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 21/22 season marks our ninth 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 21/22 season will be Maestro Ponti’s ninth 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
Rachel Cox, Principal
Yaniv M. Cohen
Juan Carlos Siviero
Ann Alton, Principal
Larry Glazener, Principal
Carrie Wiesinger, Principal
Marco Navarrete, Principal
Stacey McColley, Principal
Gabriel Bergeron-Langlois, Principal
Jennifer Miller, Principal
M. Edward Nagel
Richard Stoelzel, Principal
Karla Rojas, Principal
Peter Freudenberger, Principal
Todd Handley, Principal
Dean Anderson, Principal
Isabelle Aubin, Principal
Professional musicians may send resume to Personnel Manager Richard Stoelzel at richard@PGSymphony.org.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Michael Landsberg, Chairman
Steven Shell, D.O., Treasurer
M. Lee McGraw, Secretary
Christopher Constance, M.D.
Barbara L. Rees, PhD
Forrest Bass, Esq.
Richard Stoelzel, Personnel Manager
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 current 2020-2021 season marks our eighth 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 the 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.”