On a Positive Note

Weekdays at 10 am and 5 pm

Launched following closures and cancellations due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak, On A Positive Note highlights the ways musicians and performing arts organizations are staying connected and sharing their music. The on-air program is a six-minute segment; the webcasts here contain the extended interviews.

Ways to Connect

When the stages went dark for performing arts organizations, The Metropolitan Opera was among the first to offer regular online streams, sharing one production each day in a series that is now in its 12th week. This initiative was expanded to include educational opera streams for young people and educators in early April.

The programs at Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute reach a broad cross-section of the city’s population - its Lullaby Project helps new parents write lullabies for their children, and songwriting programs reach both students from across the city and young people in the city’s correctional system, encouraging them to express themselves through music.

In addition to finding ways to bring music performances to its audiences online during the Covid-19 pandemic, Carnegie Hall also had to consider how to continue its connection to young people through the many programs it offers through the Weill Music Institute. Over the years it has created much online content for its school programs that reach students and teachers across the country, such as Musical Explorers, and its staff was able to make it available to families and educators looking for resources to keep children engaged in music. 

As students from the Eastman School of Music spent the last part of this school year spread across the country, the school sought to find a way to keep them connected musically and otherwise. The result was Eastman Connects, which encourages students and faculty to post videos and links to performances.

Sea chanteys and group singing have been part of the history of the South Street Seaport Museum for decades, and with all of us confined to our quarters, so to speak, the museum has brought the experience online. The now monthly event takes place on Zoom, where anyone can sign up to lead a song, sing-along, or simply sit back and enjoy the cameraderie. To add to the atmosphere, the museum has even provided some photos of its tallship Wavertree and black and white images of sailors you can use as your Zoom virtual background.

The Princeton Festival was one of the earlier summer festivals to acknowledge that the Covid-19 shut-down that began in mid-March would most likely not lift in time for it to prepare for its summer events. But canceling the opera, musical and other concert performances that usually run for several weeks in June did not mean the Festival was off entirely. After reviewing possible options, organizers put together a program of archived operas, new material from festival artists and a few live events that will run online from June 1 to 28.

Soprano Renee Fleming has been actively exploring the relationship between music and wellness for several years, including through her Sound Health initiative in her role as Artistic Advisor to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As the weeks of shelter-in-place and quarantine have stretched out, she felt that such an approach might help address the stress and anxiety many of us are feeling and has launched a weekly webseries called Music and Mind Live.

 

Like many other musical ensembles, members of the U.S. Army Field Band have found new outlets to reach the public through their music after the Covid-19 epidemic pre-empted their regular touring schedule. Instead, they are presenting daily livestreamed concerts called "We Stand Ready,"

As it became clear that the Covid-19 shutdown was going to last into the summer, Opera Theatre of St. Louis found ways to transform its summer festival into an online feast of performances, watch parties, lectures - even preserving its traditional pre-opera picnic dinners via a home delivery service. But its staff also recognized the growing need in the broader arts community of the region and has brought it together for a fundraiser, called Arts United STL, to benefit area artists on May 31.

© Roger Mastroianni / Courtesy of The Cleveland Orchestra

When the Cleveland Orchestra cancelled its concerts due to Covid 19, cellist Alan Harrell felt it would be helpful to continue some form of its music education program by doing some sessions virtually, which he called Classical Kiddos with Alan.  If all goes well, this Friday there will be a very special edition - called Live from the NICU. Harrell, now a brand new dad, plans to perform from the hospital room where his son is staying after being born several weeks. 

As summer approaches, camps and other summer programs are looking for ways to bring their programs online to provide young people at least some virtual opportunities. At Mercer County Community College, Kelsey Theatre is revamping its Tomato Patch program so that it can continue to offer the selection of visual arts, dance, theater and other arts activities it has for 48 years. M. Kitty Getlik, artistic director of Kelsey Theatre and the director of Tomato Patch, discusses the theatre's plans. 

In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell wrote an uplifting anthem called Light Shall Lift Us. The reassuring and hopeful tone of the piece seemed to address the mood in our present-day situation, and Moravec said they turned to Opera America to find an opportunity to share it.

  As part of their training, the fellows of the New World Symphony are used to creating innovative ways to bring musical performances to audiences. So as they sheltered in place iat home in Miami Beach, it didn’t take long for them to begin broadcasting concerts digitally from their living room - even if it meant learning the ins and outs of audio and video engineering and creating some unusual small chamber ensemble combinations.  Horn player Scott Leger and cellist Chava Appiah share some of their thoughts on presenting these “Live From our Living Room” concerts.

  The Fifth Annual New York Opera Festival was scheduled to open in April - but by the time it became clear that theaters would not be open by then, the organizers realized that a whole new opportunity had opened up. So many of the participating opera companies had found ways to bring performances, workshops and other initiatives on line that the festival could indeed go on - virtually, serving as a hub of information of the city’s vibrant opera scene.

 

The Zzak G Applaud Our Kids Foundation was created to provide assistance and access to the arts for students who might not otherwise be able to pursue their creative talents. When the Covid-19 epidemic brought all instruction online, the foundation has adapted and has even expanded its reach to include other students searching online for music and dance options. This Saturday, the Foundation will host a day-long dance event with classes and workshops, called United We Dance.

Mark Roemisch

As the Coronavirus epidemic led to closures and shut-downs around their hometown of Lawrence, Massachussetts, Anna Wiliams and Misha Veselov, the violinist and cellist of the Neave Trio, faced the cancellation of more than their trio's performances - they were among those couples who had to put off their wedding plans.

The Vail Jazz Foundation’s main programs are its summer Festival as educational program. With the music world heading online, it is supporting its musicians by promoting their own online concerts and has created virtual classroom projects - all of which can now reach an even wider audience. Meghan Scallen, Vail Jazz's marketing manager, talks about some of these initiatives, which will be expanded in the coming weeks.

 

When New Jersey theaters had to shut down because of the Covid-19 Coronavirus, the New Jersey Theatre Alliance hoped that it would be possible for some theaters to reopen in time to preserve some of its annual Stages Festival, originally scheduled to run from March through May.

Clay McBride

As the number of lives lost to Covid-19 continues to rise, Lincoln Center and New York’s spiritual leaders came together to find a way to fill the void left by the inability to hold traditional funerals and gatherings. The result was “Memorial for Us All,” a weekly online tribute Sundays at 6 pm that combines music chosen and performed by an artist-curator, words of comfort from religious leaders, and the names of people who have died of the virus, submitted by loved ones.

National YoungArts Foundation had scheduled Pianist Conrad Tao to present the final concert in its new YoungArts at Ted’s series in Miami this month. But with quarantines still underway, the audience has been invited - virtually - to YoungArts at Conrad’s, from the pianist’s home in New York Thursday, May 7 at 7 pm. YoungArts, which supports young artists from their teens and continuing throughout their careers, will also present an online chat for young composers featuring violinist Jennifer Koh and composer Andrew Norman next week.

Like symphonies across the country, the Minnesota Orchestra was forced to cancel the rest of its regular 2019-2020 season as the extent of the Covid-19 epidemic became apparent. But they are among few orchestras that have announced plans to create a new late summer addition to make up for some of the lost opportunities to share music with their community, moving some of the planned programs to August and September. Its musicians have also been sharing music online through Minnesota At Home. President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns discusses these programs. 


With the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic reaching into every corner of society, non-profit organizations have faced a deluge of challenges: more people are in need of food and support after losing jobs; the volunteers who often staff and support many organizations are shut at home or have fallen ill themselves; cultural organizations have had to close museums and centers and cancel programs and performances, resulting in the loss of revenue.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra was looking forward to its next OrchestraYou program, where it invites musicians of all skill levels and ages to join its own musicians following a concert to play together. When it had to cancel the rest of its season because of the Covid-19 pandemic, its staff decided why not try a virtual program, inviting all those who had wanted to participate to submit a video of them playing the Scherzo of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, which could be crafted into one performance like many of the others we’ve seen online.

Over the past month, Opera Philadelphia has been offering short clips of past productions, called "Opera on the Couch." During that time, the staff has been able to ready some of its works to premiere for online audiences. Its Virtual Festival launches today, with a line up of five of the operas it has staged in recent years, as well as special opening night features. President and General Director David Devan talks about making the virtual festival possible.

Photo by Peter Serling

Since it was first launched in 1987 by composers David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon, The Bang on a Can Marathon has been the centerpiece of programs and initiatives to support new music making and introduce audiences to new music. This year, even with musicians shut in at home across the globe, the usually New York based marathon will go on - virtually - on May 3 from 3 pm to 6 pm ET. Lang explains the importance of the event - then and now.

  When McCarter Theater staff began looking through its archives for clips that it could share with audiences, they started small - some photos, short video clips. They gradually built on that, expanding their “McCarter @Home” series, which this week launches  a conversation segment, called “Social Distance in 60 Minutes,” with actor Michael Shannon as its first guest. In addition, McCarter will honor its long-time Artistic Director Emily Mann this Saturday in a carefully-crafted virtual gala.

Kristen Loken

Donato Cabrera, music director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and California Symphony, challenged himself to write daily entries for his previously weekly blog when he first began sheltering in place in his home in San Francisco. He certainly didn’t expect he’d still be doing it six weeks later, but he’s kept up with his challenge, and recently added a weekly Facebook Live chat with guest artists.

When The Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey cancelled its summer tour to Finland and the Baltic region as the Covid-19 outbreak began its global spread, its staff was only just beginning to realize that things would be changing for the orchestra back home as well. With school closures and the implementation of stay-at-home rules, they had to find new ways to keep the young musicians of its various ensembles engaged in music - and provide a way to hold auditions for next year.

Brooke Mead, a masters student in viola performance at Temple University, is just one of thousands of students who was looking forward to a senior or graduate recital, only to be devastated as schools shifted to online instruction because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But she found unexpected help when she asked how a musician can deal with the disappointment of cancelled performances during a Zoom panel discussion with Philadelphia Orchestra Assistant Principal Cellist Yumi Kendall.

As the New York City Ballet set about bringing together video recordings of past performances that they could offer as a digital season after stay at home policies forced the cancellation of their regular Spring season, they were excited to learn that the world premiere performance of Rotunda, with music by Nico Muhly and choreographed by Resident Choreographer and Artistic Advisor Justin Peck, had been recorded.

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