The New World Symphony is Miami’s only major resident symphony, and has always made its home in the heart of South Beach. But it’s a symphony with a twist. Since its creation in 1987 by Michael Tilson Thomas, who remains its artistic director, the New World Symphony has been designed as a training organization for classical musicians. Its players are gifted recent graduates of vaunted music programs who play with the NWS to train for future positions with other symphonies.
As such, the symphony has always been known for a particular youthful, slightly experimental spirit, often delving into the work of 20th Century composers. It has also been involved from the beginning in community outreach, often performing free or very inexpensive concerts for area residents.
For many years, the symphony made its home on Lincoln Road, performing at the historic, but relatively small, Lincoln Theatre. However, as of 2011, a new venue has helped raise the symphony’s profile to an international level. The New World Center finally gave the symphony a proper campus of its own, just north of its old Lincoln Road home, and across the street from the Fillmore Miami Beach.
The new venue, designed by “starchitect” Frank Gehry, now comprises a number of performance and rehearsal spaces. The main performance space is a large hall with flexible and variable seating. The campus also includes the SunTrust Pavilion, a large, multi-purpose room that serves as the symphony’s primary teaching space, as well as a performance space as well. The east wall of the pavilion is glass, letting the public view the teaching activities.
The campus also boasts cutting-edge technology. All of the individual rehearsal, ensemble, and percussion rooms are wired for recording and Internet2 capability. The Knight New Media Center is planned to serve as a video and audio editing suite, so the symphony can create and distribute its own digital content in-house.
The New World Symphony campus can be easily reached by taxi or local bus from within South Beach or from nearby downtown. From points further throughout Miami-Dade County, you can take the Metro-Rail to its Government Center station and then connect to a bus. (Visit the Miami-Dade County Transit routes site for more details).
By car, the symphony can be reached by either causeway linking Miami Beach to the mainland: 195 or 395. There is plenty of parking as well, including a garage built into the campus, another municipal garage just across the street that also serves the Lincoln Road mall, and metered parking around the nearby convention center.
Also part of the campus is the adjacent 2.5-acre Soundscape park, at the corner of Washington Avenue and 17th Street. Designed by Dutch architectural firm West 8, it features bench-lined winding paths shaded by palm trees and funky, spaceship-like structures. The central focus of the park, however, is a massive 7000-square-foot projection wall. It’s here that the symphony has already started its public programs of Wallcasts, or free broadcasts for the public. These include simulcasts of concerts going on inside the hall, as well as separate programs of experimental video art and film.
Wallcasts take place at night after dark, so don’t worry about the heat too much. Still, actual seating in the park is scarce, so bring your own blanket or folding chairs to be most comfortable. You can also bring your own refreshments of choice.
View South Beach in a larger map