Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning’s 2019 Music Mondays: “Musical Conversations with Great Performers”

January 7-March 25, 2019

This beloved series features performances and lively conversations

with renowned and emerging performers and conductors. The series is held in Church of the Palms in Sarasota, and Venice Presbyterian Church in Venice.


(Sarasota, Florida) SILL’s popular Music Mondays series entitled, “Musical Conversations with Great Performers,” features informal performances and lively conversations with renowned performers and conductors. The 2019 Music Mondays are January 7 through March 25. The morning sessions, hosted by the series’ producer, Edward Alley, are 10:30 a.m. at Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Road. Afternoon sessions, hosted by Dr. Joseph Holt or Robert Sherman of WQXR, are at 3 p.m. at Venice Presbyterian Church, 825 The Rialto. Tickets are $10 per session. To purchase tickets, visit For more information, call 941-365-6404.

Alley says that the 2018 “June LeBell Memorial Season,” named in honor of his late wife, was an “outstanding success” and attendance figures showed that more than 12,750 people attended Music Mondays in Sarasota and Venice in 2018. He adds that he looks forward to the same enthusiastic response this year.

“We’ve assembled an exciting mix of emerging, mid-career and well-established talent, along with outstanding area-based artists,” says Alley. “To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Sarasota Orchestra, we’ve invited four of the principal players to be with us this season.” Alley says that the series has again partnered with Young Concert Artists, an organization that discovers and launches the careers of exceptional young musicians from all over the world. YCA artists Hanzhi Wang, a classical concert accordionist, and Emmanuel Ceysson, the principal harpist of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will appear in Music Mondays this season.

Other season highlights include the internationally renowned pianist Olga Kern; clarinetist Richard Stolzman and his pianist son, Peter John, who will perform the works of Bernstein, classics and jazz; and soprano Kara Shay Thomson will take time out from her “Turandot” rehearsals for a special visit.

According to Alley, one special guest each season will be designated as the “June LeBell Artist.” This season, that artist is soprano Mary Beth Peil, a star of opera, stage, television and screen, and currently starring on Broadway as the Dowager Empress in “Anastasia.”

Alley adds that he’s “delighted that Venice host Joseph Holt will himself be our final guest in March. This should be fun!”


The 2019 Music Mondays’ Series at a Glance

  • January 7: Pianist Pedja Muzijevic appears at major music festivals and with symphony orchestras around the world as a soloist, in recital, or as part of a chamber music ensemble. With stories and performance, Muzijevic takes time out of his busy concert schedule to open the 2019 season of Music Mondays.
  • January 14: Soprano Kara Shay Thomson has been making history with the Santa Fe Opera, Florida Grand Opera and New York City Opera, among others. She will be singing the title role in Puccini’s “Turandot” this season with the Sarasota Opera. Shay Thomson stops by Music Mondays to talk about her life as a traveling diva and will also share some songs.
  • January 21: For more than 10 years, the singers of Sarasota Young Voices, trained and conducted by the group’s founder Geneviève Beauchamp, have been enchanting audiences. In addition to Sarasota, this group of high school age singers has performed in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the Vatican in Rome, Ireland, and a tour of Greece this past summer.
  • January 28George Nickson and Samantha Bennett. George Nickson is principal percussionist and Samantha Bennett is principal second violin with the Sarasota Orchestra. Three years ago, they founded ensembleNEWSRQ, devoted to contemporary music. In their second appearance on Music Mondays, Nickson and Bennett will share their enthusiasm, skills, and delight in new sounds in music.
  • February 4Emmanuel Ceysson, harpist, with the MET Opera. With his powerful, virtuoso playing, Emmanuel Ceysson, sweeps away all the clichés associated with his instrument. His infectious enthusiasm and boundless energy reveal the harp in all its sparkling splendor. He has won first prizes in the International Harp Competition and Young Concert Artists International Competition and has performed in the leading concert halls of Europe.
  • February 11Mary Beth Peil, singer/actress. Mary Beth Peil was Grams on “Dawson’s Creek,” and has appeared in many other TV roles and on Broadway. Her most recent role was the Dowager Empress in “Anastasia,” where she received her second Tony nomination. Peil also had a career in opera, singing with the Metropolitan Opera National Company and New York City Opera and will share stories about both careers—and sing a few songs.
  • February 18: Pianist Olga Kern catapulted to fame with her Gold Medal win at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the first woman to do so in over 30 years. She maintains an almost impossible schedule of recitals and concerto appearances worldwide and has appeared in Sarasota with the Detroit Symphony and in solo recital.
  • February 25: Concert classical accordion Hanzhi Wang is a winner of the Young Concert Artists International Competition—its first accordionist. Praised for her engaging stage presence and her technically outstanding performances, she comes to Music Mondays closely following her New York debut in Carnegie Hall. Trained at the Beijing Conservatory and the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Wang will astound with her artistry.
  • March 4: Natalie Helm is principal cellist of the Sarasota Orchestra, and enjoys a dynamic career as a solo recitalist, chamber musician, and educator. A top prize winner in several international competitions, she has appeared throughout Italy and Japan, and premiered and commissioned many works. She is also founder of Upward Notes, performing for prisoners, homeless shelters and dementia assisted living facilities throughout the United States.
  • March 11Richard Stoltzman, clarinet, and Peter John Stoltzman, piano.  Richard Stoltzman has appeared as soloist with more than 100 orchestras, in recitals, chamber music, and jazz and is a two-time Grammy Award winner. His son, Peter John Stoltzman, is a jazz pianist with appearances at Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall and venues around the world. Now, on a special joint tour, they are an unbeatable duo in both jazz and classics, bringing both to Music Mondays.
  • March 18Fernando Traba, bassoon. That smiling face behind all those wonderful bassoon sounds in the Sarasota Orchestra belongs to Fernando Traba, who is celebrating 25 years as principal bassoonist. A native of Mexico, he trained at the Cleveland Institute of Music and The Juilliard School, and is married to Betsy Traba, principal flutist for Sarasota Orchestra.
  • March 25: Pianist and conductor Dr. Joseph Holt is a co-host for Music Mondays in Venice. He is also the artistic director of Choral Artists of Sarasota and Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota, music director of Faith Lutheran Church, and a sought-after soloist and chamber music pianist. Holt will speak about his career as pianist for the US Army Chorus and other facets of his interesting life.


About the Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning

The Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning (SILL) is a non-profit organization that offers an expert lecture series to provide information on and discussion of the arts and contemporary global issues. SILL is guided by an all-volunteer board committed to modest pricing and enhanced outreach. Visit