BEN BOVA: March 13, 2011 ... Thanks to Daniels and the Phil, we were drawn to Naples

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The announcement that Myra Janco Daniels will retire as head of the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts leaves me feeling sad. Despite her physical stature, Myra is a giant.

Under her hard-driving leadership, what was once a local orchestra has become one of the outstanding symphonic orchestras in our state. I may be prejudiced, but I think the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra ranks near the top of all the nation’s symphony orchestras.

I am also saddened to learn that Maestro Jorge Mester is leaving the Phil. Under his direction, the orchestra has grown better, able to tackle more difficult and rewarding works. I wish him happiness and success in all his future endeavors.

As I’ve said before, I think the symphony orchestra is one of the highest achievements of the human race. Some 80 or more individual musicians, each a master of his or her instrument, work together to produce music that no individual could produce. That’s humankind at its finest: people working cooperatively to go beyond what any single person could accomplish.

A symphony orchestra is a kind of time machine, too, bringing to our ears the works of composers who lived centuries ago. We can hear Beethoven and Bach, Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov as if they were still alive. And they are, in a sense, through their music.

I grew up with the Philadelphia Orchestra, mainly under the long-term direction of Eugene Ormandy. I could only afford the least-expensive seats in the Academy of Music, ’way up in the peanut gallery. But I saved my money so I could buy those tickets and listen to the best music ever written.

I won’t make comparisons, but to me the Naples Philharmonic brings the same delight, the same thrill of excitement. The orchestra is one of Naples’ finest attractions.

One of the reasons my late wife and I decided to settle in Naples, 30-some years ago, was the Phil. The orchestra — and the other quality performances that Daniels brought to Naples — was a magnet of art and sophistication that made Naples much more attractive than many other places.

It happened this way.

We were living in Connecticut in the early 1980s. A division of the IBM Corp. invited me to speak about future energy technology at a meeting of their management team. The meeting was held at the Marriott Beach Resort on Marco Island.

We found Marco Island to be delightful. This was, of course, before it became so heavily built up.

My talk went well, and the following year a different division of IBM asked me to come back to Marco Island to give the same lecture to its management people. My wife and I enjoyed our previous visit so much that we stayed at the Marriott for a week.

The next year nobody invited me to Marco Island, but we decided to go anyway. We rented a condo on the beach for the month of March, which can be a brutal month in Connecticut.

One thing led to another. We came to Marco every year, for longer and longer periods. At last we decided to buy a place and live full-time in Southwest Florida.

By this time we had discovered what was then called the Naples-Marco Island Philharmonic Orchestra. And we had met Myra Janco Daniels.

She was then building the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Pelican Bay.

We decided to buy our home in Naples, to be closer to the Phil and its many offerings of entertainment and education. Lots of other people did too.

That’s how we became Naples residents. The Southwest Florida climate enticed us out of Connecticut, but it was the Phil that made us decide on Naples.

I think the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra has grown to the position where it will continue to thrive without Daniels sitting in her box seat at every performance. I don’t know who will replace Mester, but the orchestra is on a solid footing. Our thanks to the maestro.

But most of all, thank you, Myra. You’ve been a major contributor to this community. We’ll miss you.

Bova is author of 124 books, including “Leviathans of Jupiter,” his latest futuristic novel. Bova’s web site address is www.benbova.com.

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