“I think everybody is looking for a little respite,” says RoseAnne McCabe, the vice president of artistic operations at the Sarasota Orchestra. “The world is moving pretty fast and it’s hard to hold onto it and it’s hard to really understand it. There’s a lot moving and changing and we’re all sort of caught up in it.”

For McCabe and the rest of the team at Sarasota Orchestra, from the musicians on the stage to the administrative network behind them, there’s an obligation of sorts to offer that respite to audience members. There’s an obligation, because McCabe is in on a secret: that once you’re in a performance hall, attention held captive by an orchestra, something truly special can happen. “You really connect with the music alongside everybody that’s in the hall with you. If you’re fully engaged with what’s happening onstage, then all of a sudden everybody’s in sync and your hearts become in sync together as well. So you have this experience that you can’t even quantify, but your body is aware that you’re connected to all of these other human beings because you’re all there, experiencing the same thing,” says McCabe. “So there’s this connectedness that happens, but I think that there’s also a feeling of respite. The world goes away and all you’re focusing on is the music. I think that’s a real gift to give to any community these days.”

Images Courtesy of Sarasota Orchestra

This spring, the Sarasota Orchestra is looking to provide that experience for audience members with three of its Pops series concerts. The first, Singer Songwriters—The Music of Paul Simon, James Taylor and Neil Diamond, which lands in March, pairs pianist and vocalist Michael Cavanaugh with the Sarasota Orchestra to explore some of the most iconic hits of soft rock. Cavanaugh, who has collaborated with the Sarasota Orchestra before, was hand-picked by Billy Joel to play himself in the Broadway musical Movin’ Out. “Michael Cavanaugh is a Sarasota crowd pleaser and is just so much fun to play with. He’s so energetic and is an amazing piano player and singer,” says McCabe. “One of the things that we really enjoy about working with him is that the orchestra is such a huge part of the arrangements. When you listen to these songs on the radio, you hear a band and a singer, but with the orchestra, it’s just like the band has expanded tenfold. The whole thing comes to life.”

Images Courtesy of Sarasota Orchestra

Following Cavanaugh’s performance is April’s She’s Got Soul, featuring the vocals of actress and singer Capathia Jenkins. Jenkins, who will collaborate with guest conductor Lucas Waldin and the members of the Sarasota Orchestra, is set to perform an array of soulful hits such as Midnight Train to Georgia, Rolling in the Deep and I Will Always Love You. Jenkins was scouted by McCabe herself, when she saw Jenkins in concert. “She totally channels the women. She can really sing. When she walks onstage, the whole stage lights up. The musicians light up. The audience, their shoulders go down and they get a big smile on their face, just from her  walking on the stage,” says McCabe. “She has a way of connecting. Even though you’re in a hall of more than 1,000 people, it feels like she’s singing just to you.”

Rounding out the Sarasota Orchestra’s Pops series concerts is Decades: Back to the ’80s. This two-hour concert is special for a variety of reasons, including its unique location: Back to the ’80s will take place outside, under the night sky in Sarasota’s Ed Smith stadium. As its name suggests, the concert will feature a plethora of number-one hits from the 1980s, from artists such as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Queen and more, presented by the Sarasota Orchestra with the help of guest vocalists Brie Cassil, Colin Smith and Paul Loren. Back to the ’80s. is a byproduct of the creativity that McCabe and the team at the Sarasota Orchestra look to employ when creating unique experiences for audiences. “When we talk about what the audience would like to experience, I think, oh my gosh, who wouldn’t like to go to a baseball stadium, sit outside, eat some popcorn, grab a hot dog, have a beer and sit under the night sky as the sun is setting and listen to this fantastic music that’s from the ’80s?,” says McCabe. “It’s the music that’s from so many people’s childhoods. Ed Smith stadium is a really phenomenal environment that’s great for presenting just fun music, plus we end it all with fireworks.”

Whether in a concert hall or on a baseball diamond, one thing is certain with the Sarasota Orchestra: it will never cease to present the most immersive and enthralling experiences to its audiences.