As Connecticut faces continued uncertainty about when large groups will be permitted to safely gather, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra has made the difficult decision to cancel the first three Masterworks concerts of the 20-21 season: Bernstein & Copland (October 2-4, 2020), Mendelssohn’s Italian (November 6-8, 2020), and Tchaikovsky & Grieg (December 4-6, 2020). The October 30, 2020 POPS! performance of The Empire Strikes Back in Concert has also been cancelled.
All additional, regular HSO programming and concert series will be evaluated as restrictions regarding indoor events evolve.
Patrons who hold tickets to the cancelled performances have the following options:
The HSO Box Office can be reached by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (preferable method) or by calling 860-244-2999.
Although residents cannot gather in large numbers, the HSO is working to develop compelling alternative forms of fall programming. Our hope is that fall 2020 will also feature several exciting subscriber and donor-exclusive events, including both virtual experiences and intimate, in-person performances.
Introducing HSO To Go, our new online home for performances, music education, and other great digital content featuring HSO musicians!
Listen to an archival recording of the HSO, learn from a master teacher, and connect with HSO musicians all from the comfort of your own home.
HSO to Go will be updated frequently, so be sure to check back often to see what's new!
To our Generous Supporters,
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra, like so many other great arts institutions, is exercising an abundance of caution during this public health crisis and our administrative staff have put measures in place that allow us to continue our work remotely while The Bushnell is currently closed to all activity.
Even though our performances and events have been cancelled or postponed in accordance with Governor Lamont’s directive, the "show" must go on. We are creators, improvisers, innovators. While we cannot control Covid-19, we can respond to it with imagination and determination. Historically, the world’s most transformative art has been created out of struggle and perseverance under difficult conditions.
As lovers of the arts, the Hartford Symphony needs you now more than ever. Behind closed doors, our staff continues the work of this great institution. We are still busy planning performances, selling tickets, designing beautiful publications, and preparing for an historic 25th season of the Talcott Mountain Music Festival this summer. When the stage lights come up once again, we will gratefully reveal the fruits of our labor to you, our loyal supporters, who have walked this journey with us.
For years we have said that music builds community. Now, more than ever, we feel that music is community. Music possesses the rare and immense power to lift spirits, cleanse the soul, and bring us all together under a common language.
The Hartford Symphony and our community are a team. Successes are sweetened and defeats softened because we experience them together. And at a time like this, we want to say sincerely, thank you for being on our team. We hope you will walk with us hand in hand though this difficult time and enjoy the beautiful future on the other side.
As we are temporarily without ticket revenue, your support at this time is crucial. Please consider renewing your support now, making an extra gift, or choosing this time to pay your outstanding pledge to our Annual Fund to help maintain our operating needs.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out at any time and we’ll be happy to speak with you. Our phone numbers, listed below, are going directly to our emails, so we can remain in touch to answer your calls.
Most gratefully, from the HSO Development Staff,
Ruth Sovronsky, Development Director – 860-760-7321
Eric R. Hutchinson, Corporate & Foundation Relations Manager – 860-760-7329
Jen Galante, Annual Fund & Special Events Manager – 860-760-7302
Ted Bruttomesso, Capital Campaign Manager - 860-760-7309
What has the HSO been up to during the last six months?
Answer: Due to the increasing threat of COVID-19 in Connecticut, the HSO canceled the remainder of the traditional 2019-2020 season, beginning with March’s Dvořák’s Eighth Masterworks performances. Soon after, we launched HSO To Go – our new online home for performances, music education, and other great digital content. HSO musicians – solo and in groups – created 24 “At Home with the HSO” video performances, seven education videos, three student performances, five archival HSO performances, and seven special features – a total of 46 videos and audio recordings, which resulted in more than 74,000 digital views.
The continued restrictions on gathering in large numbers compelled the cancellation of the Talcott Mountain Music Festival, but that didn’t stop us from offering live performances this summer. The HSO Summer Splash! Series was born, a series of small ensemble outdoor concerts, entirely free to the public, at Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center, and on Pratt Street and at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Downtown Hartford. In all, more than 1,300 people attended and enjoyed great, live music by HSO musicians.
What has the HSO done to keep its staff and musicians employed throughout this crisis?
With the tremendous support of donors, ticket buyers and institutional funders, plus a substantial Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loan this spring, we were able to keep all our staff and musicians employed and fully compensated through August. While the staff worked steadily, musicians were kept on salary whether they were working or not. (For just one week in the spring, all employee compensation was reduced by 20% as we awaited confirmation of the approval of our PPP loan.) From August 31 through September 27 the orchestra is typically “off-contract," meaning they do not receive compensation during this period.
Why did the HSO furlough the orchestra musicians?
Faced with diminishing prospects for the continuation of our outdoors concerts this fall, (the orchestra’s union-mandated minimum temperature requirement is 68 degrees), and state government regulations forbidding indoor events of more than 25 people (including performers, crew, etc.), all regular programming has been cancelled through December 31, 2020 at the earliest. Without our regular programming we cannot generate the typical earned revenue we rely on, and therefore, are without the financial resources needed to keep 86 musicians and 17 staff members on full salary.
After careful consideration of our options and the delicate balance of our imperative to protect the long-term survival of the HSO with short term goals, the HSO management team and Board of Directors made the heart-wrenching decision, to furlough the regular musicians of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra as of September 28th for an undetermined period of time, and to impose staff furloughs and pay cuts as well.
What changes were made to the HSO’s staff?
Given the conditions referenced above, 3 staff members were furloughed, 1 position was eliminated and 1 position is left unfilled indefinitely, effective September 1st. These changes represent a 30% reduction in staff but the staff workload hasn’t substantially changed. All remaining staff have taken substantial compensation reductions ranging from 20% to 50%, Music Director Carolyn Kuan included.
Are the furloughed musicians and staff still employed by the HSO?
Answer: YES! Furloughed workers remain employees of the employer and are eligible to return to work on a modified or unmodified basis. You can learn more about furloughs here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furlough
Will the musicians have the opportunity to work for and be paid by the HSO during the furlough?
Answer: YES! Although regular symphonic programming is not currently possible, it is vitally important that we continue to offer our musicians opportunities to perform, as a essential component of our mission to serve and enrich our community through music. Even though the orchestra is furloughed, our plan is to engage individual musicians in “alternative” programming and compensate each musician for such work, based upon the ‘service rate’ paid to musicians. Such programming will be smaller in scale and utilize far fewer musicians than usual but will present a broad spectrum of music for every member of our community.
What kind of programming will be produced?
Answer: For the time being all programming will be “digital” or online. Here are some examples of what is in development and on our calendar:
Do you plan to bring back all of the HSO musicians and staff?
Answer: YES – as soon as regulations permit us to return to full performances and audiences. We expect this process to unfold in stages as Governor Lamont gradually expands allowable indoor audience capacity and our performance venues, including the Bushnell Performing Arts Center, begin to allow performances.
With musicians and staff furloughed and programming altered, what does my donation support?
Answer: Your generosity during the last six months made it possible to keep our musicians and staff employed, despite the fact we could not hold any large scale symphony performances. It also enabled us to create virtual programming, which offered work to the musicians and engaged our community. (Please visit HSO To Go: https://hartfordsymphony.org/hso-to-go)
Your continued support helps us to create the new programming listed above, including virtual performances and brand new education programs, which are urgently needed to bring ongoing value to our community, as well as meaningful work and compensation to musicians. And when we can return to traditional performances with live audiences, we’ll need to be prepared and able to meet the substantial production expenses that such performances require.
Are musicians and staff eligible to apply for and collect unemployment benefits while on furlough?
Answer: Yes. The HSO supports unemployment benefits for all of our furloughed employees.
What is the HSO’s current financial condition and can it survive this crisis?
Answer: The HSO completed its 2019-20 season and fiscal year on August 31. Fortunately, we enjoyed a very successful first half of the season which somewhat prepared us for the turmoil of the second half of the season. Thanks to the incredible generosity of supporters, hard work, and a Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loan, we ended the fiscal year at near-break even and an uncompromised endowment.
There is no question that we have many substantial challenges to overcome in the 2020-21 season. Our Board of Directors has approved an organizational budget that forecasts negative net income of several thousand dollars – even with the orchestra and staffing reductions described above. The Board of Directors and senior management have accepted the responsibility of finding ways to control and reduce this deficit throughout the season. Ultimately, our greatest responsibility is to protect and position the HSO for the future in an unpredictable environment - so that the music will once again soar, delight, thrill, soothe and bring us closer than ever.
Who can I contact for comments and more information?