In Canada, an orchestra lays off all musicians and staff

In Canada, an orchestra lays off all musicians and staff


norman lebrecht

March 19, 2020

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has suspended all 67 musicians, 30 admin staff, and 14 Sistema teachers from March 29.

‘The orchestra business is a very fragile one at the best of times,’ said WSO executive director Trudy Schroeder. ‘What is certain, though, is our priority to do whatever is needed to plan for a positive return to work for musicians and staff as soon as possible. These are our colleagues and friends. Our instinct is protect each other, especially at a time like this.’

To my friends in the orchestra – to James, Trudy and the rest – we prays this passes soon.

See also: The Met lays off orchestra and chorus

Trudy writes:

Toughest day at work ever. 67 musicians, 30 admin staff, 15 Sistema Winnipeg teachers. Heart breaking! This virus could not have hit at a worse time in our cash flow for the year…then suddenly no public concerts, no fundraisers, no international travel for guest artists….. but amazing to hear everybody come together with ideas and encouragement.

Just wish that those putting together emergency economic stimulus packages for the corporate sector had included a way for cultural groups to access these resources as well. This is more than 100 people to be out of work on March 29. It would be better for everyone if we could keep them employed during this strange and awful time. My job is to get them back to work as soon as possible. Anyone have ideas for me?


  • Willymh says:

    There had been a rumour that the Canada Council was putting together some sort of package for arts organizations throughout the country. Let’s hope that it comes through. It is also up to the Provincial governments to divert some of the funds provided by the Federal Government to arts organizations. Given the attitude of many of the current Provincial leaders to the arts it will be interesting to see if that happens.

    We can only hope with all our hearts.

    • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

      Any news on the London orchestras, given that the SOuth Bank Centre and the Barbican have both closed ?

      • V.Lind says:

        Both have noted that they can’t perform in their usual hangouts. Amazing air of “don’t blame us” on their websites.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        The London orchestras are owned by the musicians, who pay salaries. It will be tough, but they will survive without firing any musicians.

  • Anonymous says:

    Trudy makes an excellent point about how quick governments are to assist for-profit organizations, but seem to leave arts organizations who operate on razor-thin margins unaided. I guess the corporate lobby is just stronger.

  • CarlaMaria says:

    Use unrestricted funds from your endowment as a temporary measure to cover salaries for the next 6 months. In the meantime, work out streaming agreements with the union that allow the orchestra to stay visible during this time. When people are isolated there is even more need for cultural and artistic presence.

    • Will says:

      Assuming you have an endowment… Also, not possible for groups to play together at the moment given advice on social distancing.