It’s been six months since Utah Symphony took the stage at Abravanel Hall! We express gratitude and thanks for the heartwarming support received from our community and colleagues during a time of uncertainty. While we haven’t been able to offer typical performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve still been busy finding ways to connect the community—from a distance—through great live music. Below, discover how Utah Symphony has brightened social media feeds, curated online educational resources, contributed to pandemic relief efforts, and even given world premieres of new pieces from home during quarantine.
Within a week of Utah’s schools closing in March, our Education Department organized existing digital content, converted other items to be shared digitally, and developed new ideas to help support teachers, parents and students in our suddenly digital-only learning environment. Utah Symphony’s School from Home page now offers Virtual Assemblies, education videos featuring the Musicians of the Utah Symphony, symphony bingo, listening music scavenger hunts, and “Ask a Musician” boxes.
In addition, the new Virtual Listening Room on utahsymphony.org includes links to streaming, curated playlists, past performance clips, and Ghost Light Podcast episodes. The latter series includes a special edition talking about the ways that music has connected humanity in times of crisis throughout history, as well as “Music Knows Exactly How You Feel” and “Live Music After Corona.”
In April, our orchestra musicians, staff, opera chorus members, and our volunteer network teamed up to express thanks to all of our supporters who have donated tickets to cancelled performances and stepped up their donations to make sure this organization continues well into the future. The Utah Opera costume shop team also completed several hundred masks in just two weeks to donate to Salt Lake Regional Medical Center.
KSL TV included our very own Tad Calcara (whose Good Mornin’ video on has 16,000+ shares and over 1 million views on Facebook) in a feature about the creative ways that people are finding to use music as salve during isolation. Tad’s other popular videos include arrangements of George Gershwin’s Somebody Loves Me and Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ on the Ritz. Four Utah Symphony trumpet players also recorded the theme song for ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ from their homes.
Other creative musical endeavors shared by Utah Symphony musicians include Associate Principal Trombone Sam Elliot playing a Bach two-part invention with a ‘Sam Elliot from the past’; Violin Lynn Rosen playing Jean-Marie Leclair’s Sonata for Two Violins with herself; Associate Principal Clarinet Erin Svoboda-Scott playing all three parts of a klezmer folk tune; and Principal Trumpet Travis Peterson, with the aid of recent guest conductor Jerry Steichen (all the way from his living room in Manhattan), performing “The Lord’s Prayer” for Easter. Violin Yuki MacQueen took social distancing seriously by performing a duet from a distance of 2000 miles with a student of hers from Haiti, Alexandre Santya. Concertmaster Madeline Adkins also joined seven of her concertmaster colleagues from around the country to perform the slow movement of Bach’s Double Concerto in D Minor, all from their respective homes.
In May, Utah Symphony shared a musical thank you to essential workers featuring Utah Symphony musicians playing Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Governor Gary Herbert, Congressional Representative Ben McAdams, and Senator Luz Escamilla joined Utah Symphony Musical Director Thierry Fischer and Interim President & CEO Pat Richards in a special introduction to the glorious music by our musicians set to photos of the valiant healthcare workers, essential staff, and first responders risking their lives to help us through this stressful time.
On May 8th, Utah Symphony celebrated our 80th anniversary! Our online birthday party included interviews with Music Director Thierry Fischer, former orchestra members, and recent guest artist Augustin Hadelich; performances by Utah Symphony musicians; birthday wishes from previous guest artists; a special message from Interim President & CEO Pat Richards; and even cake! We hope that you were able to join the celebration.
May also brought the two world premieres of pieces commissioned by Utah Symphony. First was Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity by Augusta Read Thomas. This piece was composed in late April and early May and recorded by the musicians of the orchestra in their homes, then audio engineered by Stoker White and Funk Studios and video produced and edited by Andrea Peterson. We believe this was the first world premiere by an American orchestra during the time of COVID-19. Thomas shared her thoughts on the project:
“I believe music feeds our souls. Unbreakable is the power of art to build community. Humanity has and will always work together to further music’s flexible, diverse capacity and innate power. The magnificence and energy of massed musical resources, such as an orchestra, are humbling, inspiring, and exemplify hope, solidarity and teamwork.”
The second premiere was Longing from Afar by Dai Fujikura. This piece is about being together even when we’re physically apart, and was recorded live via a video conference. Fujikura drew inspiration for this piece by “considering how all musicians make sound together even when we are all physically far apart.” Both premieres are still available on the Utah Symphony Facebook and YouTube pages.
One of the most exciting announcements of the summer was of the 2021 Deer Valley Music Festival, a year in advance! If you bought tickets for the 2020 festival performances or the Temptations at Abravanel Hall, you will be sent new tickets for the corresponding 2021 concerts. For all of you who are dreaming of escaping into great live music in the mountains again, tickets for the 2021 festival are on sale now.
Another exciting announcement came in June, with the appointment of Steven Brosvik as the next President and CEO of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. Steve has many years’ experience in leadership roles with Baltimore Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Houston Symphony and Nashville Symphony. He loves “Being one of the people who helps support getting the music on the stage and supporting incredible musicians to be able to make that music for the audience.”
Another wonderful opportunity to support USUO came thanks to the Alternative Visions Fund, an anonymous donor advised fund of the Chicago Community Foundation, which has awarded USUO a matching challenge grant in support of the Alternative Visions COVID-19 Relief Fund Challenge at USUO. All contributions received before October 1 will be matched on a 1:1 basis up to a total maximum match of $500,000. If you have been considering a contribution to USUO or increasing your annual gift, doing so before October 1 will make your investment go twice as far.
In August, a new 5,000 square foot public art piece was unveiled in downtown Salt Lake City that celebrates the impact of Utah women—past and present—in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The mural was commissioned by Zions Bank and is located on the east-facing wall of the Dinwoody Building located at 37 West 100 South. It includes current Utah Symphony musicians Concertmaster Madeline Adkins and Principal Flute Mercedes Smith, as well as long-time volunteer Lona Mae Lauritzen, and is a beautiful contribution to our community.
At another small, outdoor Park City event this summer, one guest remarked, “It was a thrill to just hear a live performance. I had to wipe a tear away to hear such beautiful music.” We feel the same way, and hope you do tonight as well. Thank you for helping Utah Symphony to once again connect the community through great live music. Please enjoy our re-imagined 2020–21 season!