Don't Stop Me Now: Programming in a Pandemic
Let’s recap the last 8 months:
March 2020: This won’t be that bad.
April 2020: Oh just a few more weeks to flatten the curve.
May 2020: Summer is almost here, I’m sure we will be back to normal.
June 2020: Those August events will be FIIINE!
July 2020: What month is it?
August 2020: Do we need to cancel our fall season?
September 2020: We need to cancel our fall season.
October 2020: I’m sure we’ll be fine by spring!
We are full swing in the luxurious virtual life now. Wake up, coffee, email, social media, ZOOM call, coffee, contemplate existence (usually around 3 PM for me), teach, pour glass of wine promptly at 5 PM, Netflix, bed, repeat.
How, just how, can we continue to advocate for ourselves, our organization, our sanity?!
When the Met Opera cancelled their season, shutting out their staff and musicians without pay, everything came into perspective for me. The playing field has now been evened. Millions of dollars worth of endowments aren’t stopping this virus which is purging the arts field. So how do we proceed?
My first step each day is to set time aside to do something musicians often do not do much of; listen to music. I try to reconnect with myself and start to percolate my brain that seemingly becomes foggier each day. I really do believe that in experiencing art we can rejuvenate energy for our day to day, whether that be practicing, teaching virtual lessons, or recording videos. Then I ask myself a few questions;
With such an overloaded virtual space, how can we leave our mark (and how are these programs financially successful)?
What ideas which have sat on the back burner during a normal season can we begin to pursue?
How can we best stay connected to our audience members, donors, and supporters?
I’ll address the big elephant in the room; how can we afford virtual programs without a live, in-person audience? While we can no longer do larger programs, what an opportunity we have now to create a more intimate program in a new setting, with a possibility to reach more people than ever before. In our case the Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra is continuing to open doors with partners we wouldn’t have in a regular season, all helping to promote our orchestra and mission. It is still possible to put together interesting programs that highlight the musicians, composers, and community partners. Collaborations for classical music is key and does not need to cease right now; build relationships, new audiences, and new funding.
I made the decision early on to offer our concerts for free online but gave viewers the option to purchase a virtual ticket as a donation. And you know what? It was tremendously successful. If the message of the music you are transmitting is powerful enough, I believe you will find support. And since we are all digital, why not offer businesses some advertising space? How about taking your virtual performance to new places like nursing facilities or senior homes, the places most affected by the pandemic? You’ve poured all this time, energy, and money into a virtual event, now take it to the streets! We have the ability now to reach new listeners and it needs to be captured right now.
How about creating online classes centered around music appreciation or reaching out to local schools whose music programs have been heavily affected by COVID-19 and see how you can help. Find new ways to continue to be an active part in your community.
It does not matter how big or small your organization or ideas are right now. Be flexible, be nimble, and be an advocate. You’re creative soul won’t regret it.
Dr. Matthew Scinto is the Founder & Music Director of the Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra and Music Director of the Civic Orchestra of New Haven. Read more about the CCCO here.