The COVID-19 shutdown has silenced the Nashville Symphony all the way through July 31, 2021, as the organization reports it lost nearly 30 percent of its annual income.
The symphony sent members an emailed announcement Friday before making the news public. Then, they posted the news online here.
They canceled or rescheduled over 65 concerts and events to a loss of $8 million, representing nearly 30 percent of their income, they said, calling it a threat to their existence.
A total of 79 musicians and 49 full-time workers are being furloughed effective July 1.
In April, the symphony cut staff and musician pay by 25 percent before receiving CARES Act funding that allowed them to restore pay to normal rates, WPLN reported.
Health experts have said it could take one to two years to be safe to perform live concerts in front of large audiences.
Their statement to members also said:
Since March, the Nashville Symphony’s management has been exploring every available option to ensure the long-term sustainability of the institution. In light of our current challenges, we firmly believe that today’s decision is the best course of action to ensure that the Symphony can continue serving our community in the long run.
We realize this news must be terribly disappointing to you. And we want you to know that we are working hard to support our musicians and staff through this difficult transition.
Without the ability to perform for the public, we are unable to generate essential operating revenue. And without that revenue, the Nashville Symphony faces a threat to its very existence. Until we have certainty that our economy can remain open, and that audiences are ready and able to return to large public gatherings, attempting to restart concert activity poses significant risks to our institution.
We have based our decision on four key factors:
- We are dedicated to ensuring the safety and well-being of our patrons, musicians, staff and volunteers, along with the entire community. That means doing everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Our projected losses caused by the pandemic now total $8 million, or 30% of our annual revenue. These losses, combined with our high operating costs, have placed us in a very vulnerable financial position.
- As our community continues to reopen, concert venues will be required to maintain social distancing for an unspecified amount of time. Because of our high operational costs – which total $2.3 million each month – we cannot sustainably operate with social distancing, due to the loss of revenue associated with reduced audience capacity.
- Postponing the concert season we had originally planned provides us with what we hope will be sufficient time for the pandemic to run its course, and for the Nashville Symphony to conserve its limited resources until we have reasonable assurance that we can safely resume concerts and welcome the community back to our concert hall.
We are currently working to reschedule all 2020/21 concerts to the 2021/22 season, and we pledge to keep you informed of our progress along the way. If you are a ticket holder, our staff will contact you no later than July 15, 2020, to let you know about your options. At that time, you will be able to donate your tickets back to help support our Symphony; keep your tickets for your rescheduled concert(s); receive a flexible ticket credit; or request a refund.
Please note, we can only honor ticket requests once we open the Ticket Option Window on or before July 15. Thank you for your patience as our reduced staff will be working to provide you with the best possible service.
As new epidemiological information becomes available, along with new data from our own ongoing revenue studies and audience surveys, we will continue to assess whether the orchestra and the Schermerhorn may be able to resume activity sooner.
Our lives may have taken a dramatic turn in the span of just a few months, but some things remain constant, and one of them is the life-affirming power of music. Our orchestra has experienced many challenges over the years, including the Great Recession of 2008, the catastrophic Nashville flood of 2010 and a subsequent restructuring in 2013. What enabled us to emerge whole from each of our challenges, and what will get us through this one, is our unwavering dedication to our mission and our vision, along with your generous and enthusiastic support.
While we are unable to perform concerts, we intend to engage in dialogue with the community to re-envision what the Symphony can be for Nashville, so that when we re-emerge, we can return that investment with an orchestra and an institution wholly committed to reflecting and serving this remarkable community better than ever before.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.