At the start of the pandemic, musical arts organizations were faced with an onslaught of challenges. Live audience performances disappeared seemingly overnight along with ticket sales, venue rentals, and other sources of critical income. For Still Water grant partners Conspirare, Austin Chamber Music Center, and Austin Classical Guitar, one resounding question was “how can we continue to make music at this time when it is needed most?”
With emergency innovation grants from Still Water Foundation, the three organizations purchased production technology and quickly skilled up staff and musicians to transition to in-home, streaming performances. Executive Directors met weekly to share lessons learned, troubleshoot challenges, and provide one another with much needed moral support during a time of acute uncertainty. Production staff also collaborated across organizations, stitching together individual musician recordings into cohesive livestreams and integrating eye-catching special effects. A year later, the trio reflects back on the highlights of this innovation journey.
Dozens of virtual performances and artist interviews were produced, forming the basis for new digital content repositories. Livestreams were designed with the help of professionals across disciplines, ranging from dancers and poets to video game designers and drone videographers.
“Unity: Songs of Invitation” is one example of an elevated virtual concert experience. Director Andrew Timm and his team created a unique virtual amphitheater influenced by Kintsugi, the Japanese art of using gold to repair cracks in broken pottery. Our nationwide roster of artists captured hundreds of audio and video recordings of themselves. The one-hour performance was created from 6.5 million frames of audio-visual footage.Conspirare
Virtual performances enabled new partnerships with artists around the globe including classical guitarist Pepe Romero, the Grammy award-winning Attacca Quartet, and singers including Joyce DiDonato and Frederica von Stade.
5,000 viewers gathered for our virtual concert with world renowned guitarist Pepe Romero. There was such an outpouring of appreciation from attendees, and the feeling of connection between the artist and audience was tangible. Mr. Romero was deeply touched by this encounter and contacted us the next day offering to significantly extend the recording’s availability online.Austin Classical Guitar
Each organization grew its audience to include national and international viewers, in addition to reaching new donors. Virtual performances were also streamed in nursing homes, detention centers, and other settings where individuals faced increased isolation during the pandemic.
We welcomed new audience members that told us they had never attended a chamber music concert before. The virtual format provided a steppingstone into a whole new genre of music.Austin Chamber Music Center
Staff were retained and hundreds of musical artists were employed at a time of intense disruption in the performing arts sector.
Music created through the new virtual medium inspired and connected communities during a season of many challenges. When Texas suffered an unprecedented ice storm in February 2021, the three organizations co-produced a healing concert, “The Power of Friendship,” and together raised over $22,000 in relief funds.
At the start of the pandemic, necessity was indeed “the mother of innovation.” Now, Conspirare, Austin Chamber Music Center, and Austin Classical Guitar are navigating the transition from COVID times with virtual production as a newfound companion for artistic creation, opening up a literal world of possibilities for human connection through music.
We are grateful to our listeners, ambassadors, and donors whose resilience, openness, and co-creative spirits helped us discover new ways of experiencing music together.Austin Chamber Music Center, Conspirare, Austin Classical Guitar