COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update

As of April 23, 2020

An Important Covid 19 Update about Sarasota Orchestra from Joseph McKenna, CEO

Dear Orchestra Family,

You are essential to everything we do. I believe it is important to share information about the Orchestra, the past six weeks and the road ahead.  Our focus is to remain strong so we can continue to deliver our mission of enriching, engaging and educating our community through excellent musical experiences and programs.

Through the years, our organization developed an emergency response plan for catastrophic events like hurricanes and natural disasters. The emergency response plan adopted by our Board in May 2019 provided a general foundation for responding to the global pandemic, which dramatically changed the course of our season.

I have come to believe, especially during challenging times, it is essential to focus on four key areas.  These are the preservation of our people (our most important asset), delivery of mission, governance integrity, and astute financial management. 

On March 13, when we cancelled our first concert, without hesitation our administrative team shifted into managing the threat we know as Covid 19.  The following highlights some of the steps we implemented in each of the four areas mentioned above.


Recognizing that our most precious asset is our people, we have built our one-team culture over many years.  Our Board, musicians, staff and volunteers recognize that our one-team culture is the root of our success in ordinary times and the foundation for stability in uncertain times.  Once the crisis set in, a Musician Liaison Team was created to work closely with our executive leadership.  The team includes the Concertmaster, Orchestra Committee Chair, Artistic Advisory Committee Chair, and Union Steward. Our work has been collaborative and resulted in the creation of the Music Moves Us initiative, which has provided an outstanding way to engage with our patrons and continue to deliver our mission while away from our performance halls.

In connection with government advisories and to ensure the safety of our employees and patrons, the Orchestra Center remains closed to the public until it is safe to reopen. Our staff has been shifted to our remote working platform, which is part of our business continuity and mission delivery plan. All key meetings are being held via Zoom, Go-To-Meeting, or via telephone conference. Our IT platform, including our box office system, is stable and secure and there has been no interruption of regular, vital business functions.

In order to maintain full employment of our talented musicians and committed staff, we instituted compensation reductions of 20% effective March 25.  We also suspended on April 1 our employer contributions to our 403 b retirement plan.  We believe that if we are going to ask for your support, we need to demonstrate our commitment to preserving the organization during this challenging time.  Our chief hope is to maintain our team of dedicated musicians, educators, staff until the threat is lifted, and we can return to normal operations. 


Sarasota Orchestra is a strong advocate for best practice governance.  This is especially necessary during an emergency period.  Within 48 hours of our first cancelled concert on March 13, the Sarasota Orchestra Board of Directors activated a provision in its By-Laws to take action without a meeting, thereby approving the first cancellation of concerts and continuity of funding for musicians and staff through March 24.    Following this initial action, the Board met to conduct business via electronic means on Sunday, March 22, and then approved a subsequent action on April 2, 2020, to cancel the remainder of the Orchestra season and the 2020 Sarasota Music Festival.  The full Board unanimously approved all of these actions.

In recent weeks, our Board Committees have begun to meet via Zoom to provide strategic leadership in a time of social distancing.  We have had 100% attendance at each of these committee meetings.


While flourishing artistically, Sarasota Orchestra has enjoyed a decades-long reputation for prudent financial stewardship.  Our organization was proactive when the global pandemic advanced.  The six-member Finance Committee, on behalf of the Board, worked in partnership with executive leadership to develop a response plan to the crisis.  This work is ongoing as this emergency continues to evolve. Though uncertainty remains, the focus on strong fiscal management is unwavering.  With the cancellation of 36 concerts and the Sarasota Music Festival, our reliance on gifts and donations to the annual fund has never been more important.  We are deeply grateful to our many supporters who have already stepped forward with gifts. We hope the Orchestra's full community of patrons will lend its support as it is crucial to keeping Sarasota Orchestra's mission alive in this community.

In connection with our careful financial management, I am pleased to share that the Orchestra applied for and has been granted an SBA Payroll Protection Plan loan. This loan, and its forgiveness component, will help us keep our employees intact and receiving a paycheck and health insurance benefits while other revenue streams from ticket sales, tuition and rentals are in hiatus. Our senior team and experienced Finance Committee will remain engaged as we chart the path forward.


We are committed to having concerts resume as soon as it is safe to gather again.  We hope that this will be in September and are exploring ways for us to gather safely to experience the transformative magic of music.  We will keep you updated. 

Music Director Search and 2020/21 Season.  Our music director search committee met last week via Zoom and will continue to advance their efforts.   It will take some time for the managers of conductors and guest artists to find their footing after an avalanche of global cancellations.  We are pleased that our 20/21 season was announced and subscription renewals are proceeding.  Renewing your subscription and making an annual fund gift are among the best ways you can express support for the musicians.  Our artistic planning team and search committee will remain active while concerts are suspended.  

Music Center Planning.  While things have understandably slowed, I have heard from a number of you that planning for a new music center must continue.  Of course, our planning cycle did not account for a pandemic but the age and limits of our current facility, and the challenges of our current operating paradigm, have not changed.  Music Center planning and exploration remains a key part of our strategic focus. Our ability to continue planning will be enhanced when the immediate, emergency issues that are present give way to some normalcy.   

Sarasota Music Festival.  There was great excitement surrounding the 2020 Sarasota Music Festival before its cancellation.   Festival Music Director Jeffrey Kahane is already working with us on a potential virtual presence this June and mapping out initial planning for 2021.  We will also be exploring how to retain aspects of the Suffragist Project programming that was a popular component of this year's Festival.  The Festival will surely return.   

Education Programs.  Our education program, which runs eleven months per year, is our longest, continuous activity of the year.  As of this writing, the July Summer Music Camp remains on the calendar.  We have also begun preparing for Youth Orchestra in the fall.   All planning for Summer Camp and our Youth Orchestra Program will put safety first in our decision-making.

In Summary, Sarasota Orchestra remains committed to preserving those factors which have laid the foundation of this organization's success for more than 70 years: our people, our mission, strong governance, and careful financial stewardship. By focusing on these important pillars of our organization and with the community's continued support, be assured that Sarasota Orchestra will steer its way through these turbulent times.

The generosity of our patrons has always sustained us and lifted the impact of our work in the community. Together, we will ensure that Sarasota Orchestra's brightest days are ahead.

Thank you and best wishes for continued good health. As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions.

For more information on ways you can support your Sarasota Orchestra, please feel free to contact our Donor Engagement team at 941-487-2740.


Joseph McKenna
President & CEO  

As of April 6, 2020

Sarasota Orchestra is cancelling all performances this season and the Sarasota Music Festival in June, due to concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to your safety and well-being.

Due to the escalation of COVID-19 concerns, Sarasota Orchestra will cancel the remainder of concerts in our 2019-2020 season. This includes the cancellation of our Discoveries and Outdoor Pops concerts in May, and the Sarasota Music Festival in June.

While our hearts are heavy, the bold and brilliant performances of this past season still reverberate. They point the way to all the inspiring, healing concert experiences in store for us on the other side of this most difficult time. It is with enthusiasm that we plan and prepare for the scheduled commencement of our upcoming season in September and the next Sarasota Music Festival running from June 5 to 26, 2021.

In connection with Sarasota Music Festival programming, Festival leadership is currently reviewing the rescheduling of programming connected with this year's Suffragist Project and exploring SMF virtual connectivity during the typical festival period in June.

We remain wholly grateful to our patrons who have donated their tickets to assist our Orchestra's return to the performance hall. The support of patrons is essential to the Orchestra's ability to sustain itself during this challenging period.

Please see the guide below for complete details on cancelled events and options for ticket holders (including special instructions for Outdoor Pops patrons).

In the meantime, our musicians will not be silent. We have launched an online hub of music and recorded vignettes called Music Moves Us. This initiative is intended to keep the music playing in your hearts and homes until we can come together at performances again.

We encourage you to visit often to hear personal wishes from our musicians and musical gems. It is our hope it will provide you some measure of joy.

All of us at Sarasota Orchestra are profoundly grateful for your support.


March 13 - 15, Masterworks 6: Beethoven and Bartók
March 18 - 21, Great Escapes: Latin Beats
April 2: Classical Conversations
April 3 - 5, Masterworks 7: American Impressions
April 17 - 18, Pops 3: American Playlist
April 18, Sarasota Youth Orchestras' Year-End Showcase Concerts 
April 19, Chamber Soiree 8: Guiding Principals
April 30: Classical Conversations 
May 2 - 3, Discover Beethoven 2: Discover Beethoven's Seventh 
May 8 - 9, Outdoor Pops: Iconic Songs of the 70's*
May 30 - June 20: Sarasota Music Festival 


DONATION: A charitable donation of your tickets to Sarasota Orchestra to help our musicians and staff through this difficult time.

CREDIT: Credit toward subscriptions or concert tickets for the 20/21 season.

*A Note for Outdoor Pops Patrons: Please visit the Orioles website for special instructions on ticket returns.

We value your patrons and appreciate your patience as we process high volumes of  inquiries.HOW TO CONTACT US

CONTACT US BY PHONE:  We are here to help. Call the Box Office at 941-953-3434, Monday - Friday, 10am - 4pm.  Due to call volume, we will respond as soon as is feasible.

CONTACT US VIA EMAIL: Email us at with any questions you may have. Please include a phone number and your preferred option from our ticket policy for cancelled concerts. 


Sarasota Orchestra will continue to review guidance from health and government authorities.

When it is safe, we look forward to returning to the performance hall to share with our community the inspiring power of live music.

Please check back for the most current information.

Thank you for your understanding and support.


Written byHerald Tribune

 Literally gripping the arms of my seat, I was not the only one propelled on this rollercoaster of delightful music.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 Every section and soloist within the orchestra played their role with strength and beauty; every tree proud and tall. Tali served as an excellent guide leading the forces with assured confidence. The overall sound was lush and, yes, intense just where it needed to be.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 The Sarasota Orchestra was brimming with bubbling energy...  

Written byHerald Tribune

 A lifetime of musical moments, cinematic in scope, gave every section of the orchestra a leading role at one time or another. Chief among them was the virtuosic solo of concertmaster Daniel Jordan.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 It was a thrill ride resulting in an explosion of audience enthusiasm.  

Written byThe Observer

 Andrew Lane, the Orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, knows how to program a winning event and this concert had something for everyone. It also brought in a whole new audience that seemed dazzled by the performances.  

Written byThe Observer

 The Sarasota Orchestra played a program this past weekend filled with so much color, it was like visiting the Louvre.  

Written byHerald Tribune

 The performance... was exceptional, bringing new and stunning sonorities from a larger than usual Sarasota Orchestra under the dynamic leadership of Anu Tali.  

Annual Fund

Gifts to the Annual Fund help sustain Sarasota Orchestra and ensure that our musicians can continue to serve our community in the months ahead. Please join our Sarasota Orchestra family by making a gift today, and help us share the healing power of music.

About Us

Our mission is to engage, educate, and enrich our community through high-quality, live musical experiences.

 709 N Tamiami Tr, Sarasota, FL 34236

 Box Office: 941.953.3434

 Administration: 941.953.4252

 Box Office Hours:
Our staff is here to help by phone or email Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm.
The office is currently closed to the public.

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