A Letter from the League President and CEO to Members Regarding the COVID-19 Crisis, March 2020
Like all of you, the League of American Orchestras is wrestling with tough decisions as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold. While there are no easy answers, there are lots of opportunities for sound judgment rooted in shared values and strong cultures.We are hearing a common thread from orchestras in communities of all sizes: all are urgently concerned about serving their communities in a moment of need while ensuring the well-being and economic future of the people who are at the heart of their organizations. By the hour, orchestras are facing difficult choices about how to support their musicians, teaching artists, international conductor guest soloists, and the full array of staff in this extremely unpredictable time. What can you do? Engage, listen, include all voices, be open and transparent about decisions, set clear expectations, and communicate, communicate, communicate. And leaders remember, it’s not all on you. Let your staff, board members, and peers step up; you’ll get better results and probably feel better, too.
Orchestras are collaborating and innovating to serve their communities through the orchestral experience. The public response to concerts streamed to audiences from New Haven to Seattle has been an overwhelming affirmation of the power of orchestral music to lift the human spirit.
Our community of League members, with our networks for support and learning, is our lifeline now. We have seen connections among members grow stronger this week as orchestras have come together virtually, on our League 360 discussion group, to discuss the challenges of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and to share the solutions they are finding.
We will continue to build out our resources for you as the situation requires. In the meantime, please read below for our most recent updates and guidance.
As you may know the League is curating a set of resources to help orchestras respond to the pandemic, with information from authoritative sources on topics ranging from business continuity to communications. We will continue to update this, so we encourage you to check back often. In the past couple of days, for example, we have added resources related to:
- The latest news on the 30-day ban on travel to the U.S. for Europe’s Schengen Area citizens, effective March 14, 2020
- Updates on orchestras’ recently-announced event cancellations and postponements, and emerging online events
As Congress and the Administration consider new forms of federal economic assistance that may be targeted or widespread, orchestras are contacting elected officials to let them know of the unexpected loss of event-dependent revenue, income for musicians, and declines in charitable contributions. Orchestras have contacted more than 200 members of Congress in the past 24 hours to ask for COVID-related relief in response to the League’s action alert, and the effort remains underway. The League is also among major national nonprofits partnering to draw the attention of Congress to the help needed for all nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve. (PDF)
Orchestras are rapidly considering how they can continue to serve their communities through streamed concerts and digital learning events. An agreement has been reached between the leaders of many U.S. orchestras and the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, the musicians’ union, which will allow orchestras whose communities are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis to more easily offer audio or audio-visual streaming of certain performances to their audiences. As a service of the League, member orchestras with questions about planning, strategy, and production may contact the League’s electronic media consultants, Michael Bronson or Joe Kluger.
Just as you are making decisions on whether to cancel concerts, the League is grappling with its upcoming events. We postponed a Board Governance seminar scheduled for April, and we are holding our next board meeting virtually. We have postponed the Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview until next year.
As of this writing, we have not canceled our 2020 National Conference but we have announced a refund policy. Rest assured that as we contemplate our options, including virtual conferencing, our primary focus is on the health and welfare of our members.
Throughout all of this, we pledge to continue to be transparent, to communicate frequently, and to put your interests – and those of the communities we serve together – first. Please let us know if you have questions or ideas, and please continue to share your challenges and solutions with the League and your peers. We have been through tough times before, and working together, we will prevail.
Jesse RosenPresident and CEO, League of American Orchestras