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Who We Are

Punta Gorda Symphony is Charlotte County’s premier professional orchestra. From presenting world-class musicians to enriching the lives of young people and adults through educational initiatives, Punta Gorda Symphony strives to foster vibrant community connections through orchestral music.

Originally formed in 1978 as a small chamber group, we have grown in size to more than 70 professional musicians drawing audiences from around the world. The 2022/23 season marks our tenth under the direction of Maestro Raffaele Ponti, and we continue to flourish under his ambitious programmatic choices and rich, expressive conducting.

maestro raffaele ponti

The 2022/23 season will be Maestro Ponti’s tenth as Music Director of our Punta Gorda Symphony, which has grown and flourished under his leadership. His superb musicianship and dynamic personality have attracted professional musicians and guest artists from around the world, resulting in sold-out concerts for the past three seasons.

Ponti’s professional career began at an early age. At seventeen, he performed in the trumpet section of the Rochester Philharmonic and two years later, he became assistant principal trumpet to Bernard Adelstein of the Cleveland Orchestra. He is the former Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Italia Konzert Opera International, where he continues as a regular Guest Conductor. For ten seasons, he served as Conductor of Education and Outreach with the Austin Symphony. Currently, he appears with prominent orchestras around the United States and Europe. He is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Paducah Symphony in Paducah, Kentucky and Director of Orchestral Studies at Florida International University.

Maestro Ponti is a champion of music education in the community with school visits, master classes and an annual Youth Concert. His community outreach also extends to adults, with his exciting Behind the Notes and pre-concert classes and his innovative program “The Symphony as a Business Model”, which has attracted new businesses and patrons to the orchestra.

His drive and vision on the podium, as well as in the community have led the symphony to earn the prestigious Charlie award for “Outstanding Achievement in the Arts”, Florida Weekly’s “Best” and Harbor Style Magazine’s “Best Performing Arts” organization. Maestro Ponti was named a “Leader of Distinction” by the Florida Weekly in September 2014. In 2015, he was honored with a Proclamation given by the Mayor and City Council Members of Punta Gorda. In December 2017, Maestro Raffaele Ponti accepted the Charlotte County School Board Award as Business Partner of the Year on behalf of the Punta Gorda Symphony to recognize his contribution to music education in our county.

Raffaele Ponti’s reviews have dubbed him a “rising star”, “charismatic”, “electrifying”, “empowering” and his audiences agree. We in Southwest Florida are indeed fortunate that he has made this his home.



Ming Gao, Concertmaster
Liviu Onofrei, Asst. Concertmaster
Cindi Qi, Principal 2nd
Karen Banos
Garrett Charnin
Ileana Ciumac
Carlos Jáquez
Ally Jenkins
Hua Jin
Ben Maynard
Cathy Pflieger
David Qi
Sandra Rubio-Wang
Nash Ryder
Dale Sandvold
Xiomara Sepúlveda Rueda
Baoling Xu
Judith Yanchus


Rachel Cox, Principal
Julie Deeghan
Karen Hebermehl
Anna Ivanova
Sofia Ponti
Juan Carlos Siviero
Brianne Lugo


David Calhoun, Principal
Roy García
Anastasia Golenishcheva
Susannah Kelly
Si-Cheng Liu
Mikel Thomas
Lori Wright


Laurence Glazener, Principal
Spencer Stowers
Joseph Trunk


Carrie Wiesinger, Principal
Francesca Arnone
David A. Suárez-Rios


Beth Larsen, Principal


Dione Chandler, Principal
Kendra Hawley


Stacey McColley, Principal
Tony Negron


Peter M. Geldrich, Principal


Stephen Parker, Principal


Gabriel Bergeron-Langlois, Principal
Chris Eberle
Carlos Felipe Vina


Daniel Beilman


Jennifer Miller, Principal
Lisa Bontrager
Cathy Caldwell
Matthew Marshall
Troy Messner
M. Edward Nagel
Dann ODonnell
Lexi Hebda


Richard Stoelzel, Principal
Veselin Bozhilov
Jeff Kaye
Benedetto Salvia
C. Brad Whitfield


Tim Conner, Principal
Karla Rojas
Michael Zion


Aaron Chan, Principal


Todd Handley, Principal


Miguel Angel Pagua Molina, Principal


Dean Anderson, Principal
Neil Grover
Kelsey Bannon
Chris Bowen
Isaac Fernández Hernández
Brian Jordan
Christopher Nolin
Jess Ridgeway
Gabriel Stoelzel


Richard Fleisher, Principal
Giuseppina Ciarla
Tasha Robinson
Justine Dawn Tiu


Isabelle Aubin, Principal


Professional musicians may send resume to Personnel Manager Richard Stoelzel at richard@PGSymphony.org.


Michael Landsberg, Chairman
Steven Shell, D.O., Treasurer
Catherine Reiche, Secretary

Rudy Askew
Christopher Constance, M.D.
Shaune Freeland
Lisa Hall
Jill McCrory
Donna Peterman
Elaine Rice

General Counsel:
Forrest Bass, Esq.


Jennifer Bitner, Executive Director

Anne Gutsell, Operations and Office Manager

Kate Krause, Communications Manager

Richard Stoelzel, Personnel Manager

Rachel Cox, Music Librarian

Janet Wilcox, President, Symphony Friends

Sherry Campbell Bechtold, Contributing Writer


The Punta Gorda Symphony engages and connects our community through orchestral music and enhances its visibility as a cultural center of interest, vitality, and importance.


The Punta Gorda Symphony began in 1978 as a small chamber group under the direction of Fred Blake. The group consisted of six retirees and two local high school students. From this humble beginning the group expanded in size, competence and repertoire. On May 27, 1987, it became incorporated under the name Charlotte Chamber Music Society, Inc. By the late 1980s it had become a full-fledged volunteer orchestra with a small and devoted following. It was renamed the Charlotte Symphony Society, Inc. on May 25, 1989 and in August, 2003, it became the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Inc.

Maestro Blake turned over his baton to concertmaster, Janita Hauk in March 1993. Maestra Hauk continued the work of Maestro Blake bringing the Orchestra to professional status with paid musicians and increased performances.

After 16 years at the podium, in April 2009, Maestra Hauk announced her retirement and was elected to Emeritus standing by the Orchestra’s Board of Directors. Maestro Toshimasa Francis Wada was brought in as the third director. Maestro Wada continued the work begun by Maestra Hauk: expansion, improvement and innovation of the music presented to the public.

The 2022/23 season marks our tenth under the direction of Maestro Raffaele Ponti. We continue to flourish under his compelling programmatic choices and rich, expressive conducting. Under his baton, the symphony has flourished and grown in size to over 70 professional musicians drawing audiences from around the world. In October 2019, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra was renamed Punta Gorda Symphony.

Today the symphony educates, inspires, and distinguishes its identity through symphonic excellence and innovation. In a recent note to Maestro Ponti, a patron expressed it best: “Our busy lives offer little respite for times when we can just enjoy and go to the places in our hearts and minds where music alone can take us. Going to a symphony performance is far beyond just a night out.”

Punta Gorda Symphony is proud to have been part of The Patterson Foundation’s Advancing Mission Thrivability initiative.

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