A History of Excellence
The Florida Orchestra’s history
started more than five decades ago
on a boat in the middle of Tampa Bay,
when the St. Petersburg Symphony
and the Tampa Philharmonic came
together in a “marriage” ceremony.
Incorporated in 1967, the Florida
Gulf Coast Symphony opened its
first season on November 14, 1968,
and later changed its name to The
Florida Orchestra in 1984. Now TFO
has grown into the premier – and
largest – professional orchestra
in the state. It is still the only
performing arts organization that
bridges the entire bay area, with
concerts in Tampa, St. Petersburg
The orchestra has been led by only four music directors. The 2019/20 season marks Michael
Francis’ fifth year. The founding music director was Irwin Hoffman, followed by Jahja Ling and
Over the years, TFO has had a series of successes. In the 2017/18 season, TFO celebrated its 50th
anniversary with a gala concert featuring rock legend Sting, record attendance, the co-naming
of a street as Florida Orchestra Way, a series of new works written by Florida composers, and
live-recorded broadcasts on Classical WSMR radio. In 2011, it launched a multi-year cultural
exchange with the Cuban Institute of Music as well as its Accessibility Initiative, a commitment
to serve everyone in our community, which effectively reduced ticket prices, simplified
packages and diversified programming.
The orchestra also has strengthened its community and education programs, including a
collaboration with the Tampa Bay Lightning to produce the team’s one-time theme song, a
partnership with Pinellas schools to hire teaching artist musicians, a partnership with the
Prodigy Cultural Arts Program to teach violin lessons to children in Hillsborough County, and
free pop-up concerts in hospitals, malls and beyond. In the spring of 2018, the orchestra visited
Avon Park, Sebring, Daytona and Gainesville for its state residency program.
To showcase its artistic excellence, the orchestra released a CD of music by Florida-influenced
composer Frederick Delius on the Naxos label in 2012. In 2014, the orchestra released Holiday
Pops Live! on its label TFO Live!
Performing more than 130 concerts a season, The Florida Orchestra is recognized as Tampa
Bay’s leading performing arts institution and one of the most vibrant orchestras in America.
THE FLORIDA OR 8 CHESTRA | 2019-2020