What’s next for the Madison Symphony Orchestra

MADISON, Wis. — Despite cancelling all previously scheduled concerts and events through May 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Madison Symphony Orchestra is still finding ways to give back to the community and make music.

The orchestra is planning on providing a series of smaller performances that will be made available to the public online. “It’s a gift to the community,” Richard Mackie, the Executive Director of the orchestra, said.

“We’re still here, we’re still vital, we’re still kicking and still producing something,” Mackie exclaimed.

The orchestra’s annual Christmas concert will also be adapted to be virtual. The special concert will premiere Dec. 16 and be available to anyone for free.

The Christmas concert typically attracts more than 6,000 audience members, but “the spike in Wisconsin and the spike all over the country has made that impossible,” Mackie explained.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra is a full symphony orchestra, which means it has around 100 musicians on stage at once. “It’s impossible to socially distance 90-100 people,” Mackie said.

The orchestra’s decision to postpone the upcoming season was based off of local conditions and came after working closely with city, county and state public health officials. It leaves fans mourning the loss of the season, but also many artists and musicians without work.

“Artists everywhere are suffering because their usual livelihood has been interrupted,” Mackie explained. “They’re very vulnerable. Our industry is likely to be the to come back because of the nature of what we do — large gatherings in confined spaces.”

To help support their musicians, the orchestra created the Madison Symphony Orchestra Relief Fund. All donations go directly to players.

“With our musicians out of work totally, we are committed to doing our part to try to at least compensate them with relief payments that would be more or less equivalent to what they would be earning with us since the spring,” Mackie said. “So far we have contributed enough to cover all of their would have been payrolls through December.”

After the onset of the pandemic, orchestra members saw a huge outpouring of support from the public. “Its heartwarming actually and very encouraging to us because the response has been  so immediate and actually emotional,” Mackie said. He thinks this is because of how closely linked the orchestra is to the community: “Over the years theres been a real bond between the symphony and the community.”

Which is exactly why Mackie thinks the orchestra, and Madison, will survive the pandemic.

“Madison is a strong community. When we come out of this at the other end of the pipeline we’re all gonna be together making great music for our community again, and we’re looking forward to wonderful days ahead.”

Those interested in donating to the Madison Symphony Relief Fund can do so at madisonsymphony.org.