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I remember 2001 as though it was yesterday.

I had just been elected president of the symphony board of directors, the symphony had just hired a new maestro, Kevin Rhodes, and we would also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra.

Fast forward 20 years. In January 2020, I was elected president of the board of directors.

Once again, excitement was growing for the upcoming season of 2020-2021. It was going to be the 70th anniversary of the symphony, it was also going to be the 20th anniversary of Maestro Rhodes, and the upcoming concert season was promising to be another phenomenal musical experience.

Then in mid-March everything at the symphony came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic. We had to cancel our biggest fundraiser of the year in April, we had to cancel our May 30th season finale concert Spencer Meyer, and we had to cancel a much anticipated July concert featuring Kevin Rhodes and jazz great, Bob James. And just when we thought there might be a glimmer of hope for the upcoming season to begin on schedule in September, all of our venues shut down which left us no choice but to cancel all those beautiful concerts scheduled for 2020-2021. We had been silenced. This pandemic had taken away the glorious sounds of our symphony.

But out of ashes rise new ideas and innovation, and that is exactly what happened at the TSO. Instead of relying heavily on ticket sales as a source of revenue, we have now implemented the “Play a Part” membership plan. Our TSO patrons began to respond to this new idea with vim and vigor. Then a generous anonymous donor gifted the symphony an $80,000 endowed matching grant. Let’s just say, that matching grant was not only important from a monetary standpoint, but it also became the “wind beneath our wings” when we needed it most.

Patrons and donors once again responded with a resounding “yes” to the challenge and I am happy to report we are 50 percent of the way to completing this matching grant.

On behalf of the entire TSO organization, thank you to all our patrons and donors for standing enthusiastically with us during this time.

We would not be here today without you.

In addition to surviving financially, our musical programming has also taken on a new look. During the upcoming months, there will be: 20 free chamber concerts, pop-up concerts, Kevin Rhodes and Bob James will be performing their long overdue piano concert, plus three amazing summer outdoor pops concerts.

Ah, yes. The future. I am already looking forward to the future when we can once again hear first-hand the rich smooth tones of the trombones, the low rumbling of the tympani, the distinctive voice of the clarinet and the harmonic sounds of the string sections.

But when we do meet again — whether it is while attending a small upcoming chamber, a pop-up concert, or the grand luscious sounds of the full orchestra — the sounds of those first musical notes will be sounds of such sweet, sweet joy.

And if we all thought those at-the-end-of-the-concert standing ovations were long and full of volume before, just you wait! Just you wait!

Susan Cogswell is president of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors.

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