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Amateur Musicians Get To Play Orchestra Saturday Night In Jax

Ryan Benk

For the first time, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra is handing over its instruments to amateurs for a “Civic Orchestra” show premiering Saturday.

One of those lucky “civilian musicians” is Nathan Perriello.

On Wednesday, Perriello walked backstage at the Florida Times-Union Center, where the orchestra usually plays for a packed house.

The concert hall was empty, save for a couple of janitors vacuuming. Perriello is there often. After all, he works for the symphony.

“I work in development, which does the fundraising for the symphony, but I heard about this opportunity to be part of the Civic Orchestra, and I really wanted to do that,” he says.

Perriello is not a professional, but he isn't exactly an amateur either. He’s practiced music for much of his life.

“I’ve studied piano since I was very young, and I picked up percussion while I was in school,” he says.

Perriello will be banging the symbols during Saturday's performance. He says he hasn't had a chance to play for an audience since taking a job in administration. He’s a little anxious.

“You can’t really get away with nobody noticing you playing the crash symbols,” he says.

To hear more of Perriello’s percussion skills — and 60 other amateurs playing alongside a handful of pros — go see the Civic Orchestra’s first performance Saturday. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.