, baritone. Davani is a rising star and winner of several national vocal competitions. He has performed at several music festivals, including the Curtis SummerFest and Mannes School of Music’s Bernstein and Mendelssohn festivals. Davani recently performed the premiere of an opera by Jonathan Dawes, “Nero, and the Fall of Lehmann Brothers,” in New York City. He will be accompanied by Joseph Holt, pianist, and artistic director for Gloria Musicae and Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota.
- March 8: Piano Works of Ullmann, Schumann, Liszt, and Debussy with concert pianist Steven Glaser, professor of piano at Ohio State University, and a top prize winner of the New York Chopin International Competition, the Liederkranz Competition, and the Society of American Musicians Competition. Glaser has been a visiting professor at Buchmann-Mehta School of Music and Tel-Aviv University, and an advocate of Jewish music. He is a member of the distinguished faculty of the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at The Ohio State University.
- March 15: Close-up on Opera: Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier”
- March 22: Selections from this Season’s Operas with the popular Sarasota Opera Studio Artists, who command a full house at Geldbart Auditorium every year. They will be accompanied by Maestro Kevin Miller, the group’s program and music director.
About the Sarasota Music Archive
Part of the Sarasota County Library Special Collections Department of the Selby Public Library, the Sarasota Music Archive is one of the nation’s leading music reference collections, containing several hundred thousand recordings, tapes, music scores, books, and memorabilia. The collection includes opera, vocal, choral, musicals, jazz, popular, folk, instrumental, and orchestral music. Recordings may be in the form of Edison wax cylinders, one- or two-sided shellac discs, LP vinyl records, laser discs, DVDs, or compact discs. A listening station is available. The catalogue is online at: www.sarasotamusicarchive.org. Volunteers check and catalog donated materials, plan programs and events, and provide assistance to members and the public. Recordings and music scores that are not needed for the collection are sold at very reasonable prices to the public. Materials may be copied. For more information, visit www.sarasotamusicarchive.org.