Humanizing The Impact Of The Pandemic On Musicians

While it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the pandemic has seen numerous arts administrators and musicians leave the field entirely, it’s one thing to look at it as a statistic and something else entirely to humanize it.

To that end, Jeremey Reynolds wrote an excellent article for the 7/22/21 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that examines a cross section of musicians and their decision to stay or leave the field.

What makes the post especially useful for those of us inside the field is how good of a job he does at reminding us that most professional musicians don’t earn their living in a single orchestra.

While organizations like the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Opera have come through in one piece, however, independent musicians at smaller regional orchestras and groups took the brunt of the impact. Smaller ensembles could not continue employing them through the pandemic.

This mirrors what we uncovered here after tracking employment status of orchestra stakeholders over the first six months of the pandemic. Based on those figures, per-service musicians experienced the worst of it.

Right out of the gate in April, 2020 just over half indicated moving into unemployed status with a scant three percent indicating being fully employed. By June, 2020 the ratio of unemployed increased to just under 3/4 and see-sawed around that proportion through August, 2020. There are no two ways about it, per-service musicians have been enduring a grim employment reality.

You can read more about how employment status changes for orchestra stakeholders in the review article from Sep 8, 2020.

After Five Months, Orchestra Stakeholders Have Seen Big Changes In Employment Status

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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