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Symphony Finds Ways To Connect During Pandemic

The Pensacola Symphony will present PSO in the Park Sunday (Nov. 29) at Museum Plaza, downtown. The performance is open to the public with no admission. It will begin at 3 p.m.

The outdoor concert series in November is just one of the ways PSO has been engaging with the community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit Photo courtesy of Pensacola Symphony
Photo courtesy of Pensacola Symphony

“On the face of it, it might look like there’s nothing for us to do, but in fact, we’ve been tremendously busy for this number of months,” said Peter Rubardt, music director of the Pensacola Symphony.

After the pandemic shut down normal operations, he says one of their first actions was to come together around a set of three priorities.

“Fundamentally, first of all, make sure everybody stays healthy; that has to come first,” Rubardt declared.

PSO’s second priority is to preserve the organization.

“It’s a long-standing orchestra now,” he reminded. “It’s been around for many, many decades, and we want to make sure that when COVID blows over and passes, that while everything might be different, we want to be sure that the Pensacola Symphony can quickly resume at its current strength."

Thirdly, Rubardt says it was important for the symphony to continue to serve the community in traditional ways, while also adjusting their offerings to accommodate the current circumstances. And, that brings us to PSO’s new Facebook feature, “Virtually Together.”

“That is one of the things that we encouraged all of our musicians to take part in,” Rubardt said of their online outreach.

“We just asked them to open up a little window into their lives, not only their playing and their amazing skills and interests in music, but also how they’re handling the pandemic; a chance to just maintain that connection between musicians and audience members and our followers.”


“Hi everyone, this is Rebecca Atkinson. I am a harpist and I first performed with the Pensacola Symphony in 2013. Currently, I’m enjoying extra family time, lots of practice time,” said Atkinson before playing the light-hearted piece, “Waltz in E-flat-Major” by Durand.

“Hey there Pensacola Symphony fans, your Principal Oboist Matt Fossa,” Fossa began. He explained what he’s been up to during this time of COVID and then he began to play. He chose the first movement of a piece called “Parking Violation.”

Maestro Rubardt also made a Facebook recording.

“Hi, I’m Peter Rubardt, Music Director of the Pensacola Symphony,” he said in introducing himself.
“And, I’m Hedi Selanki and I’m married to the music director,” Rubardt’s musician wife chimed in. Selanki is UWF piano professor.

In their video, they prepare to play a Mozart sonata for two pianos.

“One of the nice things about being married to a piano professor is I have somebody to help me play the piano and play some two-piano music during these quarantine times,” Rubardt proclaimed.

“And, I have to tell you I enjoy two-piano so much better than a 4-hand piano, where we have to share a piano,” joked Selanki, noting the lack of elbow room. “Never sit next to a conductor on a piano bench because he always wants more space than he needs.”

“Okay, okay,” Rubardt responded in good humor.

Credit Photo courtesy of Pensacola Symphony
Photo courtesy of Pensacola Symphony

Opening Night for the 2020-2021 season was scheduled for Oct 3. But, due to COVID-19, the symphony pivoted and performed their annual “Mozart Madness” concert, which is normally performed in January or February around Mozart’s birthday.

“This year, we decided to move that concert into the fall and to do it strictly in a virtual manner,” stated Rubardt. So, we did assemble the orchestra on stage and we had 34 players, I think, and we had two pieces of Mozart, his “Post Horn Serenade” and “The Flute Concerto.”

He said they had two rehearsals. But, instead of a concert in First Methodist Church like they normally do, they had a recording session in the Saenger Theatre.

According to Rubardt, they used portions of that recording and some other recordings and musician interviews to make a virtual education concert that was made available to the Escambia and Santa Rosa school districts.

Continuing in the spirit of finding new, safer ways to serve the community during the pandemic, they also scheduled three PSO in the Park concerts.

Credit Photo courtesy of Pensacola Symphony
Photo courtesy of Pensacola Symphony

The last one, offered in partnership with UWF Historic Trust and WUWF, is Sunday afternoon at Museum Plaza.

“And, I should add, going forward, that we are planning to play a series of six classical concerts in February,’ Rubardt projected. “At the moment, we’re planning to have those in front of a small, socially distanced audience, but we will also continue to video those.”

According to Rubardt, the video recordings will be available for subscribers who may decide that they want to continue supporting the orchestra, but don’t feel comfortable coming to the hall. The concert recordings are a component that will likely continue, even after COVID.

Under the circumstances, it’s a good option, but the conductor says it could never replace the exhilaration of the live performance that he and his symphony musicians are missing.

“We just know that we still feel that and we’re looking forward to bringing that back to our audiences and in the meantime serving our audiences in any other way that we can find,” Rubardt said.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.