News Release: Next Movement: An Idea Forum

The COVID-19 pandemic forced music educating, music performingmusic presenting organizations to a temporary standstill, impacting an unprecedented number of people. The Presser Foundation and American Composers Forum, Philadelphia Chapter co-hosted five Idea Forums and invited colleagues to share thoughts about resilience, creativity, and programming during pandemic.


August 12, 2020 session featured representatives from Ars Nova Workshop and Lyric Fest. 

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook:

Ars Nova Workshop took stock of their assets – themselves, their community and surroundings (Woodlands cemetery in their neighborhood) as they rethought their purpose and content.   The organization pivoted using the beautiful, safe and iconic space as the center of context rich activities (like outside yoga to live music) and aimed to record, present, document and disseminate their performances quickly.  

Lyric Fest used the opportunity to learn new skills in technology and take advantage of a broader reach they didn’t have prior to the pandemic.  Their storytelling through song – Artsong was enhanced with creative visuals that resulted in short song movies which could be recorded and presented at watch parties.

August 13, 2020 session featured representatives from Play On Philly! and Settlement Music School

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook:

Play On Philly! was quick to refocus from replication to reimagination in their role of delivering music education and programming that was once centered around one-to-one intense daily instruction.  They included staff, teachers and families in information gathering on needs – instrument tuning, technology, commitment to practice time. Out of these discussions, POP Out of the Box and Virtual Summer emerged. Each 2-month long program provided imaginative, collaborative curriculum, with all stakeholders’ input considered in order to meet the needs of their families and community.  

Settlement Music School approached the pandemic with a focus on partnerships in a time of change by making informed and sensitive decisions. They used values-based responses with a focus on continual learning and a long-term approach to innovation (50/30/20 model). Their priority has been their staff, students and families, with a focus on equity and access.  Prior to the March 13th closure, a plan to go online was in the works and they were able to fairly easily mobilize staff of 170, create 20-person tech team, pick Skype for business for staff and families as a platform in a matter of days.  Communicate and often was their basic tenet and they were on an evolution to revolution.  Minimizing financial and technology barriers for families, as well as instrument needs (help from Jacobs Music), communicating and engaging with partners and colleagues was key.  Finding allies and resources (webinars and FB groups) who are also invested in the cause were some silver linings.   Collaboration has been essential and creativeness and responsiveness embedded in all they do.

August 14, 2020 session featured representatives from Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia and OperaDelaware

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook:

Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia 147th season, 112-person symphonic chorus with typical season of 3-4 concerts and 1-2 contracted performances had to pivot and consider when they could sing in person again.   Using core values like taking risks, respecting audiences, and powerful communal experiences, they developed 5 goals for the season.  With those in mind, MCC developed a season for in-person and if not.  The virtual season will include 3 virtual chorus projects, with some new commissions, 4 Big Sings, 5 Dialogues with Dominic discussions with composers as well as some member only programs like vocal check ins online, sing-a-longs and Mendel U education with deep dives into works.  If a vaccine is available and they are able to pivot back to in-person, they will be ready.  For now, the season’s goal is for community connection, building and engagement.  

OperaDelaware was heading into their 75th anniversary season and 2 weeks shy of hosting the start of their festival. There was much emotion after a successful previous and validation putting Wilmington on the map for opera in the region.  A simple act helped establish a toe hold back in the arts world and gave them hope.  One challenging task of sending an archival video led to thinking in terms of “what could we do” instead of “what we could not.”  Curbside pick-up of festival t-shirts with singing in the parking lot, led to Drive Through Arias that gave the artists purpose.  Alfresco Arias arose attracting new patrons allowing them to use using their outside space safely. They brought opera to the medical community at local hospitals and retirement facilities with the GrubHub of Opera – Pop-Up Opera – which also brought joy and hope to so many who have not been able to experience the art in some time.  All of this was a source of purpose and joy for those involved and the payoff off of the efforts was worth every ounce of sweat.  They hope to continue into the fall.   

August 19, 2020 session featured representatives from PYO Music Institute  and Wilmington Children’s Chorus

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook:

PYO Music Institute took on the daunting task of delivering music education virtually with no existing platform prior to the pandemic.  They found a lot of positives during times of struggle – small Zoom classes, teaching artists communicating more with students and families, and the creation of a technology hotline and how-to videos. Technology donations were received to help students. Master classes were presented on Zoom and access was given to alumni.  All of their efforts culminated in a 90-minute online Festival celebrating and properly closing the season. 

Wilmington Children’s Chorus is the only tuition free children’s chorus in the nation and has a mission to empower young people through their values of access, excellence, diversity and inclusion.  They foster these values, in their musical family, in all they do.  During the pandemic, they focused time on gathering research for safer group singing in order to keep their “family” safe.  Masking, distance, time limits, ventilation and hygiene all working together is best practice, but no “one size fits all” solution.  With safety in mind, but never a 0% chance of contracting COVID 19, they planned to move through readiness stages of prerecorded, “live” virtual, hybrid and in-person singing.  They hosted discussion forums along the way to understand each stage and the impact on programs.

August 21, 2020 session featured representatives from Tempesta di Mare and The Philadelphia Orchestra

Please click the link below to view the recording via Facebook:

Tempesta di Mare walked away from a trip of performances in Germany in early March and had to scramble to put together a 2020-21 Season with no virtual programming experience.  Since they did have a great video of their rehearsal before their trip, the first project was a Watch Party.  Since they were unhappy with the sound quality of the recording, they researched and found Vimeo.  They had a large amount of content that was on brand and that they wanted to share.  They realized virtual delivery was a wonderful connector, that broadened their reach and built on from their core audience. They created the Tempesta Talks series with archived material to bring people inside the music and process for active listening.  There is still much learning to be had, but results and feedback have been positive.  

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s  last in-person concert was recorded on March 12th and they have been on a journey to define the future as society is being reshaped.  They examined their priorities as an organization and their financial circumstances and realized the incredible force to keep moving forward and the power of working together.  It is from this place that The Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra was born.  Watch, listen and learn were the themes of their creative new programs.  LEARN reaches thousands of young musicians with online instruction.  Hear NOW at home gala provided the healing power of music delivered to hospitals for patients and caregivers. Hear TOGETHER provides a monthly discussion on racial inequality. IDEAS – The Philadelphia Way – is their data driven process for moving ahead with a plan and commitment to confronting crisis.  They launched Our World Now for the 2020-21 Season and the Digital Stage as a beacon to the future.  Taking it a few months at a time, with input from the medical community, the Orchestra is adjusting as needed to have most impact.  

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