The Bach Festival and Orchestra’s artistic director John Sinclair has spent considerable time trying to figure out how to safely present content — and the situation is constantly in flux. “I keep telling everyone, people will forgive us if we try and then fail to present a season,” Sinclair says. “But what they won’t forgive is if we don’t try. People need music. And there’s going to be a real need for it, going forward from this.”



John Sinclair’s Rollins College office is awash in sheet music and concert programs, lined with scholarly tomes and stocked with recordings of classical music.

That’s just what you’d expect for the workplace of a multitasking maestro who teaches music at the college, chairs its music department and serves as artistic director and conductor of one of the community’s cultural treasures: the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park.

The society — founded in 1935 to celebrate the German master’s 250th birthday — encompasses a volunteer, 160-member choir and full orchestra that presents an annual slate of programs often featuring world-renowned guest artists. Although performances of all sorts are held year-round, the Bach Festival itself is held in February and March.

Unquestionably, however, the 2020–21 season is proving to be the most challenging yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sheer spectacle of a full-on Bach Festival extravaganza in the breathtakingly beautiful Knowles Memorial Chapel has for decades provided an unforgettable experience for audiences in Central Florida. It seemed unlikely, however, that the upcoming slate of performances could be presented in the traditional manner.

Still, Sinclair was determined that the festival would not take its first hiatus in 85 years of existence. Indeed, nobody who knows Sinclair truly believed that the music would stop. And that includes members of the Bach Festival Choir, a few of whom have been part of the organization even longer than its white-bearded conductor, who has wielded the baton since 1990.

The choir is indeed an elite troupe, filled with doctors, lawyers, educators and business professionals as well as current students who spend untold hours rehearsing music that calls for some of the most disciplined and demanding vocalizing ever created. Several commute for hours to attend rigorous rehearsals (which have been suspended during the pandemic).

“We trust John Sinclair,” says Beverly Slaughter, a soprano who has sung in the choir for 45 years. “We’ve gone over every mountain and every rock with him.” Adds Jodi Tassos, another longtime member: “He knows how to get the best out of us. Yet he’s so kind and caring. I consider him a best friend.”

Athalia Copes agrees. At 78, she has sung with the choir for 60 years and is its longest-tenured member. Like everyone else, she appreciates Sinclair’s sense of humor: “Sometimes, even when he corrects us, he’ll do it in a funny way. He’ll say, ‘You sound like a bunch of lumberjacks.” 

Sinclair, in fact, went shopping last season for a selection of humorous T-shirts to wear during the grueling rehearsals. One of them read, “I’m sorry for the hurtful but true things I’m about to say to you.” He gave the shirts away — freshly laundered, of course — to outstanding choir members at the end of the season.


Sinclair, a notorious workaholic, also finds time to conduct the Messiah Choral Society of Winter Park, the International Moravian Music Festivals and the annual Walt Disney World Candlelight Processional at EPCOT during the holidays.

He also has a collection of great composers’ autographs on faded letters, legal documents, notes and scores tucked away in a drawer near his desk. 

There’s Giuseppe Verdi’s swirling flourish, Arturo Toscanini’s neatly underscored moniker and John Philip Sousa’s autograph on a small card, penned beneath a bar of music from “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” 

There’s even a 19th-century shopping list for groceries signed by Gioacchino Rossini — a source of amusement to Sinclair, who’s well-versed enough to know that the The Barber of Seville’s portly composer was something of an epicurean. 

The only thing that seems a little out of place is an old-fashioned cash register in the corner — the kind that goes ca-ching! and pops the cash drawer out when you ring up a sale. But the truth is, the vintage machine says just as much about the heart and soul of the 66-year-old Sinclair as the rest of the ephemera. Maybe even more.

“Doc,” as his students and colleagues affectionately call him, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, but as a child lived in Camden, a small farming community of several hundred people about 40 miles east. The town was said to boast a population of 200, but Sinclair believes that “they may have also been counting the dogs.”

His father, Dee, worked for General Motors — in what capacity, exactly, Sinclair has no idea — and his mother, Marilyn, was an elementary-school music teacher. She taught her son to play the piano and nudged him toward classical music, although he preferred rock and ragtime.

Marilyn’s people were Jacksons, directly descended from Old Hickory and proud of their lineage. Buck and Agnes Jackson, Sinclair’s maternal grandparents, operated the Jackson General Store, a Camden institution that offered everything from groceries to hardware to sporting goods. 

The old-school emporium, complete with the requisite pot-bellied stove and candies in glass jars on the hewn walnut counter, had been in business long enough that there were stories about how both Yanks and Rebs took turns plundering it during the Civil War. Jesse James, it was said, had shopped there — and by all accounts paid for his purchases.

The store was a cultural crossroads, as such stores often were. When Sinclair was a boy, he spent after-school hours there, absorbing the town’s gossip and sweeping the store’s saw-cut floors while taking in the homespun storytelling and absorbing his grandfather’s admonitions about doing a good job without expecting a pat on the back for your efforts.

Says Sinclair: “I keep that cash register in my office to remind me of my roots.” 

The family moved to Independence — famous as the home of Harry Truman — when Sinclair was 11. There he attended Chrisman High School, where he played trumpet in the band — he was a fan of brass-heavy rock groups such as Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears — and was active in sports, especially baseball and basketball.

At band practice, he recalls, the youthful musicians would sometimes spy Truman taking one of his legendary unescorted afternoon strolls, prompting hurried but heartfelt renditions of “Hail to the Chief.”

After graduation, Sinclair worked as a middle-school choral director in Belton, a suburb of Kansas City, in part to be near his high-school girlfriend, Gail Duvé, who was completing her English degree. The couple married in 1977, and both got jobs teaching high school in Sedalia, Missouri.

The next stop for the Sinclairs was Marshall, Texas, a funky mid-sized city that proclaims itself “the birthplace of boogie-woogie.” John became director of choirs at East Texas Baptist University, while Gail taught high school English.

When the department chair position at Rollins became available in 1985, it was a trio of quintessential Winter Park characters — Rollins President Thaddeus Seymour, former Rollins President Hugh McKean and businessman John Tiedtke, now all deceased — who lured the Sinclairs to Winter Park and ultimately kept them here.

“I interviewed with Thad Seymour,” recalls Sinclair. “I was so impressed that the college president would bother to meet with a lowly assistant professor. He said to me, ‘John, Rollins is the sort of place where one person can make a difference. I think that person is you.’”

At 6-foot-6, the charismatic Seymour, who died in 2019 at age 91, cut an imposing figure and made a persuasive case. But what truly attracted Sinclair was the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, which he expected to head as artistic director and conductor.

The society’s longtime artistic director, Ward Woodbury, had just stepped down after suffering a stroke. Woodbury, a Rollins music professor, had been replaced by Murray Somerville, who concurrently served as choirmaster at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando.

The society’s artistic director had always been a Rollins faculty member. Therefore, it was assumed that Somerville’s tenure would be temporary. Somerville, however, assumed otherwise. It was five years before Sinclair ascended to his dream job.


It doesn’t take long to learn that the years haven’t diminished Sinclair’s passion for what he does, which is to combine meticulous classical-music stewardship with studying the lives and works of musical giants, about whom he is an ebullient encyclopedia of knowledge.  

It’s that combination of teacher and artist that has made “Central Florida’s resident composer” — a moniker once bestowed upon Sinclair by a newspaper reporter — a favorite among music lovers ranging from first-year college students to weathered (and fiercely loyal) veterans of the Bach choir. 

“When you get right down to it, in my profession, I’m basically the head waiter,” Sinclair says. “My job is to deliver a product, and do it in a beautiful, elegant manner. But I’m not the creator. I’m just the guy in the control room, fiddling with the dials.”

He’s also the guy who doesn’t decorate his office with his degrees and honors. But for the record, his masters and doctoral degrees are in music education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance. He has earned pretty much every honor Rollins hands out to distinguished faculty members.

There was an Arthur Vining Davis Fellowship in 2000, presented annually by the Jacksonville-based foundation for achievements in teaching, academic research and community outreach.

There was the Hugh and Jeannette McKean Faculty Grant in 2005, which Sinclair used to record a CD of seldom-heard Moravian music performed by the Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra.

There was the William E. Barden Distinguished Teaching Award in 2012, which was the result of a vote by students at the Hamilton Holt School, the college’s evening program.

There was the Cornell Distinguished Service Award in 2013, the recipients of which are selected by a panel of deans and up to four past winners.

Sinclair has twice been named Outstanding Music Educator of the Year by United Arts of Central Florida. 

The list continues, but a recognition that Sinclair appears to particularly cherish came in 2013, when William Jewell College saluted him and two other notable alumni at its annual Celebration of Achievement ceremony. The other honorees included a CEO and a federal district judge.

Not that Sinclair intends to rest on his laurels. Or to rest at all, for that matter. During his three decades at the helm, he has guided the society through its most productive period. 

In addition to supervising the festival and related year-round events, the choir has made four European tours and performed with the Bach Choir of London in Royal Albert Hall and in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

On top of all that, most Sundays, Sinclair leads the choir at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, a “temporary” job that has now lasted 29 years. (The church’s choral program, at this writing, has been suspended because of the pandemic — although Sinclair is exploring digital options as services have moved indefinitely online.)

The church and the college are not formally affiliated, but the Congregational Association of Florida, led by members of the local church, founded Rollins in 1885, and the neighboring institutions have enjoyed close ties throughout the ensuing 130 years. The first president of Rollins, Edward Hooker, was also the church’s first minister.

“Working with the church is a great opportunity for [Rollins] students,” says Sinclair, who seeds the choir with collegiate singers and supplements the omnipresent organ with various instrumental ensembles. “It’s like a medical school having a teaching hospital.”

One Sunday several years ago, when the senior minister was on sabbatical, Sinclair even delivered the sermon, albeit a highly ecumenical and self-deprecating one he titled “The Gospel According to the Not-So-Saintly John.”

But there’s another, less practical and more poignant reason that Sinclair retains an affinity for worship services. “My grandmother once told me something I’ve always remembered,” he recalls. “She said, ‘John, God gave you this talent. So you need to be somewhere using it on Sunday mornings.’”

John Sinclair’s Rollins College office is inundated by sheet music and concert programs, lined with scholarly tomes and stocked with recordings of classical music. That’s just what you’d expect for the workplace of a workaholic who, among other things, teaches music at the college, chairs its music department, and serves as artistic director and conductor of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park.


Sinclair is also a habitual storyteller, having absorbed the gift of gab from that general store along with his work ethic. Ask him to talk about the power of music to evoke as well as inspire, for example, and he may well come up with a nugget like this:

“There was an Austrian composer named Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. He wrote an orchestral piece, Tournament of Temperaments. It has six sections — each one devoted to a different human emotion.” 

But Sinclair is also humble enough to tell a story or two in which he serves as the butt of the joke — such as the one about the time he fell briefly asleep on his feet while conducting.

“Afterwards, I asked some of the people in the choir how I looked,” he says. “They told me: ‘Well, you kept up the beat.’” 

Sinclair is so attuned to sharing anecdotes that he even wrote a book, Falling off the Podium, filled with vignettes from what he describes as “a remarkable, unremarkable life.”

A handful of the stories are about his friendship with Fred Rogers, the Rollins music composition graduate — Class of 1951 — who became an iconic figure through the PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Over the years, Rogers and his wife, Joanne, continued to spend time in Winter Park and became close to the Sinclairs.

One year, Sinclair recalls, Rogers went missing from a holiday gathering at their home. He was eventually found outside, happily visiting with the children as the adults nibbled appetizers. Says Sinclair: “Fred was who he seemed to be in every way.” 

Rogers was also funny — he and Sinclair swapped absurd or ironic Christmas gifts for years — and a brilliant musician who sometimes showed up at Sinclair’s rehearsals and gently offered advice afterward. “People don’t always remember that Fred was a serious and accomplished composer,” he adds.

Toward the end of Rogers’ life, Sinclair remembers, the man who professed to generations — with utter sincerity — that he liked everyone “just the way you are” attended the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT, which is narrated by professional actors with holiday music sung primarily by high-school choirs. 

When the frail but familiar figure appeared backstage at the American Garden Theater, hundreds of awestruck teenagers spontaneously began to serenade him with an impromptu version of “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

 This year, in honor of Sinclair’s 30th anniversary as artistic director and conductor, the Bach Festival Society board of directors created a fund to establish the John V. Sinclair Endowed Fund for Artistic Direction. Its purpose is to ensure that the society will always have the funds to maintain a standard of excellence when hiring new directors.

Not that Sinclair is in any hurry to step down from the podium. He intends to keep a promise he made years ago to John Tiedtke, a legendary local philanthropist and former festival chairman of the board, who asked him to remain at his post  until he was 75. 

“Mr. Tiedtke really wanted me to stick around until I was 80, but we negotiated,” says Sinclair, still using a formal title to refer to the wealthy sugar grower who was one of the society’s primary funders until his death in 2003 at age 97. 

Just before Tiedtke’s passing, Rollins established the John M. Tiedtke Endowed Chair of Music, which Sinclair holds. An anonymous donor who ponied up $250,000 was later revealed to be Fred Rogers.

It should be noted that the society is technically a separate operation from Rollins and is funded by grants, donations, ticket sales and an endowment that was initially bolstered by gifts from Tiedtke and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, founded by Richard Genius and Jeannette Genius McKean in memory of their mother.

But the college and the society are so intertwined that few ticket buyers discern any distinction between them. Sinclair’s prominent role in both organizations further strengthens the historic bond, although whether of not the organizations will remain in simpatico when the indefatigable Sinclair finally puts away his baton is unknown.


But what form will the Bach Festival take this season, when crowds in enclosed spaces enhance the danger of contracting a potentially lethal infection? Like everyone else in the arts, Sinclair has spent considerable time trying to figure out how to safely present content — and the situation is constantly in flux.

“It’s been like reading a book, where you have no idea what you’re going to see when you turn a page,” he says.

Sinclair has spent much of the year reshuffling the schedule, checking with medical sources, educating himself about air-filtering systems and devising ways to both perform and rehearse virtually in order to present a season while protecting both musicians and audience members from the virus. 

“I keep telling everyone, people will forgive us if we try and then fail to present a season,” Sinclair says. “But what they won’t forgive is if we don’t try. People need music. And there’s going to be a real need for it, going forward from this.”

On page 97, then, is the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park’s schedule as it stood in September of 2020. Because of the constantly evolving public health situation, much remains tentative — even the city’s annual Christmas in the Park, at which the choir and orchestra perform. 

Times and, in some cases, locations are not confirmed, and events that have a live component will likely allow only limited seating based on current guidelines from Rollins and the CDC. All performances will be taped and digitally streamed — a first for the festival.

So best to check for more information prior to making plans. Says Athalia Copes: “I’m a Quaker, and we talk of creating ‘thin spaces’ — places where you can reach out and touch God, and he can touch you. I’ve experienced it many times with this choir.”

Surely that’s something most of us would appreciate experiencing during this troubled season. 

— Michael McLeod



John Tiedtke


The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, founded in 1935, sprang from a Vespers service presented that year on the Rollins College campus at Knowles Memorial Chapel. The event was organized by Christopher Honaas, dean of the college’s whimsically named Division of Expressive Arts.

At the urging of then-President Hamilton Holt, a committee of professors and community leaders formed a Bach Festival Committee in 1937 “to present to the public for its enlightenment, education, pleasure and enjoyment musical presentations, both orchestral and choral.” The Bach Festival Society was incorporated in 1940.

By the time artistic director John Sinclair arrived, the society and its annual festival had for decades been the personal domain of John Tiedtke, a shrewd businessman who had made his fortune growing sugar, citrus and corn in South Florida. 

Hugh McKean, then president of the college, had asked his boyhood friend to take charge of the festival in 1950, when founding society President Isabelle Sprague-Smith died and the organization’s future seemed in doubt.

The no-nonsense Tiedtke proved a fortuitous choice. He loved music — he played a little piano, but mostly enjoyed listening and was a consistent and generous donor to community-based arts organizations. At Rollins, he had been treasurer and chairman of the board of trustees.

McKean, an iconic Winter Park figure, had been an art professor at Rollins before his elevation to the presidency. He had also married Jeannette Genius, granddaughter of Charles Hosmer Morse, a benevolent industrialist who had helped shape modern Winter Park. 

Together, the McKeans had created the Morse Museum of American Art, which they stocked with salvaged and restored works by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

“Mr. Tiedtke and Dr. McKean understood that with great wealth comes responsibility,” says Sinclair. “They would have lunch together every Saturday. They started inviting me to come along, and those lunches were hugely interesting.”

Sinclair, who says he sometimes felt “a little like a third wheel,” would listen in awe as the old friends discussed art, philosophy and the events of the day. They would even spar over who should pay the tab. After 40 years of lunches, McKean joked, he remembered only a handful of times when Tiedtke picked up the bill.

But when the subject of the society came up, it was clear that Tiedtke, the primary funder as well as the hands-on boss, called the shots. There would be a new artistic director only when Tiedtke decided that there ought to be.

John Sinclair was hired in 1985 as chair of the college’s music department and, he assumed, artistic director of the festival, a position then held by Murray Sommerville on what was thought to be a temporary basis.

But after nearly five years passed with Somerville still at the helm, Sinclair felt that an impasse had been reached. The Sinclairs had two children and loved Rollins and their comfortable home in Maitland. Still, several high profile institutions, including Penn State, were making overtures. And Sinclair was tempted to explore them.

The unflappable McKean, at Tiedtke’s request, persuaded Sinclair to stay put and counseled patience. Shortly thereafter, Somerville left for a position as organist and choirmaster at Harvard University’s Memorial Church and Sinclair finally took up the baton.

“Mr. Tiedtke knew I had strong opinions,” recalls Sinclair. “But he could be persuaded in some instances. Basically, he said, ‘You pick what you want to do, and I get veto power.’”

Today, what started as a single Sunday performance has grown into a full-fledged festival with a 160-member choir, a permanent orchestra and a packed schedule of concerts, many of which feature internationally renowned guest soloists.

Living up to the examples set by Tiedtke and McKean has been a continuing priority for Sinclair. Tiedtke believed that well-run, well-supported arts organizations were integral to any enlightened community, and McKean believed that any academician worth his salt was first and foremost a classroom teacher.

Eric Ravndal, society president since 2004, is a retired Episcopal priest and a Tiedtke cousin. Under his leadership, the organization has been revamped as a more traditionally structured not-for-profit, with a diverse board and a paid staff.

Although Ravndal’s collaborative management style is a departure for the society, he, like his legendary predecessor, recognizes that his artistic director brings more to the position of artistic director and conductor than an unerring ear for music.

“John is a natural educator,” says Ravndal. “I attend nearly every rehearsal. And I can tell you that the musicians never leave a rehearsal without having learned more about the music they’re performing. It’s an incredible gift.”


The Bach Festival was first held in 1935 as a single Sunday performance commemorating the namesake composer’s 250th birthday.

2020–21 SEASON


Visiting Artist Series

October 1–18
Adam Golka, piano
(Beethoven Sonatas)
Tiedtke Concert Hall
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

October 24 or 25
Silver Screen Symphonic Masterpieces
Outdoors location to be determined
Time TBA
In person and streamed online


November 5
Insights & Sounds
Sweet on Suites and Serenades
Knowles Memorial Chapel
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

November 19
Visiting Artist Series
Diaz Trio
Tiedtke Concert Hall
Time TBA
In person and streamed online


December (Date TBA)
Christmas in the Park (Tentative)
Central Park
December 12 and 13
Voctave Christmas
Location and Time TBA
In person and streamed online



February 5
Organ Recital
Knowles Memorial Chapel
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

February 7
Spiritual Spaces
Knowles Memorial Chapel
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

February 12 and 13
Concertos by Candlelight
Scandinavian Romantics: Grieg and Sibelius
Knowles Memorial Chapel
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

February 20 and 21
American Spirituals and Folksongs
Knowles Memorial Chapel
Organ, Bass and Choir
Knowles Memorial Chapel
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

February 27
Either Tiedtke Concert Hall or Knowles Memorial Chapel
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

February 28
J.S. Bach Cantata Masterpieces
Knowles Memorial Chapel
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

MARCH 2021

Insights & Sounds
Humor in Music
Tiedtke Concert Hall
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

MAY 2021

Choral Masterworks
Dvorak, Lauridsen, Barber
Knowles Memorial Chapel
Time TBA
In person and streamed online

A series of instrumental chamber music performances will also be announced. Season tickets were not yet on sale at press time. Visit for the most up to date information since the schedule is in flux and may change depending on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to COVID-19 prevention efforts, venues may be closed or offering limited hours. Also, events are subject to cancellation and attendance capacities may be reduced. The dates and times in these listings are those of normal operation, and will likely still be different by the time this issue of Winter Park Magazine reaches homes. Some, in fact, had not yet reopened at press time, although they were planning to do so in the coming weeks. So please use the contact information provided and check in advance before making your plans. We also encourage you to anticipate that masks may be required, as well as observance of social distancing protocols.


Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. This lakeside museum, open since 1961, is dedicated to preserving works of the famed Czech sculptor for whom it was both home and studio for more than a decade. The museum offers tours of Polasek’s home Tuesdays through Saturdays. And it offers tours of the adjacent Capen-Showalter House three times weekly: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 a.m., and Saturdays at 10:15 a.m. Built in 1885, the Capen-Showalter House was saved from demolition several years ago and floated across Lake Osceola to its current location on the Polasek’s grounds. The museum’s current exhibition, The Puerto Rican Artist Collective, Keepers of Heritage: Evolving Identities, runs through March 2021 and includes paintings, mixed media and sculpture by artists honoring their cultural roots as members of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $3 for students and free for children. 633 Osceola Avenue, Winter Park. 407-647-6294.

Art & History Museums — Maitland. The Maitland Art Center, one of five museums that anchor the city’s Cultural Corridor, was founded as an art colony in 1937 by visionary artist and architect J. André Smith. The center, located at 231 West Packwood Avenue, Maitland, is Central Florida’s only National Historic Landmark and one of the few surviving examples of Mayan Revival architecture in the Southeast. Admission to the art center’s galleries is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students (ages 5 to 17) and free for children age 4 and under. Maitland residents receive a $1 discount. The Cultural Corridor also includes the Maitland Historical Museum and Telephone Museum at 221 West Packwood Avenue, and the Waterhouse Residence Museum and Carpentry Shop Museum, both built in the 1880s and located at 820 Lake Lily Drive. Continuing through February 2021 at the history museum is Growing Up Maitland, which explores how the city has changed for young people over the past century. 407-539-2181.

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. With more than 19,000 square feet of gallery and public space, the Morse houses the world’s most important collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany creations, including jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass and an entire chapel interior originally designed and built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. On October 20, an elaborate fireplace hood designed by Tiffany for his own home will be installed. The museum’s latest exhibition is Portraits of Americans from the Morse Collection, featuring works by John Singer Sargent, Charles Hawthorne, Cecilia Beaux and others. As photography made romanticized depictions of well-known figures obsolete, these artists guided portraiture into the 20th century with compelling works that captured not only the physical likeness of their subjects, but their innate character as well. Also on view is Iridescence — A Celebration, which runs through September 2021. The dazzling display features works in enamel, pottery and art glass that replicate the shimmering optical effects previously only found in nature. Regular admission to the museum is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $1 for students and free for children younger than age 12. At press time, appointments were required for admission and hours were 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. 445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. 407-645-5311. 

Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Located on the campus of Rollins College, the Cornell houses one of the oldest and most eclectic collections of fine art in Florida. Continuing through May 2021 is The Place as Metaphor: Collection Conversations, an examination of the multiple meanings of place through diverse representations across time and region. New exhibitions include E Pluribus Unum, featuring works by contemporary painter Marcus Jansen, who seeks to document the human condition critically, socially and politically; What Women Want, a collection of self-portraits by female artists who seek to construct new definitions of women in society; and Storied Objects: Relics and Tales from the Thomas R. Baker Museum, an eclectic array of objects that were donated to Rollins by collectors across the country after a fire in 1909 destroyed the original on-campus museum. All three run through January 3, 2021. Finally, continuing through December 31 is Ruptures and Remnants: Selections from the Permanent Collection, which offers material manifestations, from antiquity to the present day, of ruptures ranging from personal crises to nation-state upheavals. Opening on January 15, 2021 are Rania Matar: On Either Side of the Window, Portraits During COVID-19, which features images of individuals in quarantines caused by the pandemic; Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art from the Archives of American Art, a collection of works by artists who eschewed the traditional circuit of museums and commercial galleries in favor of the more accessible space of mailable objects such as letters, postcards and packages; and ReOrienting the Gaze, which features works by contemporary Middle Eastern and North African artists who challenge past and present echoes of Orientalist thought. Guided tours take place at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at the nearby Alfond Inn, where a selection of more than 400 works in the museum’s Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art are on view. Happy Hour tours of the Alfond Collection are also conducted on the first Wednesday of most months at 5:30 p.m. If you prefer historic works, Throwback Thursday tours are offered at the museum from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of most months. Admission is free, courtesy of PNC Financial Services Group. 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park. 407-646-2526.

Crealdé School of Art. Established in 1975, this not-for-profit arts organization on Winter Park’s east side offers year-round visual-arts classes for all ages, taught by more than 40 working artists. Visitors may take a self-guided tour through its lakeside sculpture garden, which includes approximately 60 three-dimensional pieces of contemporary outdoor art and educational panels that describe the diversity of expressive styles and durable media. The current exhibition, What Is That You Express In Your Eyes?, is a collection of works by Colombian artist Alberto Gómez. It features the debut of a large three-panel mural on the history of immigration in the U.S. commissioned by Crealdé. Admission to the school’s galleries is free, although there are fees for art classes. 600 Saint Andrews Boulevard, Winter Park. 407-671-1886.

Hannibal Square Heritage Center. Established in 2007 by the Crealdé School of Art in partnership with residents of Hannibal Square and the City of Winter Park, the center celebrates the city’s historically African-American west side with archival photographs, original artwork and oral histories from longtime residents that are collectively known as the Heritage Collection. Also ongoing is the Hannibal Square Timeline, which documents significant local and national events in African-American history since the Emancipation Proclamation. A new exhibition, On Love and Loss, is a series of black-and-white photographs by Cynthia Slaughter that document the daily life of her 94-year-old mother. The center also offers a walking tour of Hannibal Square, Now and Then, with Fairolyn Livingston, chief historian. The tour, offered on the third Saturday of each month from 10 to 11:30 a.m., requires reservations; the cost is $10, or $5 for those with student IDs. Historic sites include the Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, the Welbourne Avenue Nursery & Kindergarten and the Masonic Lodge, all built in the 1920s. 642 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. 407-539-2680.


Annie Russell Theatre. “The Annie,” in continuous operation at Rollins College since 1932, is celebrating women’s voices in its 88th season, with every production penned by a female playwright. The season kicks off with Annie Stripped (October 9 through 17), a series of three one-act plays chronicling issues such as motherhood, mental illness and institutional racism. Next up is The Wolves (November 13 through 21), a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist about the struggles of a girls’ soccer team on and off the field. Then, for a change of pace, there’s As It Is in Heaven (February 12 through 20, 2021), an amusing and insightful tale about religious fanaticism in 1830s’ Appalachia directed by Rollins alum Beth Lincks. The season concludes with Legally Blonde: The Musical (April 16 through 24, 2021), the Broadway adaptation of 2001’s hit comedy about a seemingly superficial sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School. In order to maintain social distancing, these shows may be limited to members of the college community, patrons of the theater or other select groups. Curtain times are 8 p.m., 4 p.m. or 2 p.m., depending upon the day of the week. Individual tickets are $20. 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park. 407-646-2145. 

Winter Park Playhouse. Winter Park’s only professional, nonprofit theater has postponed its mainstage season until 2021, opening with A Grand Night for Singing (January 22 through February 20, 2021), a celebration of the classic compositions of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The season continues with Respect: A Musical Journey of Women (March 19 through April 24, 2021), Five Course Love (May 14 through June 13, 2021), Crazy for Gershwin (July 30 through August 22, 2021), The Book of Merman (September 24 through October 17, 2021) and Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Holiday Bash (November 12 through December 18, 2021). Performances are Thursdays through Sundays, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets range in price from $20 for students to $45 for evening shows. 711 Orange Avenue, Winter Park. 407-645-0145.


At press time, these traditional holiday events were not confirmed due to COVID-19 and may not be held. Check each website for up-to-the-minute news.

42nd Annual Christmas in the Park: The Morse Museum of American Art and the City of Winter Park present this annual exhibition of century-old Tiffany windows combined with a free outdoor concert of holiday favorites by the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park’s choir and brass ensemble. This year’s event is tentatively set for December 3 from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m. in Central Park. 407-645-5311.

Winter on the Avenue. Park Avenue is transformed into a winter wonderland for this annual holiday street party, tentatively set for December 4 at 5 p.m. Festivities include the traditional tree-lighting ceremony at dusk, carolers, snow slides, s’mores and a visit from Santa Claus — the real one, not just a guy dressed up in a red suit. As a gift to the community, the Morse Museum of American Art will offer free admission from 4 to 8 p.m. 407-599-3399.

68th Annual Ye Olde Hometown Christmas Parade. This venerable tradition, tentatively scheduled for December 5 beginning at 9 a.m., has delighted locals since the early 1950s. More than 80 parade units are expected to make their way south along Park Avenue beginning at Cole Avenue and ending at Lyman Avenue. Participants in the 90-minute event include marching bands, dance troupes, police and fire departments, local dignitaries and, of course, Santa Claus — who will have appeared the night before at Winter on the Avenue. You can also help turn pancake batter into dough — the spending kind — for civic-leadership scholarships at the 22nd Annual Leadership Winter Park Pancake Breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m. The breakfast is served in Central Park near the outdoor stage. Tickets are $5 and proceeds benefit the Winter Park Improvement Foundation, a program sponsored by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. 407-644-8281.,


Enzian. This cozy, nonprofit alternative cinema offers a plethora of film series. Tickets are usually $12 for regular admission; $10 for matinees, students, seniors and military (with ID); and $9.50 for Enzian Film Society members. Children under age 12 are admitted free to Peanut Butter Matinee Family Films, shown the fourth Sunday of each month at noon. Other series include Saturday Matinee Classics (the second Saturday of each month at noon), Cult Classics (the second and last Tuesday of each month at 9:30 p.m.), and Midnight Movies (every Saturday night). FilmSlam, which spotlights Florida-made short films, takes place most months on the first or second Sunday at 1 p.m.; the next scheduled date is October 11. During October, many selected films feature appropriately spooky Halloween themes. A full schedule of titles and showtimes is available online. 1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland. 407-629-0054 (information line), 407-629-1088 (theater offices).

Popcorn Flicks in the Park. The City of Winter Park and the Enzian collaborate to offer classic, family-friendly films free in Central Park on Park Avenue. These outdoor screenings are typically held on the second Thursday of each month and start at 7 or 8 p.m. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and blankets or chairs. 407-629-1088.


Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum. This stunningly restored Spanish farmhouse-style home, designed by acclaimed architect James Gamble Rogers II, is now a community center and museum. Free open houses are hosted by docents on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Also, live music is featured in the large downstairs parlor most Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. At press time, these events had been postponed until further notice. 656 North Park Avenue (adjacent to the Winter Park Golf Course), Winter Park. 407-628-8200.

Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida. The center is dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice, with the goal of developing a moral and just community through educational and cultural programs. It houses permanent and temporary exhibitions, archives and a research library. The museum’s ongoing exhibition, Tribute to the Holocaust, is a presentation of artifacts, videos, text, photographs and other works of art. Admission to the center is free. 851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland. 407-628-0555.

Winter Park History Museum. Travel back in time to the city’s earliest days with ongoing displays that include artifacts dating from its beginnings as a New England-style resort in the 1880s. The freshly refurbished museum will soon feature a new exhibition, Rollins College: The First 50 Years, which will showcase vintage photos of campus life, a re-created dorm room and other collegiate memorabilia. The date for the new exhibition has not been determined at press time, but in the meantime Wish You Were Here: The Hotels and Motels of Winter Park, has been extended. Admission is free. 200 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-2330.

Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts. Eatonville is strongly associated with Harlem Renaissance writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, who lived there as a girl and recorded her childhood memories in her classic autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. The museum that bears her name provides information about the historic city, sponsors exhibitions featuring the works of African-American artists and is an integral part of the annual, weeklong Zora! Festival each January. Admission is free, though group tours require a reservation and are charged a fee. 227 East Kennedy Boulevard, Eatonville. 407-647-3188.


University Club of Winter Park. Nestled among the oaks and palms at the north end of Park Avenue’s downtown shopping district — a block beyond Casa Feliz — is another historic James Gamble Rogers II building, this one home to the University Club of Winter Park. Members are dedicated to the enjoyment of intellectual activities and socializing with one another. The club’s various activities, including lectures, are open to the public, although nonmembers are asked to make a $5 donation each time they attend. (Some events include a buffet lunch for an added fee.) A full schedule of events and speakers is available online. 841 North Park Avenue. 407-644-6149.


Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. See the feature beginning on page 84.

Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts. This eclectic venue is part concert hall, part recording studio and part art gallery. It offers live performances most evenings, with an emphasis on jazz, classical and world music — although theater, dance and spoken-word presentations are sometimes on the schedule. Admission generally ranges from free to $25. As of press time, all concerts are being held virtually. 1905 Kentucky Avenue, Winter Park. 407-636-9951.

Central Florida Folk. This Winter Park-based not-for-profit is dedicated to promoting and preserving live folk music, primarily through concerts usually held on the last Sunday of each month (unless a holiday intervenes) at 2 p.m. The group’s primary venue is the Winter Park Public Library, 460 East New England Avenue. Shows are expected to resume January 31, 2021 with the Chicago-based folk duo, Small Potatoes. Other upcoming acts are guitarist Brooks Williams (February 28, 2021) and eclectic singer-songwriters Dan Frechette & Laurel Thomsen (March 28, 2021). A donation of $15 for nonmembers is suggested. 407-679-6426.

Music at the Casa. The Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum presents acoustic performances on most Sunday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. in the museum’s cozy main parlor. Past selections include opera, jazz guitar and flamenco dancers. A $5 donation is suggested. At press time, these events had been postponed until further notice. 656 North Park Avenue (adjacent to the Winter Park Golf Course), Winter Park. 407-628-8200.

Performing Arts of Maitland. This not-for-profit group works with the City of Maitland and other organizations to promote performances for and by local musicians. It supports various groups, including the Maitland Symphony Orchestra, Maitland Market Music, the Maitland Stage Band and the Baroque Chamber Orchestra. A full schedule of events is available online. 407-339-5984, ext. 219.


Maitland Farmers’ Market. This year-round, open-air market — held each Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — features fresh produce, seafood, breads and cheeses as well as plants, all-natural skin-care products and live music by Performing Arts of Maitland. The setting on Lake Lily boasts a boardwalk, jogging trails, a playground and picnic areas. 701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland.

Winter Park Farmers’ Market. The region’s busiest and arguably most popular farmers’ market is held every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. During the summer months, the market was held in the Central Park West Meadow, located at the corner of New York Avenue and Morse Boulevard, to allow for greater social distancing. However, by now it may have moved back to its usual location at the old railroad depot that also houses the Winter Park History Museum. The open-air market offers baked goods, produce, plants, honey, cheese, meat, flowers, crafts and other specialty items. After shopping, make a morning of it with a stroll along nearby Park Avenue. Dogs are welcome to bring their people. 200 West New England Avenue, Winter Park.


Florida Writers Association. Join fellow scribes for lectures by guest speakers and discussions led by local authors. The Orlando/Winter Park-Area chapter meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the University Club of Winter Park, 841 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. The next scheduled event is slated for October 7 and will be held online. Another chapter, the Maitland Writers Group, meets on the second Thursday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The next scheduled event is slated for October 8 at the Maitland Public Library, 501 South Maitland Avenue, Maitland.

Orlando Writers Critique Group. Writers gather under the guidance of author and writing coach Rik Feeney to review and critique their current works on the third Tuesday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Winter Park Public Library. The next scheduled event is October 20 and will be held online. 460 East New England Avenue, Winter Park.,

Storytellers of Central Florida. Experienced and fledgling storytellers gather to share stories and practice their craft on the first Tuesday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Winter Park Public Library. As of press time, these events have been postponed until further notice. Meetings are hosted by professional storyteller Madeline Pots. 460 East New England Avenue, Winter Park. 321-439-6020,,

Wednesday Open Words. One of the area’s longest-running open-mic poetry nights happens every Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Austin’s Coffee, 929 West Fairbanks Avenue, Winter Park. 407-975-3364.

Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts. This group offers various free programs that attract writers of all stripes. Short Attention Span Storytelling Hour, a literary open-mic night, meets at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of most months. It’s for authors, poets, filmmakers, comedians, musicians, bloggers and others. Upcoming dates are October 14, November 11 and December 9. Orlando WordLab, a workshop that challenges writers to experiment with new techniques or methods, meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Upcoming dates are October 28, November 25 and December 23. Both events are currently being held online.,


At press time, it had not been determined if these events would be held in person with social distancing or moved online. Check each website for up-to-the-minute news.

Good Morning Winter Park. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, these monthly gatherings attract business- and civic-minded locals who enjoy coffee and conversation about community issues. Scheduled for the second Friday of most months, the next scheduled events are October 2, November 6 and December 11. Networking begins at 8 a.m. followed by a 45-minute program at 8:30 a.m. Admission, which includes a complimentary continental breakfast, is free. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-8281.

Winter Park Professional Women. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, these gatherings — held on the first Monday of most months from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — feature guest speakers and provide networking opportunities for women business owners. Topics revolve around leadership development, business growth and local initiatives of special interest to women. The next scheduled events are October 5, November 2 and December 7. Tickets, which include lunch, are $25 for chamber members and $50 for nonmembers. Reservations are required. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-8281.

Hot Seat Academy. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, this quarterly business-oriented series puts local executives in the spotlight as they offer advice and discuss entrepreneurism, leadership and sales-and-marketing techniques. The next scheduled gathering is January 22, 2021 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; check the chamber website for information about the featured speaker. Tickets are $15 for members, $30 for nonmembers. Reservations are required. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-8281.


Keep Winter Park Beautiful. Volunteers who help the City of Winter Park collect litter around lakes Baldwin, Berry and Spier on November 7 receive breakfast, a T-shirt, a snack and water. Litter grabbers, safety vests, gloves and garbage bags are also provided. Kayakers and paddle boarders are welcome to participate; everyone is asked to bring a reusable water bottle. The 8 a.m. assembly point is 2000 South Lakemont Avenue, Winter Park. 407-599-3364.

Peacock Ball. The Winter Park History Museum’s annual fundraiser has been cancelled for 2020 but is scheduled to return November 13, 2021 to honor Rollins College professor of history emeritus Jack C. Lane. 407-647-2330.

Backyard Biodiversity Day & Native Plant Sale. The local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society will do more than just sell plants at Winter Park’s Mead Botanical Garden on October 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free activities include guided hikes, workshops, food trucks and children’s activities. All proceeds from the sale — which includes native wildflowers, trees and shrubs — benefit ecological restoration projects ongoing at the garden. 1300 South Denning Drive, Winter Park. 407-622-6323.

Cows ‘n’ Cabs. The 9th installment of this annual fund-
raiser features food from dozens of local restaurants and more than 200 varieties of wine. Best of all, 100 percent of the proceeds go to Elevate Orlando and After-School All-Stars, two local not-for-profit programs that help underserved middle- and high school students. The November 7 event, which includes live music, begins at 6 p.m. in the West Meadow of Central Park. General admission tickets are $120; VIP tickets are $160.


These events were still scheduled at press time. Check individual websites to make certain they have not been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19.

Best of Winter Park. Celebrate Winter Park’s fantastic businesses and cultural institutions at this block party where the winners in more than 30 “Best Of” categories will be announced. Come enjoy live music, beer, wine and light bites from Bolay, Outback Steakhouse, Salata and Sushi Pop. The event is held November 18 from 5 to 8 p.m., on West Lyman Avenue between New York and Park Avenues. Tickets are $25. 407-544-8281.

Maitland Rotary Art Festival. The 44th edition of this boutique art festival brings the park around Lake Lily to life with artists, live entertainment and other free activities from November 13 through 15. Friday evening will see a return to its “Art Under the Stars” theme, lasting from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday’s hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., while Sunday’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Only 150 artists are admitted to this juried show, held near the heart of downtown Maitland. 701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland.

Sip, Shop & Stroll. Experience the charm of Winter Park’s world-famous Park Avenue, the region’s premier shopping district, while enjoying wine and seasonal hors d’oeuvres at participating businesses. The December 9 event, organized by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the Park Avenue Merchants Association, runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Check out fashions and holiday gift ideas. Tickets are $25; check in at the corner of Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard between 5 and 7 p.m. to receive your wine glass and “passport.” 407-644-8281. 


Winter Park’s Economic Recovery Task Force, formed by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, has proposed some creative ways to help support local businesses that have been hobbled by COVID-19

Strategies already implemented by the chamber and the City of Winter Park include dedicated curbside pickup zones for retail and restaurants, and public activities in Central Park. During September, for example, Music in the Park showcased local entertainers in Central Park.

Upcoming events include Movie Night in the Park. In partnership with the Enzian Theater, movies will be shown every other Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Coming up October 8 is Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman in Central Park, followed on October 22 by a yet-to-be announced movie at Ward Park (Fields 1 and 2). 

Sidewalk Sales, in collaboration with the chamber and the Park Avenue District, will be held on the second weekend of each month through December. Participating shopping districts include Park Avenue and Hannibal Square.

For Movie Night, you can reserve your 10-by-10-foot movie pod for groups of up to six people at or call 407-599-3342 for more information.