Simon Woods: Orchestras must engage with their whole communities in a post-COVID world

Posted on: March 1, 2021

The New York Times has published a response by Simon Woods, president and chief executive officer of the League of American Orchestras, to a recent article by Times Chief Music Critic Anthony Tommasini. “In ‘Reinventing the American Orchestra’ (Arts & Leisure, Feb. 14), Anthony Tommasini observes that ‘a return to normalcy in the music world will not do,’ ” writes Woods in Sunday’s (2/27) New York Times. “But he devotes most of the discussion to orchestras’ programming, subscription structures and activation of their concert halls, which, while important and inspiring, will still be nowhere near enough. After a pandemic that has asymmetrically affected those who have less, and who are marginalized or oppressed, orchestras—and all arts organizations—must come back with a new will to engage with their whole communities. It goes beyond marketing to new audiences; it’s about accessible ticketing policies, producing events with and in communities, and including with new urgency the young people who have been forgotten by failing music education infrastructure in public schools. Orchestras are already thinking deeply about the implications of the post-Covid world, and not only those in major urban areas. In smaller cities, as well as suburban and rural areas, orchestras can release the power of music to aid in our communal healing.”