I am executive director, Orchestras Canada, as well as an avocational clarinet player, and I’m speaking for OC’s members (and for myself, I guess …)

Of all the things we had planned when COVID-19 hit, most significantly OC has had to to cancel its national conference in Hamilton, May 20-23. Also, any face-to-face meetings, whether internal (a planned board meeting in Hamilton in May) or external (participation in a Charities on Parliament Hill event organized by Imagine Canada, and originally scheduled for today, April 21) are cancelled.

Every ensemble rehearsal and concert that I had scheduled to play in – cancelled.  (This includes performances with the Peterborough Symphony, the B45 Clarinet Collective, the Clarington Concert Band, the Peterborough Theatre Guild’s production of Annie, and the spring world tour of a New Orleans-style jazz band called Otis and his Honey Lambs that I play with.  Well, “world” is a bit strong: we had dates in Peterborough, Millbrook and Bridgenorth!  Maybe we’ll make it out of Peterborough County some day.)

As to following through, once circumstances allow, most of the rehearsing and performing will happen, one way or the other, though specific productions or concerts are likely gone forever.  Pretty much, as for everyone else in the world who can, we’ve moved everything on-line.  I’ve been tremendously impressed with the rate at which even the skeptics have upped their Zoom game: people I thought would never turn on their web cams have finally done so. 

From an Orchestras Canada perspective, we’ve observed that people are keen to stay in touch, find out how everyone else is coping, and acquire new skills and knowledge.  So we’ve taken the opportunity to tear up the conference schedule and re-focus on hosting the discussions and information that feel most urgent right now.  Rather than trying to stuff everything into three or four days, we’re spreading what would have been our conference offerings between now and December 2020, buying ourselves the time to curate the content that is most needed, when it’s needed.  And we’re organizing peer group meetings across the country, and have had excellent participation.  We’ll be guided by what we’re learning in these discussions to curate better content, too.

Our advocacy work continues unabated, at both the federal and provincial levels.  We don’t work alone, either:  we’re working in conjunction with a group of arts leaders across the country to identify what our members need and communicate that effectively to decision-makers, and we’re also part of a roundtable convened by Imagine Canada to convey the impact on charities and not-for-profits of all sizes and kinds.

For people who want to get in touch with us and our member orchestras,  our website is a good starting place: oc.ca. As are our social media, where we’re featuring plenty of content from Canadian orchestras, too: Facebook: facebook.com/orchestrascanada and Twitter: @OrchCanada.

On the map, Peterborough is where we are.

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