San Juan Symphony going online for 2020-21

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By Kathy Myrick
San Juan Symphony

Friends of the San Juan Symphony have come to expect thrilling live performances in Durango and Farmington, N.M. The beloved regional orchestra has been thriving, but now we are entering a time of incredible uncertainty. 

The coronavirus pandemic has upended plans in 2020, canceling both concerts and fundraisers and complicating the organization’s upcoming 35th season. Despite many months of difficult news — complete with closed venues, travel restrictions, health worries and canceled guest artists — the San Juan Symphony is preparing an online season of musical events unlike any in its history.

“We are determined to make music and to connect with our audience,” explained music director Thomas Heuser from his home in Durango. “Now more than ever before, we feel that music is essential, and so we are calling our 35th season Essential. We cannot have live audiences, nor can we bring large orchestras together, but we can still make music. And, so, rather than throw in the towel, we are thinking outside the box and bringing the symphony into people’s homes.”

The symphony has a digital season pass available for $99 by visiting www.sanjuansymphony.org. The virtual season ticket guarantees that, despite the pandemic, households in the Four Corners and around the country will be able to enjoy four subscription concerts of the San Juan Symphony, conducted by Heuser, prerecorded and released during exclusive, livestreamed events. In addition to the four main programs, the website will host a variety of engaging content, including the popular Pre-Concert Talks by Heuser, interviews with composers and musicians, plus a video series of solo and ensemble performances by San Juan Symphony musicians that have been commissioned by Heuser specifically for the online audience.

The musicians of the San Juan Symphony have been busy in advance of the website rollout. Season pass holders can already enjoy performances of music by Telemann, Haydn, Glazunov, Mozart and many others, with more than a dozen other projects already in the production pipeline. 

The first subscription event, scheduled for Oct. 3, will be called “Black Voices and a Ballet for Martha,” with Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring Ballet for its original 13 musicians alongside two new works by Black composers, launching a season-long conversation about diversity and inclusivity. Other composers planned for the subscription series include George Walker, Eleanor Alberga, Gustav Mahler and Astor Piazzola.

The digital season pass will provide access to exclusive website content for an entire year. As the season progresses, other ticketing options will be introduced, including a $25 week-long pass, a $5 day-pass with limited content access, and coupons for students and music teachers. 

While the virtual tickets may seem like an unfortunate alternative to live music, they also offer a unique opportunity to reach new audiences, particularly first-time listeners, families with young children, audiences in other parts of the country, and those who might have physical limitations to attending concerts. Aspects of the digital concert experience are likely to become lasting features of the symphony even after concert halls reopen.

Plans are also being made for the San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestra (SJSYO) program. With school music programs in jeopardy, SJSYO conductors Sayra Siverson and Molly Jensen are planning a robust year of musical instruction, designed with everyone’s safety in mind. Online tutorials and practice guides will assist students in their preparation of orchestral repertoire, with conductors and professional coaches establishing both remote and in-person relationships as the year progresses. More than anything, the students want to perform and, like their adult counterparts at the symphony, they look forward to being back onstage as soon as possible.

For complete information, please visit wwwsanjuansymphony.org.