Montréal-born conductor, arranger, inventor, trumpet player and multi-instrumentalist Benoit Glazer has been making music in Orlando professionally since 1998, when he assumed the role of conductor of Cirque du Soleil’s "La Nouba" at Disney Springs.
A modern-day Renaissance man, with a brass valve block patent and concepts for brass, homes and boat innovations to his name, Glazer is the founder and resident host of a monthly, underground, salon-style concert series held in his modern home, the Timucua White House, he built specifically for public concerts. Held on Sunday’s in a downtown neighborhood, Glazer’s concerts are free and open to anyone, and the events have become some of the most sought-after gigs by touring and local artists in the genres of jazz, classical, world, modern and Latin music.
Having been part of Orlando’s creative community for more than 15 years, he has unique insight into what makes the destination a hotbed for the arts and artists alike. One of many artists recruited by the theme parks, Glazer and his contemporaries found that steady creative work allowed them the freedom to pursue their own creative expression in their off time.
“I learned pretty quickly that [for] the musicians here, there’s a lot of work, but it’s always in support of the tourism industry, so they don’t get to play what they would like to play a lot,” Glazer says.
Acknowledging the need for versatile venues open for musicians to play whatever they want, Glazer decided to launch a series of free living room concerts in his home in 2000. What began as a few concerts over the year featuring local musicians performing to a 20- to 40-person audience eventually grew into a full season of events, counting close to 70 concerts to a 125-person audience over the course of a year.
“They were really happy to find a place where they can play what they want, how they want and how long they want, you know, and there are no constraints,” he says. “It’s art for art’s sake.”
In 2004 Glazer founded the Timucua Arts Foundation to help raise the funds to operate his new passion for putting on concerts year-round. But in order to adequately seat the growing audiences he was attracting, he decided to design and build a house specifically for his events.
The Timucua White House, complete with a three-story, 125-seat atrium-style concert hall as its living room, opened its doors to guests in 2007. A musician’s paradise, the White House is where Glazer’s three children grew up and honed their musical talents by opening each concert with a family performance of contrasting and complex melodic styles with their father and mother, who’re also a musician. Now adults, the kids are all pursuing advanced academic careers focusing on combined studies of music, math and science.
It’s this open, communal and family-friendly atmosphere of passionate patrons of the arts that makes the Timucua White House such an appealing venue for both guests and performers. Plus, the events have expanded into multimedia exhibitions that feature the works of visual and performing artists as well as musicians.
“Our events are free,” Glazer says. “People bring their own food and wine. It’s not about making money. We do it for the community.”
And Glazer knows the community of Orlando includes tourists. At first it was mostly artists who attended the concerts and events. But Glazer sees more and more tourists in attendance these days. “[They] are coming from all over because they’ve heard about it. It’s becoming a destination.”
In addition to coming for concerts at his home, Glazer’s creative fingerprints can also be found throughout the music of Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba.” More than merely the conductor, he also plays trumpet and sometimes percussion in the orchestra and even appears as a character in the show.
“The same creative team who did “O” in Vegas two months later came here,” Glazer says regarding the creative direction of “La Nouba.” “The director of the show is Belgian. Because they were tired, they fell back on what they knew. Rene Magritte was a surreal painter and is Belgian. A lot of what you see in the show is based on that. The characters, for example, interact together but they don’t seem to go together.”
Glazer says throughout the show’s story, audiences can catch an “ironic wink at Disney” illustrated through an allusion to the frog prince and a Cinderella-like janitor. “But the whole idea is to transform that into something that’s really completely different.”
Aside from the highly visible and longstanding institutions like Cirque, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Opera Orlando and Orlando ballet, Glazer says a lot of the really interesting events are behind the scenes. “The art scene is not easy to find. People have to look for it a little bit.”
To get in on Orlando’s underground arts offerings, Glazer says tourists should seek out:
- Accidental Music Festival—Annual celebration of contemporary classical, jazz, experimental, improvised and electronic music through free concerts and educational programming, as well as ticketed events featuring international artists
- Music department events and concerts at Rollins College in Winter Park and the University of Central Florida
- Central Florida Composers Forum—Cultivating an audience for new music through innovative musical progamming, education, workshops and outreach initiatives produced by composers, practitioners and conductors
- The Civic Minded Five—Volunteer-organized creative music concert series with events held throughout Orlando
- SNAP! Orlando - Hip, sophisticated events and galleries that celebrate master and emerging photographers and artists
- Gallery at Avalon Island—Part of the downtown Orlando arts district, this contemporary art space located in the historic 1886 Queen Anne-style Roger’s building displays work by emerging and established artists.
- CityArts Factory—The large collective of galleries in downtown Orlando showcases works by local and international artists rotated on a monthly basis.
- Orlando Live Reads—Live, staged readings of classic film scripts by professional actors hosted by the Timucua Arts Foundation