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Sarasota Orchestra 'Intact' Despite Challenges of COVID-19 Climate

Daniel Perales Studio
The Sarasota Orchestra at Van Wezel

The Sarasota Orchestra has managed to stay intact amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Like so many arts organizations, The Sarasota Orchestra has had to navigate the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. It canceled the remainder of its 2019-2020 season in early April and put the search for a new music director on hold.

CEO Joe McKenna said this isn't like hurricane season, which has a degree of predictability.

Sarasota Orchestra CEO Joe McKenna

"That is a tricky thing with a pandemic, it's very difficult to know when we can return to some level of normalcy. And first and foremost is the safety of our patrons, our musicians, our staff, volunteers. And that's really, really critical," he said.

"We have to allow the public health situation to resolve itself and allow our halls to be repopulated with excited and enthusiastic concert-goers and then we can resume live performances and much of the traditional programs for which we're known," McKenna added.

He credits the fact that they've been able to keep the Sarasota Orchestra intact to an "outstanding board of directors and an extraordinarily dedicated and generous community," despite, "having pressures and strains like all arts organizations."

They hosted some performances online in the spring, found ways to hold the Sarasota Music Festival virtually, and shifted their summer music camp for children to an online platform.

McKenna said the shutdown of in-person performance has also brought the need for live music into stark relief.

"And I think this environment that we're in right now really underscores just how important music and the arts are to the wellness of the human spirit. We know that there are a lot of patrons and audience members that might be living alone or isolated and separate from family and friends," he said. "And you know, to me, it's a reminder that music is a convener of people."

He also called on civic and government leaders to continue to support the arts.

McKenna said the Sarasota Orchestra is looking to the next season and expects to make an announcement about that very soon.

Sarasota Orchestra Strings
Daniel Perales Photography

I love telling stories about my home state. And I hope they will help you in some way and maybe even lift your spirits.
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