ACSO Members Share Their "Coming Together, Breaking Through" Stories

Leading up to the ACSO 2021 Annual Conference Online, we asked members to share their "Coming Together, Breaking Through" stories about how their orchestras brought people together to find support, healing, and inspiration during the global pandemic. 

We compiled written and video responses submitted by ACSO members from All Seasons Orchestra, Folsom Lake Symphony, Mainly Mozart, Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, and San Diego Youth Symphony. Their answers truly depict the dedication to providing music and connection for their communities. Read and enjoy!

 Susan Bicknell, Librarian
All Seasons Orchestra

How did your organization keep the music alive in the community?

We organized  a virtual orchestra of not just our own musicians, but of musicians from another regional orchestra, Eureka Symphony, and reached out to an orchestra that shares our name, but is located in York, United Kingdom. At one point we had musicians participating from four time zones. Our UK partner organized virtual rehearsals and so did we. At one point, we had three sets of virtual rehearsals going on - whole orchestra, strings, and flutes. Thirty five musicians submitted 47 tracks for the performance of Waltz of the Flowers. Each of our two virtual performances took about four months to complete, from producing and distributing guide videos and instructions, inviting participants, practicing, and then recording individual performances. The post-recording production took about six weeks each, but both video projects were completed on schedule. We completed the second virtual orchestra project just in time to restart the orchestra in person. The sense of accomplishment and the camaraderie built thorough the virtual experience is carrying over into the face to face experience.  We are extremely glad to be back together again, but the virtual experience got us through the pandemic. Both videos are accessible through our website at

Anson Wong, President
Folsom Lake Symphony

What was your organization's proudest moment during the pandemic? 

Our proudest moment was presenting our first live orchestra concert in over 16 months to a capacity crowd on June 19, 2021. We were first to present an outdoor concert with the full orchestra and without restrictions in the Sacramento region. We originally scheduled a live performance (socially distanced orchestra, outdoors) with no audience that would be recorded and broadcasted at a later date. We decided to take a risk and push the concert to June and invite community to attend without any restrictions in anticipation of Governor Newson's June 15 health directive changes. The risk paid off and the connection between the musicians and the community that evening was palpable. The concert was also recorded and was aired on YouTube on July 4 weekend.

How did your organization keep the music alive in the community?

During the pandemic, we kept music alive in our community through social media. We produced over 30 YouTube videos ranging from "Meet Our Musicians" videos where individual musicians talked about their background, to small ensembles playing short works to video mosaics with the full orchestra and conductor. We also produced two full concert videos: 1) a holiday concert comprised of a mixture of previous year highlights and new mosaic performances, and 2) a full concert recording of our last live performance from February 2020. Other activities included making "wellness" phone calls to our patrons to exchange our thoughts, sending eblasts to keep the community informed and holding our first online auction to keep people engaged. 

Nancy Laturno, CEO
Mainly Mozart

How did your organization keep the music alive in the community?

2020 promised to be a landmark year for Mainly Mozart with a record-breaking gala and robust ticket sales. We had barely heard of COVID when our chamber music series opened on March 7. Yet, just seven days later, Mainly Mozart canceled all March and April galas and concerts. Determined not to “cancel”, on March 24, we “postponed” the 32nd annual June Mainly Mozart Festival.

The arts world raced to the safety of online programming. Mainly Mozart hosted Zoom concerts, masterclasses by renowned artists, and Zoom Happy Hours featured Festival artists and reunited friends – all while maintaining a dogged commitment to live performance. On July 11, 2020 - in a dirt parking lot of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, filled with grateful musicians and enthusiastic audience - Mainly Mozart became the first major U.S. arts organization to produce live classical music for a live audience.

Artists performed socially-distanced and masked, rewarded by honking horns rather than applause. There were tears onstage and off, as artists and audience shared the thrill of live performance that had been unceremoniously silenced for more than four months. Mainly Mozart’s Drive-in concerts brought inspiration and respite to thousands of Southern Californians hungering for live music and social interaction.

The first 10 drive-ins were offered at no charge, followed by September and October festivals charged by the carload. Every concert filled to capacity within days of its announcement. Thanks to a strong marketing effort focused on social media and unprecedented national press, 60% were first-time attendees. In December 2020, Mainly Mozart announced an increase from one annual orchestral festival, to three – then to five. In June 2021, Mainly Mozart created an open-air venue drawing 1,000 concertgoers night after night.

From COVID-19, the Mainly Mozart Festival of Orchestras, and a new era for Mainly Mozart, was born.

Giuliano Kornberg, Chief Revenue & Development Officer
Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera

How did your organization keep the music alive in the community?

It has been absolutely amazing to see the Sacramento region's generosity, resiliency, and support of our work, which has emboldened us to continue producing our music in a safe manner and giving back to our community! This fiscal year, we embarked on our first ever set of digital series. In the fall of 2020, we had our "Chamber Music Masterworks" series, a four-concert set featuring a recital by our concertmaster, a two-week Beethoven festival, and a Holiday Brass concert - all provided free-of-charge for our donors and subscribers. We additionally had a "Romancing the Opera" Valentine's weekend performance in February 2021, and we are currently in the middle of our "Spring Soirées series, performing a mix of American, Russian, and French classics and romances. It has been an incredible learning opportunity for us, and a wonderful avenue for our patrons to stay engaged with our work despite our inability to perform live from the stage. Additionally, earlier in May 2021, we performed live pop-up concerts for the first time in over a year, activating numerous public spaces around Sacramento for our community to enjoy our music. As we move into the summer, we will continue to plan for the day that we can return to the concert hall and reunite fully with our amazing audiences and patrons! We are so appreciative of everyone who supported us this past year, and we will continue to focusing on serving our community through our music as best we can now and long into the future.

Michael Remson, President & CEO
San Diego Youth Symphony

What was your organization's proudest moment during the pandemic?  

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