Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra celebrates ‘30 Years of Smokin’ Fun!’

Barbecue teams take part in a friendly competition for the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra’s annual fundraiser.
Barbecue teams take part in a friendly competition for the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra’s annual fundraiser. Courtesy Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra

The Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra’s annual Barbecue Under the Oaks will celebrate “30 Years of Smokin’ Fun!” as the symphony’s main fundraising event.

The event is Saturday at Gulfport Centennial Plaza. This year’s co-chairs are Butch Simpson and Dobbs Dennis.

Peggy and Dr. Don Sprabery created the event as a way to give back to the symphony. “The first Barbecue Under the Oaks was held in 1989. Our daughter was a baby and celebrated that first year with us. Now all these years later, our granddaughter will be with us at her first Barbecue, continuing the family tradition,” Don Sprabery said.

The event has grown over the years, becoming a favorite of barbecue lovers, supporters of the arts, and families across Coast.

About 30 cooking teams of “Ribmeisters” try to outdo each other to create the best barbecue delicacies, along with a variety of traditional side dishes. Many of the teams fire up their grills and smokers at night to slow smoke their ribs, pulled pork, brisket and other offerings long before the crowds arrive.

More than 2,000 guests are expected to attend the event and sample the barbecue specialties at this all-you-can-eat occasion.

The event is organized by the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra’s Board of Directors and the Symphony Guild. The Gulf Coast Symphony is performing its 56th classical season under the direction of Dr. Peter Rubardt, music director and conductor.

Venue change for ‘Bizet to Broadway’

With the closing of the Saenger Theatre in Biloxi for repairs, the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra announces that “Bizet to Broadway,” its final concert of the season, will be held at Ocean Springs High School. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. April 14.

The concert will feature guest artists mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez and tenor Richard Troxell.

Chávez was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and received a Bachelor of Music degree, with Honors, from New Mexico State University, and a Master of Music degree in Performance, and the Performer’s Certificate, from the Eastman School of Music. After beginning an Artistic Residency with the Orlando Opera, Chávez won several major international competitions and was a national finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Troxell is from Thurmont, Maryland, where he started singing at the age of 4 along with his parents, belting out Broadway tunes at Lions Club benefits and singing hymns in the church choir. He received his operatic training at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Troxell’s lyric tenor voice has been thrilling audiences in leading roles in opera houses and on concert stages around the world.

The April 14 concert will feature excerpts from Georges Bizet’s Carmen, selections from Claude-Michel Schonberg’s Les Miserables and pieces from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.

Concert tickets begin at $35, with $20 tickets available for students and military. Tickets may be purchased online at, by visiting the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra office in the Knight Nonprofit Center on Seaway Road in Gulfport, or by calling 228-896-4276.

Before the concert, Music Director Peter Rubardt will host Words on Music, a relaxed hour of concert information and personal musical insights. The free discussion will be held at the Gulf Oaks Clubhouse at 527 Front Beach in Ocean Springs at 7 p.m. April 12, with an encore program prior to the concert at 6:30 p.m. April 14.

30th annual Barbecue Under the Oaks

When: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Gulfport Centennial Plaza, U.S. 90, Gulfport

Tickets: Tickets are $40 in advance or $45 at the door. Admission is $10 for children (12 and under). Advance tickets can be purchased by calling 228-896-4276, by visiting the symphony office in the Knight Nonprofit Center on Seaway Road, Gulfport, or online at