Temporary pay cuts for St. Louis Symphony musicians, as orchestra curtails spring season on advice of health officials

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The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Stéphane Denève in an October 2020 concert at Powell Hall. Credit: Dilip Vishwanat

“The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra said Monday it has suspended the programming … for the spring 2021 season running from this month through May. The SLSO also said Monday that musicians agreed to millions in pay cuts in ratifying an amended contract,” writes Diana Barr in Monday’s (1/11) St. Louis Business Journal (MO). “The programming change was based on guidance from medical experts with Washington University’s School of Medicine and city health officials…. Separately Monday, the orchestra said its members have agreed to receive $3.75 million less in compensation, covering the period between March 13, 2020, and Aug. 29, 2021. The pay reduction is part of a temporary labor contract amendment agreed to by SLSO management, the orchestra members, and their union…. Musicians will retain 85% of their base pay and 80% of other compensation … in addition to health benefits and pension contributions. [The amended contract includes] continued flexibility … to accommodate programming and scheduling needs of performances, educational programs, and recorded content during the pandemic [and] a deferral of instrument loan program payments through Aug. 29.… The contract amendment announced Monday is the latest of several compensation negotiations between the symphony and its musicians since the start of the pandemic.”

January 12, 2021

Kansas City Symphony to resume Kauffman Center performances, socially distanced and streamed

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“Kansas City’s arts organizations are taking things slow and easy to ensure the safety of their audiences and performers,” writes Patrick Neas in Friday’s (1/8) Kansas City Star (MO). “There are signs that things are returning to somewhat normal, however. Beginning this month, the Kansas City Symphony will start easing its fans back into Helzberg Hall. Subscribers will get a chance to attend concerts with social distancing both among the pared-down symphony members on stage as well as in the audience. Only 25% of Helzberg Hall’s capacity will be used. But subscribers who are unable to score tickets can watch selected concerts streamed later on the symphony’s new platform, MySymphonySeat.org. Carlsen Center Presents is continuing to offer virtual events, and Kansas City’s smaller arts groups, who responded so creatively to the pandemic last year, are continuing to find work-arounds. Beau Bledsoe’s Ensemble Iberica is offering a ‘Passport Series,’ allowing the stir crazy to travel the world from the comfort of home.” Included are listings of Kansas City Symphony and Carlsen Center Presents performances from January through April.

January 12, 2021

Massapequa Philharmonic partners with art museum to provide live music—safely

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“Massapequa Philharmonic music director David Bernard is of the firm belief that his organization is a leader in contributing to the cultural fabric of Long Island,” writes Dave Gil de Rubio in Friday’s (1/8) Massapequa Observer (New York). “So when the pandemic caused the world to grind to a halt, the question was how this group of professional musicians could go forward at a time when venues were shut down.… The answer was to enter into a unique agreement with the Nassau Museum of Art to present live music at the mansion and on the 145-acre grounds.… The orchestra forged the partnership back in September, at a time when Bernard and the philharmonic were itching to go beyond playing virtual concerts.” Bernard says, “ ‘I had a discussion with Charles Riley, the executive director of the museum, and we came up with this plan for the Massapequa Philharmonic to now be the orchestra in residence there. Everything that we’re doing there is all within the safety protocols.… Anybody walking around the grounds … is able to hear some live music’… [with] anywhere from four to 20 philharmonic members playing chamber music during the museum’s weekend opening hours.”

January 12, 2021

Pennsylvania’s Reading Symphony on perseverance during the pandemic

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“The Reading Symphony Orchestra’s March concert, presenting works by Jennifer Higdon and Joan Tower, turned out to be their last for the year” due to Covid-19, writes Susan L. Peña in Monday’s (1/11) BCTV (Reading, PA). “In the orchestra’s 108 years, this level of cancellation is unprecedented. When we talked, during the final weeks of 2020, with the RSO’s executive director, David Gross; music director/conductor Andrew Constantine; board president Michael Duff; and Reading Symphony Youth Orchestra director Christopher Cinquini, all of them spoke with subdued hope for a better 2021.” The four speak about paying musicians with Paycheck Protection Program funding; Constantine’s podcasts; replacing a planned fundraiser with a streamed event; and reconvening string musicians of the Reading Symphony Youth Orchestra, socially distanced, in the fall. “For more than a century, the orchestra has been a point of pride for Reading … a driver for the city’s economy…. ‘If you had asked me in March, I would have said you’re crazy if you told me we’d be doing this well by now,’ said Duff. ‘I appreciate the support we’ve gotten from the community, our donors and our patrons, and I ask for their patience as we go through this pandemic.’ ”

January 12, 2021

Colorado’s Longmont Symphony names Catherine Beeson executive director

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“Following the retirement of its longtime executive director, board members with the Longmont Symphony Orchestra announced a new leader at the orchestra’s helm this week,” writes Kelsey Hamon in Saturday’s (1/9) Longmont Times-Call (CO). “Catherine Beeson was appointed executive director Friday…. Beeson will replace Kay W. Lloyd, [who] had announced her retirement from the role on Friday, but … will remain in her position as principal flutist…. Lloyd and Beeson will work together to ensure a smooth transition as the Longmont Symphony Orchestra continues to provide a robust spring and summer season of online music events to the community. Board Chair Carol Minelli said Beeson brings a solid background in nonprofit management, as well as strong orchestral knowledge and experience. ‘She has served in administrative roles, as a musician teaching artist, and as a performer for the Colorado Symphony, Loon Lake Live, Friends of Chamber Music-Denver, and the New York Philharmonic,’ Minelli said in a press release. Beeson said she was ‘thrilled to step into this leadership role at a time when the Longmont community and its symphony orchestra are growing more connected,’ despite the challenge of the pandemic.”

January 12, 2021

Longtime Chicago Tribune music critic Howard Reich to retire on January 15

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“Forty-three years ago … I sent a paper that I’d written for a class to an editor at the Tribune [about] the status of contemporary classical music in Chicago,” writes Howard Reich in Monday’s (1/11) Chicago Tribune. “To my amazement, the Tribune published it … which led to me joining the staff in 1983, which now has led to my retirement from the newspaper on Jan. 15.” Since John von Rhein’s retirement as classical music critic in 2018, Reich has covered both jazz and classical music. “All six of my books and all three of my documentary films … originated as stories in the Tribune…. I served on the Pulitzer Prize music jury four times. The first time, in 1997, … Wynton Marsalis’ ‘Blood on the Fields’ … became the first jazz composition—and the first non-classical work—to win…. After leaving the Tribune, I plan to … write books and films and [fulfill] speaking engagements. Coming next: this year’s international release of ‘For the Left Hand,’ a … documentary inspired by my Tribune stories about Chicagoan Norman Malone, who transcended personal tragedy to become a concert pianist.” Reich includes “words of wisdom” from people he interviewed at the Tribune, including Frank Sinatra, Elie Wiesel, Riccardo Muti, and Ella Fitzgerald.

January 12, 2021

Wild Up’s four-week winter festival, Jan. 15-Feb. 14

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Wild Up, the Los Angeles-based ensemble, has announced details of its second winter festival, Darkness Sounding, which will feature virtual and in-person events from January 15 to February 14. The self-described “spaced out music during the shortest days of the year” festival will include one-on-one telephone concerts, singing (at a distance) through open windows, a virtual-reality recital with prompts from a digital Magic 8 Ball, and audio hikes in the Mojave Desert. Streamed concerts will include a sunrise-to-sunset livestream concert by pianist Richard Valitutto and the world premiere of composer/performer Andrew McIntosh’s A Moonbeam Is Just a Filtered Sunbeam, a 58-minute work for violin, viola, and piano, field recordings, and electronics, with six performances at dawn and dusk. Running throughout the festival will be percussionist/instrument-maker Chris Kallmeyer’s Two hearts are better than one for two wind chimes spread throughout the city of Los Angeles, with each set of wind chimes lent to festivalgoers for weeklong listening sessions. Christopher Rountree is Wild Up’s artistic director and conductor. Venues will include YouTube Live, Instagram Live, Zoom, Soundcloud, and locations around Los Angeles and Joshua Tree. For more information: https://darknesssounding.wildup.org.

January 12, 2021

League webinar: “Coming Back Stronger—Using the Shutdown to Rebuild Audience Loyalty”

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On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, the League of American Orchestras will present Coming Back Stronger—Using the Shutdown to Rebuild Audience Loyalty, a webinar that offers practical steps for attracting and retaining loyal audiences during—and after—recent shutdowns. The webinar will be led by Karen Freeman, executive director of research, and Michael L. Mael, founding partner, at Advisory Board for the Arts. Audiences typically don’t return at the same levels as before a downturn or crisis. Once return is safe and performances resume, orchestras can expect—after an initial burst of audience energy—to hit lower audience plateaus than pre-pandemic. How can orchestras avoid that drop-off in 2021 and beyond? What are the critical actions to take now to avoid acceleration of a generational shift away from the performing arts? The 90-minute webinar will help orchestras stem audience decline, with recommendations from other business and nonprofit sectors plus tangible tools to help engage audiences effectively during the pandemic.

Coming Back Stronger—Using the Shutdown to Rebuild Audience Loyalty takes place online on Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 3pm Eastern/12pm Pacific; a recording will be available after the live event. Learn more and register here. Contact League Member Services at member@americanorchestras.org with questions.

January 12, 2021