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Digital performances created during pandemic here to stay for Atlanta Symphony

With innovation; virtual technology, and creative thinking, The Atlanta Symphony has continued in the musical spotlight despite the limitations imposed by COVID-19.

ATLANTA — When the pandemic shut down concert halls and venues, Atlanta's art scene had to get creative to survive. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra led the way.

An $11 million pandemic drop in revenue is a big loss to overcome,
but the music is still playing with the musicians avidly rehearsing at the Atlanta Symphony under the direction Music Director Robert Spano and the Orchestra’s Executive Director Jennifer Barlament.

“By the end of June 2020, it all just evaporated. It was almost unimaginable for us. What we do is make music and we make music for people and for the ability to do that kind of went away overnight along with a lot of revenue as well,” Barlament said.

Although the musicians were kept on the payroll, 25 percent of the administrative staff was cut, but the Symphony pressed on.

They presented digital and live concerts, and two television specials, with both adding revenue.

Over Christmas the Orchestra put together a montage salute to Beethoven and the famous Olympic theme "Ode to Joy," taken from the Beethoven score.

RELATED: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra taps into 800 musicians for virtual performance

More than 800 metro Atlanta musicians submitted audition tapes to take part in the project.

“You add all that up together and somehow miraculously by the end of this we are anticipating to balance our budget for the seventh year in a row,” Barlament added.

Now the goal is for the Orchestra to return to Symphony Hall concerts by this fall, but its digital virtual performances are here to stay.

“We will keep providing our concerts digitally for people who either do not feel comfortable or are not able to come and join us and so this new way of doing digital concerts is going to become a permanent part of how we operate,” Barlament said.

RELATED: Atlanta Opera finds ways to perform during pandemic by using plexiglass dividers, other COVID precautions

The musicians quickly admit that they are eager for live concerts to return and feel that strong audience vibe.

“The biggest takeaway during this pandemic is how we need the audience and how important music is to people,” said David Coucheron, Orchestra Concertmaster.

“The thing that I have missed absolutely the most is a live audience,” added Laura Ardan, the Symphony’s Principal Clarinet.

The Symphony has also formed a partnership with the Music Educators Association, producing videos to support learning. It’s a relationship that will continue well beyond the pandemic.

Watch the Symphony Executive Director Jennifer Barlament's full interview below.