Planning, even in the best of times, requires a great deal of hope.

It always has a certain stab-in-the-dark quality to it — and hope — both of which have never been stronger that right now.

As an artist, hope is an essential part of who we are. We begin working on any piece of art hoping it will be good. Even when we get depressed about its chances, it is ultimately hope that pulls us back to work. Once successfully completed, that project gives us hope for the next one. It’s a cycle.

At the Traverse Symphony we are indeed planning for the future. In a normal year, we would have already introduced the upcoming season and begun season ticket sales. As any businessman can tell you, something like that is a crucial and prefigured part of the yearly cash flow. Clearly we’ve had to re-work our timeline, but every single person in the country is having to make immediate readjustments to their usual routines.

What is unique to institutions like ours, is that we are attempting now to have sales on things which are meant to happen in the future. Things which we hope will happen. As I wrote that sentence it occurred to me that a lot of things depend purely on hope right now.

We hope that things will improve and we will be able to return to normal.

Thinking in terms of being a business, we must have an unprecedented amount of hope right now that our customers will share in our hope.

With that all in mind, in a few weeks we will likely announce our upcoming season, which has already been planned and put into the works before the quarantine. I am very excited to finally do something normal again, like introduce the new season!

There is one aspect to the season introduction this year which will be very new, and that is that I will be doing the roll-out from my own living room at my piano using my phone to videostream it. I may do it as a Facebook Live event!

All of that is only a fraction of what we‘re doing and working on.

Every organization which has to deal with longer term planning like schools etc. is asking themselves how they would deal with having an extended quarantine situation. We are no exception. We are doing a whole second season planning, back-up scenario for concert rescheduling in case that should be necessary. But that’s not all:

We are using these circumstances to create a whole new stream of content online our patrons and classical (and jazz) fans anywhere can enjoy from the comfort of their own homes. Visitors to our social media and website have already begun to see the initial stages of this, but that is only the beginning. I am extremely excited to see what online content we can develop which furthers our mission of being a driving force in classical music in our greater Traverse region.

The pandemic significantly altered everyone’s ideas about what is acceptable and fun.

When one sees the measuring sticks for slick production that network TV has always been, now essentially having production quality not so different from someone making a video on their iPhone to post on YouTube, I’ve begun to get many ideas about how TSO can pivot to producing different kind of musical experiences for our patrons right into their own homes should the need arise.

My own experiences on Facebook of late have been giving me some inspiration in this regard.

One night during our at-home Happy Hour, I decided to play a lounge number on the piano and put it on social media.

The response was amazing, so I’ve begun doing it every now and then and folks tell me they pull them up as background music for their own home Happy Hour.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of expanding the variety of things we do, and this new era of Rambo-style home production which has greatly broadened our range of expectations, while it has limited our resources, could produce some fascinating results.

To be honest, I’d never thought in these terms before of providing something like this, since my whole life has been about performing for people in a room somewhere. It gives me ... hope.

I would say that by doing the work associated with the hope that things will improve, I’ve moved from hoping we will get back to accomplishing our mission, to knowing we will. We just have to broaden our definition of how we do it.

Kevin Rhodes is the music director of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts. Learn more at Traverse Symphony.org.

Recommended for you