Springfield Symphony Orchestra prepares for 2020-2021 season

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra is the first local arts group to announce its 2020-2021 season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the theme “Music That Connects Us,” the organization with music director and conductor Peter Stafford Wilson has scheduled a full slate led by its regular concert season along with offerings from its youth groups, the new jazz ensemble introduced last year, community and education programs, fundraiser events and will introduce a new series.

As with all arts groups, the symphony’s season was cut short in March amid quarantining and lockdowns. As many of the artists for its concerts have to be booked in advance and venues reserved, SSO executive director Lou Ross saw advantage in announcing what is planned, even if it means some schedule shuffling and restrictions later.

“We wanted to announce things in May to try to get the word out on some of the things we do beyond our six subscription concerts. Our biggest supporters are our subscribers, but we have so many other things going on,” said Ross, who started with the SSO in 2015.

The SSO will follow safety measures in accordance with state recommendations as its shows and events will be at a variety of area locations.

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The SSO is working the Performing Arts Center to make attending concerts there a safe and comfortable experience for everyone involved.

“We care about our musicians and our audience and have to be cautious going forward,” he said. “Clark State is making sure it’s ready above and beyond. There will probably be social distancing. We are all waiting to hear.”

Each season begins with the Lunch on the Lawn series of four admission-free Friday mid-day concerts that begin July 31. Normally held at the Springfield Museum of Art, the SSO is looking for a different place to do the intimate shows this time out and will announce when it finds one.

“It’s been a tough time for the arts and the museum has been a great partner for us for many years and we’ll be back with them next year,” Ross said.

A successful pilot event and an after-concert jam with the group Take3 has led to a partnership with another popular area venue: the Taproom Series at Mother Stewart’s Brewing Co., starting Sept. 24. This free program will combine music with themes, such as the first event, “Braham & Brews Oktoberfest” and two others.

“(Brewery co-owner) Kevin Loftis and his family have been huge supporters of the symphony and we like drawing a new audience to enjoy the atmosphere there,” said Ross.

Beethoven’s 250th birthday will be recognized with two events: a family program at the John Legend Theater on Sept. 27 and the full symphony concert season opener at the PAC on Oct. 3.

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Other concerts will include “The New Babylon” (Nov. 21); “Wizards!” with the Springfield Youth Symphony (Feb. 6); “Too Hot to Handel, Gospel Jazz” (March 13); “An American in Paris” (April 10); and “The ‘Other’ Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto” (May 8) with guest performers and conductors as part of the experience.

With the cancellation of performances and spaces closed, arts groups had challenges earning income during the pandemic. Ross is grateful for an estimated 98 percent of symphony season subscribers donating what they were owed in refunds to make up the revenue.

“They didn’t have to do that and this year we will make sure they get six concerts,” he said.

The youth symphonies and chorus will have their fall and spring concerts, along with several educational programs for local schools and a return to the Clark County Public Library that will include a sensory-friendly show. The Symphony Jazz Orchestra is back following a well-received first outing that proved there’s a local audience for jazz, and Ross hopes to schedule another show at the museum of art.

The SSO hopes to end its season with its annual slot at the Summer Arts Festival, which it has participated in every season since its beginning. Ross encourages the community to be patient as the SSO is eager to go but want to make sure it’s on the safest level.

“We put a good product on stage. A lot of people may not know how talented the people are we have here and we always welcome the community to discover it,” he said.

Show dates may be subject to change. For the schedule or more information, go to www.springfieldsym.org/.

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