Freebie: An Informal Farewell

The Florida Orchestra's free concerts in the park are best described as informal. Where else can you wear shorts and a T-shirt to a classical music concert? Or for that matter, bring a cooler and your dog?

Maestro Thomas Wilkins conducts the last two park concerts of his tenure with The Florida Orchestra at 7 p.m. Friday, May 3, at Curtis Hixon Park; and at 7:45 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at Coachman Park.

The programs for both concerts are identical, featuring Dvorak's Slavonic Dance, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and No.7, a Duke Ellington medley and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with a fireworks finale.

For Friday's concert, if you work in downtown Tampa, you can beat rush hour by just walking over. But be sure to loosen your tie or undo a button on your blouse along the way — remember, it's a casual affair. On Sunday, perhaps wrap up a day at the beach with a picnic at the concert? Some classical music to put your mind off going to work on Monday sounds agreeable.

Wilkins is finishing his eighth season as the orchestra's resident conductor, and although he's conducting two final Masterworks events, the park concerts are the last opportunity to see him in a relaxed setting. Wilkins talks to the audience between numbers, furthering the laid-back appeal of the performances.

The Maestro has been featured with orchestras throughout the United States and is a frequent guest conductor for the Baltimore Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra. Charismatic and engaging with the baton, he's been a terrific classical music ambassador to Tampa Bay.

Curtis Hixon Park is at 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa. Coachman Park is located at 301 Drew St., Clearwater. For more info on The Florida Orchestra, call 800-662-7286, or visit their Web site: