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The Florida International Festival is the creation of Daytona Beach resident and businessman, Herbert M. "Tippen" Davidson, Jr.

Throughout Florida, Davidson is known for his leadership in the cultural arts community. He has devoted nearly five decades to ensuring quality entertainment is available at the local level.

Davidson has spent most of his life forging friendships with musicians and artists from all over. His efforts have helped make Daytona Beach a popular venue for world-renowned and sought-after performers.

The best known of these: the London Symphony Orchestra.

Davidson knew the Daytona Beach area had much to offer the world. Its natural beauty and laid-back lifestyle had already made it a popular destination for Spring Break and stock car racing.

Davidson and other area leaders met and discussed the possibilities. They decided the area needed a new event -- one that focused on music and culture. A committee was organized and letters were written to the world's top orchestras. Each orchestra was invited to visit Daytona Beach, to play a little music and enjoy sand and surf.

The London Symphony Orchestra responded enthusiastically. In just eight days, the Daytona Beach community raised enough money to bring the orchestra and its leaders across the Atlantic Ocean.

A venture started by just a few people willing to "take a chance" culminated into the biennial, 17-day-event known as the Florida International Festival, now in its 35th year.

"This Festival began modestly in the 1960s after a few like-minded individuals got together and agreed this community wanted and deserved a high-caliber cultural event. It has since grown into a phenomenon that residents from all walks of life look forward to." Davidson said. "Music breaks down barriers. Music invokes feelings and emotions that people can relate to and discuss - even if they have nothing else in common.

"Finally, the cultural arts must remain a basic part of our children's education. They need to learn the classics, to hear and see all types of musicians, artists and performers and to experience the joy of a live orchestral performance. This is what the Florida International Festival helps to provide and I'm proud to live a community that so generously supports this vision."

Tippen is a musician and attended the Juilliard School of Music. He served in numerous capacities in the cultural arts world, including two times as chairman of the Florida Arts Council and as Florida's Ambassador of the Arts in 1982. He also received the state's 1995 Arts Recognition Award.

In 1989 he was made an honorary member of the London Symphony Orchestra and in 1998, Davidson was awarded the Order of the British Empire, an honor given to acknowledge distinguished service to the arts and sciences, public services outside the Civil Service and work with charitable and welfare organizations of all kinds.

He founded and conducted the Daytona Beach Little Orchestra and the Seaside Concerts, where he played viola for 12 years. He also founded Daytona Beach's Seaside Music Theater in 1977, which has grown into a nationally recognized professional repertory theater.

The Davidson family publishes The Daytona Beach News-Journal, one of the last family-owned newspapers in the Southeastern United States. Tippen Davidson represents the third generation to head the newspaper.


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