Hartford Symphony Orchestra Furloughs Over 80 Musicians

Daniela Doncel
September 16, 2020 - 6:59 pm
Cellos at a concert



HARTFORD, Conn. (WTIC Radio) - The Hartford Symphony Orchestra (HSO) announced Wednesday that the members of its orchestra, 86 part-time musicians, are being furloughed as of September 28, on top of three administrative staff members who were furloughed on September 1.

According to HSO Executive Director Steve Collins, the organization has also eliminated one staff position and will keep another position unfilled for the time being. All the 12 remaining administrative staff members, including Collins, are taking significant reductions in compensation ranging from 20 to 50 percent.

The decision was made with ongoing COVID-19 pandemic challenges putting a financial strain on the organization, Collins said. Officials are estimating the earned revenue for this season to be down 50 percent, he said. With donations and federal loans amid the pandemic, Collins said the organization is estimating to break even this fiscal year, but moving forward, there's a lot of uncertainty of what the future holds.

Outdoor performances with small audiences between late July and early September have been widely successful, Collins said, but with fall and winter approaching, such performances will not be able to go on.

Collins said the cold weather is problematic for musicians' instruments and physical technique which rules out outdoor performances until next spring. As for indoor performances, he said the state's 25-person gathering limit makes it impossible to do an indoor concert considering that limit includes the audience, the musicians and the staff, among others.

Throughout the colder months, Collins said HSO intends to continue to engage with its community virtually with online performances and educational programs.

The organization is planning for its return next year. One idea involves expanding the 2021 summer season from its usual form of five weeks to a much longer period of time of maybe 10 or 12 weeks with many more performances, he said.

Collins said furloughs have been a topic of discussion across the organization for months, so it came to no surprise, but it was still a difficult decision to make and a disappointing one at that.