“Wow, look at her dress.”

The sentiments were spread throughout the packed sold out seats at The Tennessee Williams Theatre on the campus of the Florida Keys Community College Wednesday Night from the second row where interior designers Jan Oostdjik and George Rutgers were sitting to the mezzanine where astute community members would recognize college president Dr. Larry Tyree and his wife Donna.

Guest artist Chee-Yun was the violinist who stepped onto the brightly lit stage with the South Florida Symphony Orchestra in a floor length Nicole Miller red gown. Her diamond earrings shaped in the form of flowers sparkled all the way to the back of the theatre against her long, black hair, which was mesmerizing the crowd. She comfortably, and as personable as the college’s Amber Ernst-Leonard, addressed the ticket holders about what they were about to experience. A Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, op. 61 by L. van Beethoven. She described the first movement as long, then short, then long again. The second as a spiritual sound, noting Beethoven was not a religious man, but the interpretation of his music tells us the genius was spiritual. Third, we’re would recognize a country-dance evolving onstage.

“I’m going to listen to the symphony and play off them,” assured Chee-Yun. “You’ll hear there is one note he composed which is often out-of-place.”

Her three-minute introduction ended and Maestro Sebrina Maria Alfonso took the podium. The baton twirler, the first Cuban American conductor invited to conduct in Cuba’s premier orchestra is accustomed to standing ovations and standing-room only auditoriums. Her presence is undeniable. Her ability to feel the music is as lucid as the Caribbean in July. The marriage between Alfonso, Chee-Un, the violinists, cellists, brass players on the French horns, trombones, and sousaphone beseeched feelings of enchantment, and anguish. Then, as Chee-Un predicted, the audience was swept away into a sophisticated scene, which perhaps was taking place at a barn in rural Oklahoma. I noted the third movement, expected to be a country dance, at one point took a turn into a gut-wrenching, harrowing break-up about two-thirds the way through.

“Maybe a twister hit,” is the suggestion one of my friends, confidantes, and date for the evening offered for the noticeable change in tempo. “I kept listening to the note she advised us would be off, but I didn’t hear it. The show is simply amazing.”

Chee-Yun’s tiny fingers flew over her violins strings as fast as a humming bird to wile the observers with her connatural abilities. Though her frame petite, she captivated a crowd ten-thousand times her size with vivaciousness only select few are blessed to carry in their genes, poised enough to portray on stage.

Following intermission the symphony rose to the occasion with Variations on an Original Theme “Enigma’, Op. 36 by Edward Elgar. Unsure of what to expect and perhaps expecting a let-down following the exit of Chee-Yun,  the Maestro turned to the timpani, snare drum, and brass section to continuously stir the crowd with forte measures which crescendoed into an evening to treasure!

The next show in Key West will be Wednesday, December 1 featuring solo artist Lara St. John on the violin. For tickets call 305-295-7676 or visit keysweekly.com and follow the link.

Josie Koler is the Key West Bureau Chief for The Weekly Newspapers. She has mingled in music lessons relating to percussion, the saxophone, trombone, and most notable the piano.

Solo Violinist Chee-Yun.


A standing ovation for Maestro Sebrina Maria Alfonso, Violinist Chee-Yun, and the South Florida Symphony Orchestra.


In the audience
Managing Director of Starboard Financial, LLC Mary-Lynne Schultz (left) with friends  


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