Bill DeYoung, St. Pete Cataylst, 15th January 2019

Suave, erudite and comfortable in a tuxedo, native Londoner Michael Francis could very well be Tampa Bay’s James Bond – if, that is, 007 had wavy red hair, a baby face and an overwhelming obsession with symphonic music.

Michael Francis prefers listeners be stirred, not shaken.

He assumed the role of the Florida Orchestra’s music director in 2014, following the departure of Stefan Sanderling. As such, the 43-year-old not only plans the repertoire for each season, he’s principal conductor – the motor that drives 67 full-time professional musicians – a key member of the business staff and the de facto face of the organization.

Now in its 51st season, the orchestra is enjoying its greatest success ever, announcing a record 125,700 paid seats in the 2017-18 season. Ticket sales, which provide 30 percent of the $12 million operating budget, have increased 45 percent since 2010.

“The rest of our revenue is from donations,” Francis reports. “So people have been giving to this orchestra for years – and they’re feeling such a sense of pride, almost like they’re reaping in the harvest now.”