A Beloved Tradition: Symphony Under the Stars

From the first load of picnic supplies rolled onto the lawn to the last boom and flare of fireworks, this year’s Symphony Under the Stars was yet another reminder of how much Ocalans love this Mother’s Day tradition.

Working for months behind the scenes to bring it all together on May 12th at the Ocala Golf Club were Chair Katrina Neumann and Co-Chair Emily Andrews. The two are board members of the Fine Arts For Ocala (FAFO) nonprofit, which also is the powerhouse behind the annual Ocala Arts Festival.

Neumann has been a resident of Ocala since 2011, holds a master’s degree in accounting from Saint Leo University and is the wife of local artist Ryan Neumann. She has extensive experience working for the government/private sector. 

Andrews was born and raised in Ocala. She earned a bachelor’s degree in editing, writing and media from Florida State University. She has participated in Leadership Ocala/Marion Youth, Leadership Ocala/Marion Class XXXIII and the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership. 

The annual event features the Ocala Symphony Orchestra and attendees are encouraged to come early, bring chairs and blankets, kids and games, food and libations, and stay late for the fireworks extravaganza. Proceeds from this event support FAFO’s annual arts festival.

This was the second year for Neumann to serve as event chair. She notes that the greatest challenges, “revolved around effectively managing diverse expectations while ensuring seamless coordination of multifaceted logistical and operational aspects.”

This was the first time for Andrews to co-chair Symphony Under the Stars.

“I’ve been on the FAFO board for four years and was so excited for the opportunity to take on more responsibility,” she offers. “Symphony has been a staple event in our community for decades and I was thrilled to be a part of the behind-the-scenes preparation.”

For her, the greatest challenge was “coordinating all of the separate components of the day, from the food vendors, programs, volunteers, the fireworks, the marketing—there are a lot of moving parts. Our board worked hard, and everything came together, as it always does, for a wonderful event.”

As for the greatest reward, Neumann shares, that “is in orchestrating an event that gives back to the community and witnessing its profound direct and indirect contributions.”

“Whether serving as a board member, volunteering, or participating as a patron, everyone’s collective efforts and financial support of this specific exceptional opportunity on a uniquely memorable day plays a pivotal role in benefiting the local artist populace” she says.

“In a fast-moving world with waning attention spans, it’s becoming more and more special to share a collective, live experience,” Andrews states. “Once the sun sets and we get to slow down, it’s rewarding to look around the sprawling crowd and see families and friends settle in and enjoy the beautiful music from the Ocala Symphony Orchestra. I always smile when their faces light up, both literally and figuratively, under the fireworks. It’s a magical moment that makes all the preparation worth it.”

As for how the concert and fireworks event benefit the art festival, Neumann explains that, “In essence, the concert and fireworks event serve as an integral financial pillar, enabling the sustained growth and enrichment of the arts festival, while simultaneously enhancing its cultural impact and reach within the community.”

“Fine Arts for Ocala is a unique nonprofit in that we have two signature events each year: Symphony Under the Stars and the arts festival,” adds Andrews. “Even though I grew up attending both events, I never connected the symphony event with FAFO, and I think that is true for a majority of our community. This year, one of our goals as a board was to use Symphony Under the Stars to not only help fund the Ocala Arts Festival but help the public associate both events with FAFO and drive awareness of our mission: to promote fine arts within our community.”

“We are thrilled with the overwhelming success of this year’s Symphony Under the Stars. This event brought together thousands of families and fine art lovers to enjoy the rich musical talent we are fortunate to have in our community,” offers Billye Mallory, FAFO president. “We are grateful for the generous support of our attendees, sponsors and volunteers who help us fulfill our mission to enhance art education and support local artists. Thanks to the dedication of our board members and everyone involved, we are proud to say that this year’s event was a resounding success, and we hope to see everyone at FAFO’s Ocala Arts Festival this October.” OS

To learn more, go to fafo.org

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