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Paul Wolfe: The driving force behind the Sarasota Music Festival

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Posted: Friday, June 13, 2014 5:47 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. -- As the Sarasota Music Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary, we salute Paul Wolfe, the man who started it all. And he's still hard at work at the festival today.

Wolfe was already a big star in the music world when he launched the first Sarasota Music Festival in 1965. "At 16 I was playing with New York City Symphony. I was playing with Frank Sinatra at Columbia, I was playing on Broadway with Paul Whitman and Mark Warno."

He played on the Bell Telephone Hour and recorded with Leonard Bernstein.

Then Sarasota went looking for a conductor for its new orchestra. "109 people applied for the job, but I wasn't one of them. They called me."

Back then there was practically no classical music in Sarasota in the summer. So he started a summer music festival. There were no students that first year, only great musicians performing together. "That was so successful, and there were so many people who were interested in studying with my colleagues, that we had a second festival with 2 weeks and we planned some coaching."

He attracted a great faculty -- some of the best in the world. "The faculty came because I had started out with really very famous people, and very famous people attract other famous people."

And that famous faculty attracted top-notch students.

The festival expanded to 3 weeks. "There were a number of comments that the students learned more in 3 weeks here than they did all year in their school."

And after all these years, the festival still hasn't lost its thrill…for Wolfe. "One of the greatest satisfactions I get from this is seeing people go into their first coaching session and how they play and 4 days later they come out of their 5th session."

And at age 88, he's not done yet

So thank you Paul Wolfe for 50 years of beautiful music and for the beautiful music we'll be hearing at this festival in years to come.

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