Cleveland Orchestra begins fall season with new coronavirus policies

Hannah Jackson, Contributing Reporter

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted those in the music industry. Between the cancellation of live shows, postponement of tours and the closure of venues, musicians across the country have felt the weight of the pandemic’s uncertainty. The Cleveland Orchestra, coined by The New York Times as “America’s most understatedly amazing orchestra,” is no stranger to the trials and tribulations of providing a world-class experience in a less than optimal environment. 

The orchestra, founded in 1918 and having recently celebrated its 102nd anniversary, has had to implement new coronavirus policies as announced by their president and CEO, André Gremillet. The 2020-2021 season, Gremillet explains, will “unfold in a dramatically different form,” as the fall concert series will be “performed live at Severance Hall without audiences.” This season’s five concert programs will be recorded and then made available for purchase by the public to be streamed from home online and with the Orchestra’s very own Adella app. The winter and spring season will operate similarly with the availability of the Adella streaming service in addition to having small, socially-distanced audiences for orchestra-subscribers. 

Ross Binnie, the chief brand officer for the Cleveland Orchestra reiterated, when asked about the future of live performances, said “Until there is a vaccine which is implemented broadly, we foresee socially-distanced audiences in limited numbers in the concert hall.”

Considering this change in delivery of many musical events across the country, the plight of individual performers in this new landscape is also of significant concern. Without income from various performances, many musicians are struggling to keep their heads above water as the pandemic continues to fight against the safe openings of music venues and the continuation of tours. Fortunately, the Cleveland Orchestra’s musicians are well known in the Cleveland community, with many performers also teaching private lessons in the surrounding area and working as faculty members at local music schools, such as the Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, as well as at Case Western Reserve University. 

By having this strong relationship with Cleveland residents and students, many locals are stepping up to find ways to help the Cleveland Orchestra and their musicians thrive despite the hindrances resulting from the virus. “The support of our Cleveland community has been extraordinary during the pandemic,” said Jane Hargraft, chief development officer with the orchestra. “More than 4,500 music lovers stepped forward this year to meet the Board of Trustees’ matching challenge, collectively contributing $6 million to the Orchestra Preservation Fund. The Blossom Preservation Challenge also surpassed its original goal, with the community giving $150,000 for Blossom Music Center, unlocking a $100,000 matching challenge from The William Bingham Foundation to preserve our summer home.” 

Students looking to support the orchestra while they get ready to begin their fall season on Oct. 15 can join the orchestra’s Student Advantage and Frequent Fan Card programs, which will continue for the 2020-2021 season. Student Advantage Club members will be able to access a free week-long trial of the Adella app to experience the new concert series “The Cleveland Orchestra: IN FOCUS,” while Frequent Fan Card holders will have the whole series available to them. Students are also encouraged to follow the Cleveland Orchestra’s social media platforms on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for more information about the upcoming fall season.