The Nashville Symphony’s Board of Directors voted to suspend all concert and event activity through July 31, 2021, and to furlough a total of 79 musicians and 49 full-time staff members – including Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero – effective July 1.
This announcement comes at a time of tremendous disruption due to the deep and widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the Nashville Symphony has already been forced to cancel or reschedule more than 65 concerts and events since early March, with losses directly caused by the pandemic projected to total $8 million, or nearly 30% of the Symphony’s annual income.
“This was an extremely difficult and painful decision to make,” said Board Chair Mark Peacock. “The Nashville Symphony’s management and board of directors have 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 Nashville Symphony can continue serving our community in the long run.”
“We realize the dramatic impact this decision will have on the lives of the very musicians and staff who have built the Nashville Symphony into the community treasure that it is today, and we are working hard to support them through this difficult transition. But 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 profound risks to our institution.”
“First and foremost,” Peacock continued, “we are dedicated to ensuring the safety and well-being of our patrons, along with our musicians, staff and volunteers. That means doing everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With operational costs totaling $2.3 million every month, we also face an enormous financial risk due to the continuing uncertainty caused by this pandemic. Therefore, we felt it necessary to take decisive action now to ensure that the Nashville Symphony is able to reemerge from the current crisis.”
Based on extensive financial scenario planning, as well as epidemiological projections for how the COVID-19 pandemic may continue to unfold in the coming months, the Nashville Symphony’s board and management team have determined that suspending concert activity for the next year will provide a sufficient foundation for the Symphony to conserve its resources until the orchestra and its concert hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, are able to resume activity.
As new epidemiological information becomes available, along with timely data from the Symphony’s revenue studies and audience surveys, the Symphony’s management team will assess whether the orchestra and the Schermerhorn may be able to resume activity sooner.
“If we are to resume concert activity any earlier than expected,” said President & CEO Alan D. Valentine, “we are going to need enormous flexibility to experiment with new concert formats, social distancing in the hall and other safety measures, as we find our way into the ‘new normal.’ The season we originally planned for 2020/21 is not the right season of concerts for that kind of experimentation, nor does it allow for the flexibility we will need.”
The Symphony is currently working to reschedule concerts originally planned for the 2020/21 concert season to the 2021/22 concert season. Current season ticket holders will be able to keep their existing seats for the postponed season, and the Symphony will be contacting all ticket holders about their options within the next few weeks.
“Our lives may have taken a dramatic turn in the span of just a few months, but some things remain constant,” Valentine said, “and one of them is the life-affirming, transformational 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. As we re-emerged from these challenges, we have become a stronger, more resilient and innovative organization. Our own past history has demonstrated, time and again, that we are resourceful, we are determined, and we are diligent, responsible stewards of the community’s investment.
“What enabled us to emerge whole from each of our challenges, and what will get us through this one,” Valentine continued, “is our unwavering dedication to our mission and our vision, along with the community’s 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 into the ‘new normal,’ we can return that investment with an orchestra and an institution wholly committed to reflecting and serving this remarkable community better than ever before.”