Coronavirus: US music goes into shutdown

Coronavirus: US music goes into shutdown


norman lebrecht

March 12, 2020

The San Francisco and New Jersey symphony orchestras have cancelled the coming two weeks of concerts due to new restrictions. The San Francisco concert hall is shut. UPDATE: The SFSO’s farewell tour to Europe with Michael Tilson Thomas is also off.

The Cleveland Orchestra has called off this weekend’s concerts.

Opera San Jose and Opera Maryland have scratched upcoming productions.

LA’s  Piatigorsky International Cello Festival is off.

Itzhak Perlman has dropped out of a six-city tour. Yuja Wang has called off a Europe tour, as has the Emerson Quartet.

Curtis on Tour concerts in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Detroit have been cancelled, along with student auditions.

Music colleges have told students not to come in for tuition or rehearsal. They are encouraged to make online contact with teachers.

From the Eastman School of Music:

We know that social distancing is effective in slowing down or stopping the spread of a disease. Earlier this week, we put some social distancing measures into effect, limiting the size of some gatherings and prohibiting international and domestic business travel. The intent of these measures is to limit exposure both to those who may be ill and to those who may be contagious but who are not displaying symptoms. These measures may keep you from getting sick; they will also greatly lower the risk that COVID-19 will be introduced to our campuses and healthcare facilities, so that these measures may also keep others from getting sick.

In consultation with the University Cabinet, we have decided that more stringent social distancing measures must be taken until the end of the semester. This means that:

For the rest of this academic year, instruction for Undergraduate and Graduate students in AS&E and for most schools at the University will take place online. University ITS and our Department of Online Education have developed information on preparing for remote teaching, learning, and working and for transitioning traditional courses to online courses. Faculty who transition to online classes will retain copyright to their instructional material.




  • Save the MET says:

    At this point for the safety of musicians, staff and audience, a hiatus is in order for musical and theatrical events. No telling who has it at this point, especially in larger cities in the U.S. where testing kits are still not widely available.

    • anon says:

      And – result – the Per Service musicians in states with one or two cases and no cases in the immediate area of the venue will not be getting paid.

      How about requests that audience members make responsible decisions as to whether to attend or not, refunds to audience members concerned about attending, live-streaming to paying patrons, etc. This is the arts – let’s get creative in problem solving!

      • Save the MET says:

        1. People in a number of professions are not getting paid right now. Some orchestras are doing either radio or television/YouTube concerts.
        2. There are musicians unions for a reason, this is the time that they need to support their members.
        3. People can have the coronavirus and not know it, it has up to a 2 week incubation period and therefore, even if someone is well, they can spread it unknowingly. Then those folks who have caught the virus from someone in the audience goes home and spreads it to their family, friends and co-workers. (That’s community spread. The folks in the town of New Rochelle New York now have a quarantine in effect with the National Guard present. A synagogue in the town has a barrier around it now, no in, or out. It is the same principal as an audience.)
        4. People who have had the virus and are over it have a 57 day period when they still have the virus in their body and can spread it.

        Creative problem solving cannot be with an audience in major cities. Anyone who thinks it is a smart idea to sit with a large group of colleagues in an environment when for instance spit is involved, as in brass and reed instruments, should have reason to be concerned, moreover with an audience.

        This is a very difficult time for everyone, not just musicians.

        • anon says:

          In many smaller and regional orchestras -the salaried administrators get paid, can work from home, have the health benefits. The working musicians – per service and contract and subs – have only the service pay, no salary, no benefits. Stopping the music will not change the situation of many administrators, but do impact the musicians putting on the show.

          Musician Union – sure, right. Work XXXX hours per year and you are maybe eligible for benefits. Most per service musicians don’t reach that XXXX number in my local. Unions may work great if you are CSO, but not if you are in trenches of freelancing.

          Have some pity for the working American musician.

      • Peter San Diego says:

        Before offering refunds, performing arts organizations could request ticket-holders to convert unused tickets to (tax-deductible?) charitable donations, thus providing a modicum of relief to the organizations. Then offer refunds to those who decline to convert unused tickets to donations.

    • Hmus says:

      Testing kits are not only not ‘widely’ available – fewer than 8,000 tests have been completed in the US to date, and the 27 MILLION Americans without health care of any sort have no access to testing, let alone any kind of treatment.

  • Amos says:

    Perhaps finally the US executive branch will take this public health crisis seriously and forego the urge to focus on the political implications. That said on Monday trump chose to convene a meeting with bank CEOs to discuss the situation rather than his public health experts. Reliable reporting indicates that each and every CEO indicated that the solution to the problem was not economic but mitigating the spread of the virus. Clearly, based on last night’s address and the vp’s comments this morning the message has failed to penetrate the executive branch. Thank goodness that state leaders are taking actions which are based on public health concerns.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      States are taking the matters in their hands, and scientists speak up. I wonder how many people choose to ignore the scientists and instead listen to politically motivated misinformation.

      • Amos says:

        Today, perhaps the most important person in the US is Anthony Fauci. His credentials as an infectious disease expert are impeccable and his long-standing work at the NIH, in Democratic and Republican administrations, should provide validation that he is apolitical. The world can only hope that he continues to provide publicly leadership strategies for dealing with the pandemic and that he remains steadfast in resisting trump’s attempts to politicize the crisis.

  • kaa12840 says:

    Juilliard has gone virtual; all classes will be done by videoconferencing. Just had my ear training lesson that way; terrific; sitting at home, having a nice espresso while trying to sing

  • Barry says:

    Philadelphia is supposed to kick off its four-week-long Beethoven Symphony cycle tonight.

    Just about every other major event in the city has been canceled by now, but the Orchestra apparently still plans to go ahead with the concert according to their web site.

    I understand they have financial difficulties and that cancelling concerts and issue refunds would be a major financial hit. But the situation with the virus has picked up a lot of steam in the U.S. in just the past couple days. It seems inevitable that most of the concerts during the cycle will be cancelled. I think they should just go ahead and make the announcement now. There are a lot of elderly people that attend these concerts.

    • Barry says:

      Correction: I just heard that the Orchestra has changed course and issued notice that all concerts through March 23rd are cancelled as of now. That would cover four of the nine symphonies, but I would be surprised if the other two programs aren’t cancelled in the coming weeks.