We had a fantastic week of music-making together, closing out our beloved Robert Spano’s 20-year tenure as the Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Having been allowed a maximum of 35 musicians onstage this season, it was surreal to gather 70 members strong for the first time in over a year to bring to life Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. From the familiar opening sounds of Mahler’s sleigh bells to the angelic finale, goosebumps were felt by more than a few of us from the sonic beauty and the poignant moment we were all experiencing together. Maestro Spano has been so much more than just our Music Director; he has been a collaborator, an innovator, and, above all, a friend to the musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Though he directed his first concert in Atlanta immediately following the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks and concluded his tenure in the waning days of the worldwide Covid 19 pandemic, the beauty created during, around, and in-spite of those events with Maestro Spano will never be forgotten. He has left a legacy of recordings, the formation of the Atlanta School of Composers, and a humanity that will resonate with all of us onstage for many years to come. We thank you, Maestro, for the love and inspiration that you have given the Atlanta Symphony musicians!
ATLANTA — When the pandemic shut down concert halls and venues, Atlanta's art scene had to get creative to survive. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra led the way.
An $11 million pandemic drop in revenue is a big loss to overcome, but the music is still playing with the musicians avidly rehearsing at the Atlanta Symphony under the direction Music Director Robert Spano and the Orchestra’s Executive Director Jennifer Barlament.
“By the end of June 2020, it all just evaporated. It was almost unimaginable for us. What we do is make music and we make music for people and for the ability to do that kind of went away overnight along with a lot of revenue as well,” Barlament said.
Although the musicians were kept on the payroll, 25 percent of the administrative staff was cut, but the Symphony pressed on.
They presented digital and live concerts, and two television specials, with both adding revenue.
With the sunshine and warmer temperatures last week, it has been feeling like spring has sprung in Atlanta!
There is almost a sense of optimism with more vaccines becoming available and the planning for our 2021-22 season, which might look much more normal than this one. We miss connecting face to face with our loyal fans, and we are all crossing our fingers for in-person concerts in the fall!
The ATL Symphony Musicians have truly enjoyed recording our recent performances with our wonderful Music Director, Robert Spano, and with special guests Gemma New, Peter Oundjian, and Nathalie Stutzmann. The ASO Virtual Stage has had an even wider reach in 2021. Did you know that college students can enjoy access to the entire spring series for only $20? CLICK HERE for more information.
Finally, we ask that you take a moment to contact your GA representative to support HB 586, a bipartisan effort to restore tax-exempt status for ticket sales at not-for-profit performing arts and exhibition-related businesses in Georgia. This would be very helpful for the ASO going forward. More information can be found HERE.
The ATL Symphony Musicians
Congratulations to Jason Zgonc, son of ATL Symphony Musician trombonist Nathan Zgonc!
We certainly hope Dr. Fauci is correct in his projection. We’ve so missed playing for our audiences in person! Let’s all continue doing our part to stay safe and healthy and make this a reality!
Dr. Anthony Fauci said he thinks theaters and other live entertainment venues could reopen “some time in the fall of 2021” during a conference held by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals on Saturday, January 9th.
As The New York Times reports, Fauci said live entertainment’s return depended on vaccination rollout and getting between 70 to 85% of the population vaccinated.
“If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall of 2021, so that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience,” Fauci said.
Today we honor and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As residents of Atlanta, we are humbled to live in a city which holds so much historical significance in the ongoing fight for equality.
Though Dr. King was a great unifier, we mustn’t forget how he challenged us:
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Silence is complicity. Lack of understanding and of the will to seek it are damaging. Saying “This is not who we are” every two months is ignoring the sobering image reflecting back at us in the mirror. Let’s seek unity, but first let’s try for understanding and justice.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! This year and the first half of our season have been so many things both good and bad, but we’re so so thankful to be where we are!
We wrapped up work for the fall last week at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. It was arguably the most singularly challenging experience ever at the hall working under very unusual conditions. For 15 weeks we prerecorded and streamed programs. There were no live audiences, only 35 players onstage, 90 minutes sessions at most, temperature checks at the door and weekly covid testings, and only 2 play-through takes allowed to choose from.
The process was difficult and frustrating for many reasons. It’s hard to sit socially distanced from each other. There were plexiglass shields around wind players, protectively placed there but which also made hearing neighbors a virtual impossibility and playing together a total guessing game. Most players were rotated off more than a week at a time, thus eliminating a continuity that we rely on to play as an ensemble.
BUT. Some silver lining things happened within these parameters. There was an urgency to these recordings and to only getting literally one second chance. I think people listened more intently, aiming to leave less to chance. Instructions from the conductor and feedback from the recording booth had a different focus and were more concise and to the point. As a result, there were some memorable moments I happily point to— performances by the orchestra’s own soloists, some passages in the Ravel week and Beethoven 1.
What made me proudest, however, was how musicians took ownership of the process, both as a group and individually, to get the the job done. We dialogued with each other more and made cooperative decisions. We voiced concerns to make sure we had what we needed. We foot-clapped when something special happened. But mostly we were proactive in a way that the moment asked of us. I LOVED IT and I loved watching it happen.
After the holidays we will continue with the same process for the remainder of the season with an opportunity to keep fine-tuning things. What I’m hoping most for is that even when things return to normal our ability to influence our output remains intact the way we discovered we could this fall.
A few months ago your ATL Symphony Musicians were approached by local photographer Hillery Conroy Terenzi about a new campaign: Wear the Damn Mask. Her project focuses on artists and musicians out of work because of Covid 19. Though we are so happy to be back at work, there are many others who are not as fortunate. Please #wearthedamnmask so we can move forward and bring back music to live audiences!
Warmest fall greetings from your ATL Symphony Musicians!
We hope this newsletter finds you healthy and enjoying the cooler temperatures. Our musicians have been excited and grateful to return to performing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. We have many Covid precautions, including fewer musicians on stage, plexiglass, health and temperature checks, and lots of distance between us, but it was incredible to record the music for our opening week for virtual streaming! After six months of not being able to play together, it was a true joy to hear the artistry of all of our colleagues again. Many musicians have also been involved in activities in our community, including virtual concerts, interviews, masterclasses, and social media events.
Bravo to our friends at the Atlanta Opera for a creative Covid solution to their upcoming new season!
Billing it as their Big Tent Series, general & artistic director Tomer Zvulun has built a season that pairs well-known chamber operas with more experimental and often satirically-biting choices – an approach which draws upon the company’s successful track record of experimentation of its critically acclaimed Discoveries series of smaller, seldom seen works performed in alternative venues, while addressing the company’s charge to “reimagine” opera.
“I believe that crisis reveals character and provides opportunities for change,” says Zvulun. “This pandemic has devastated so many lives and businesses. But it has also been a major catalyst in accelerating our shift to a business model that we have been discussing for years: creating a company of players, performing in non-traditional spaces and developing our video and streaming capabilities.”
ATL Symphony Musicians