The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra formally canceled the remaining dates in its 2019–20 subscription series Wednesday, and announced an amended agreement with the union that represents its musicians that will allow the symphony to bulk up its online offerings.
The ASO said it has lost more than $3 million in revenue from ticket sales since shutting down in mid-March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jennifer Barlament, the ASO’s executive director, said in a press release that continuing the season was not an option. “We made the difficult decision to cancel the remaining performances in our 75th anniversary season after consulting with public health experts, and considering the continuing restrictions on public gatherings both in Atlanta and statewide,” she said.
Ticket sales from ASO subscription concerts and other live events represent about half of the symphony’s annual operating budget. The symphony has instituted pay cuts of up to 15 percent for administrative staff and has furloughed 11 full-time and 13 part-time workers. The orchestra itself is taking a 15 percent pay cut through the end of the 2019–20 season in June, and has agreed to allow the ASO to pull from past performances for online streaming on its “ASO Virtual Stage.”
“Our industry is being hit very hard by this pandemic,” said Daniel Laufer, president of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players Association and associate principal cellist. “The musicians are united in supporting the ASO through this challenging time, including by agreeing to a reduction in compensation and enabling the use of archival footage and recordings to enhance the offerings on our Virtual Stage.”
The symphony does not qualify for the CARES Act stimulus package approved by Congress because of the 500-employee limit. So the ASO has kicked off several initiatives to help raise money to offset its financial losses.
Patrons who have tickets for canceled performances are being asked to donate those tickets back rather than ask for refunds.
The orchestra has also launched a Stability Fund, which will match all donations made through the end of June, including donated tickets from canceled performances. The matching funds will come from several donors, including the John and Rosemary Brown Family Foundation, the Antinori Foundation, the ATL Symphony Musicians Foundation and members of the ASO’s board of directors.
A few weeks ago, the ASO launched its “Virtual Stage” with a handful of concerts available to stream for free online. That will now become an online hub for archival performances, interviews, educational programs and chamber music concerts with ASO musicians.
“In partnership with our musicians, we are sharing stories and music in new and creative ways, free and open to our community,” Barlament said. “Thanks to our new musicians’ agreement, we can now share gems from our archives featuring performances from all our music directors, including Henry Sopkin, Robert Shaw, Yoel Levi and Robert Spano.”
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