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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Mom playing with Florida Orchestra juggles family and Mozart

Orli Shaham is just like any other hard-working married mom with kids.

Well, sort of.

She doesn’t exactly own a typical working mom job, and she has to plan her family time weeks, months, even a year in advance.

“I do this for a living, but with two 6-year-old twin boys and a musician husband,” she says. “I’m always balancing my work and my family.’’

Shaham earns her living as a concert pianist. She appears with orchestras around the United States and throughout the world performing the concertos of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Schumann and other composers who help pay her mortgage and feed her family.

This weekend, she takes center stage with The Florida Orchestra in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20. Concerts are Friday in Tampa, Saturday in St. Petersburg, and Sunday in Clearwater. When you throw in rehearsals, that’s nearly a week away from her home in New York City.

“When I talk to other parents who have regularly scheduled jobs, I don’t think what I do is any harder than what they do,’’ she says by telephone. “It’s hard for anyone to balance a career and family. But what’s different is my job is completely irregular. There is no 9-to-5. The logistics of planning family time is on its own plane of complexity.’’

Shaham’s husband, David Robertson, is music director of the St. Louis Symphony, which keeps him out of the house plenty of nights. So Shaham tries to juggle her schedule with his, and she avoids booking back-to-back engagements with different orchestras. She plans to be home for her 38th birthday party on Tuesday.

“My husband is often gone for a week, and while I can stop back home for a couple of days in the middle of the week, he can’t,’’ she says. “I try not to plan my trips without a break. So, there’s a wonderful rigidity and flexibility to what I do.”

The flexibility means being able to plan a vacation or a concert date a year from now. The rigidity means having to be prepared, artistically and mentally, so far in the future.

“I’ve already agreed to play certain repertoire as far as May 2015, so I have to be in the right frame of mind and place for that. The hardest part is preparing to be totally focused on the music. I’ve got to be ready for those concertos, to have them in my fingers and muscles. That takes a whole different layer of planning.’’

This weekend’s program also includes Britten’s “Sinfonia da Requiem’’ and Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,’’ under the baton of guest conductor Michael Francis. Tickets are $15-$45 (contact information at end of column).


Chamber music at UT: Consider an intimate evening of chamber music by Beethoven, Brahms and Prokofiev during a faculty recital, Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Sykes Chapel, University of Tampa, 401 W. Kennedy Blvd, Tampa. The concert features clarinetist Ted DeCorso, bassoonist Maurizio Venturini, cellist Lowell Adams, and pianist Grigorios Zamparas. For tickets call (813) 253-6212.

East meets West in Carrollwood: Who said Carrollwood has no culture? Certainly not when pianist Xu Hui performs a night of music blending Eastern and Western traditions. Her concert is Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. at the Carrollwood Cultural Center, 4537 Lowell Road, Tampa; $14 to $20; (813) 269-1310.

Get up close and personal: If you want see musicians in an orchestra really work up a sweat, sit next to them during a performance. You’ll have a chance when The Florida Orchestra offers a series of 10 programs with a limited number of on-stage seats, for $75 a pop. The series begins Nov. 8-10 with soloist Stephen Hough in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Rossini’s Overture to “La Gazza Ladra,’’ and Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra.’’

Sitting on stage also will give you a glimpse of the backstage area and what goes on just before a concert begins, says TFO chairman Tom Farquhar: “We are continually exploring ways to reach out to the community, make the orchestra more accessible and enhance that experience for concertgoers. We hope this new initiative will provide an opportunity to see and hear a concert from our musicians’ unique perspective.’’

Elgar’s Cello Concerto: Principal cellist James Connors has been with The Florida Orchestra longer than most of us can remember, and he’s a talent worth hearing on center stage. As featured soloist in a series of upcoming masterworks concerts, Connors performs Edward Elgar’s elegiac Cello Concerto. Also on tap are Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8. Performances are Nov. 22-24; $15 to $45.

A musical side of the moon: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Pink Floyd’s seminal album, “Dark Side of the Moon.’’ No, the group isn’t getting back together, but The Florida Orchestra pays tribute with a symphonic arrangement of the music, featuring vocalist Randy Jackson. The single performance is Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. at Mahaffey Theater, 100 First St. S., St. Petersburg; $35 to $75.

For information about Florida Orchestra programs, visit www.floridaorchestra.org or call (727) 892-3337.

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