Peter Rubardt, music director for the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, does not mince words when asked why he enjoys coming to Seaside every year for the July Fourth celebration. “Seaside has one of the greatest audiences an orchestra could ever hope to play for,” he says. As part of Seaside’s most eagerly anticipated annual festivities, the orchestra’s Stars & Stripes performance is the climactic ending to a day filled with enthusiastic patriotism.
Holding a doctorate in musical arts in orchestral conducting from the Juilliard School in New York, the Fulbright Scholar’s passion is to share music with as many people, in as many places, as possible. “We are an exceptionally versatile group of musicians,” he says. “From huge symphonies in the concert hall to Sousa marches in outdoor amphitheaters to ensemble performances in schools and hospitals, we are thoughtful and committed to bringing music into people’s lives.”
The tradition of celebrating Independence Day in Seaside has become the most popular weekend for the iconic beach town. Beginning with the South Walton Fourth of July Parade in Seagrove and ending with the orchestral performance in the Seaside Amphitheater and fireworks show over the Gulf of Mexico, the holiday brings a huge influx of guests and locals into town.
The traditions surrounding Independence Day motivate Rubardt and the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra to take the performance very seriously. “The Fourth of July is a celebration rich with traditions Americans feel deeply about. At the core of that tradition, of course, is reverence for the ideals that our country is built upon, and for how we have held to those ideals over the course of history,” the Berkley, Calif., native explains. “The concert will include a generous selection of patriotic music in honor of that.”
No July Fourth would be complete without a fireworks show. For the past six years, Seaside has employed the expertise of Pyro Shows from La Follette, Tenn., to put on a spectacular show. Lasting nearly 20 minutes, the fireworks show caps off the celebration with an awesome display.
In 2014, Rubardt decided he wanted to extend the orchestra’s performance to accompany the fireworks. “Another central tradition for concerts like this is fireworks, and the program will end with music to accompany the show again, including Sousa marches and the traditional 1812 Overture,” the maestro explains. “The rest of the concert is filled out by popular favorites, selections from well-known films and a dose of some swinging jazz.”
The Independence Day festivities begin at 8 a.m. with the annual South Walton Fourth of July parade down Scenic Highway 30A and conclude in Seaside. The Pensacola Symphony Orchestra Stars & Stripes in Seaside performance begins at 7 p.m., followed by the fireworks finale at 9 p.m. All events are free, sponsored by the Seaside Merchants. For more information, visit seasidefl.com.