What separates Orlando from the other major cities in the United States (NYC, NOLA, LA, ATL, etc.)?
History? Somewhat. Orlando has only officially been a city since 1885, (although no one knew what it was till 1971 when "the Mouse" arrived).
People? Kind of. While Orlando has roughly 250,000 residents in the city itself, over 2 million people within it's metro area which comprises much of Orange, parts of Seminole, and even Osceola county. It also contains the University of Central Florida that consists of over 60,000 enrolling students (as of 2013) making it the 2nd largest in the country.
I know you may be thinking: "Huh? Orlando has no culture compared to these other major markets. All we have are theme parks, sunshine, night clubs and a NBA team."
I was guilty of similar thinking at one time. Being born and raised in the suburb of O-Town (Seminole district Winter Park), I was always thinking what Orlando didn't have, as opposed to trying to learn what it had to offer. Growing up, I was not the social type in school and just kept to my close friends, video games, school band, sports and never really stepped out of my norm. When I started taking music seriously as a 17 year old teenager, I couldn't wait to leave Florida and play in a real city. In my mind, there was nothing special about my hometown.
However, as I became more busy as a working musician while in college, I began traveling around Florida and wound up in places I never would have went, meeting people I would have never met otherwise. My first local awakening was baring witness to none other than Shak Nasti when I was 18 years, who flipped my whole world upside down musically and gave me a taste of what was really going on in the city.
Over time, playing music opened me up to the many things the Orlando scene did have. There are thriving cultural spots all around, you just have to know where to look! And that lack of knowledge to what is going on, is what I believe separates Orlando from the rest. So how can you or I help spread that knowledge?
I truly believe this is an exciting time to be in this city. So much has changed since I first dove into the music scene four years ago. Unlike other places I have been to, people in the various arts and entertainment communities are wanting to work together as opposed to competing for bragging rights and forming cliques. There is a rise of people in my generation wanting to make a difference with a healthy competition to improve, wanting to continue the tradition that has been set by those before us and I see it every day.
We all have busy lives and it can be difficult to get out there. In attempting to do my own part, I have been trying to go out every single night I'm not playing a show and seeing something new. Whether it be a concert, event, or just grabbing bite a new place I've heard about, it's been one of my main goals since returning to Florida. I think if people found one time a week to go and experience what's out there besides the tourism, chains and "dance" clubs, it would have a significant impact on the view of the city. Read the local publications such as Orlando Weekly, Orlando Magazine or the Orlando Local Music Examiner, listen to local radio stations like WPRK or WUCF or grab some CD's at Park Ave, eat at local restaurants hubs like Tako Cheena or 4 Rivers, shop for groceries at East End Market or Freshfield Farms; discover what is out there! Easier said than done and I'm probably preaching to the choir for some of you, but I believe the community is screaming for a culture injection and we are the only ones who can make it happen.
Check out my new tab for local businesses, step outside your usual routines to support these ventures and lets help put Orlando on the map!
P.S. If you see any sort of business you feel should be listed or I may have forgotten feel free to let me know! I'm happy to support your own business endeavors as well.