SF Symphony cancels majority of remaining concerts, announces fundraising efforts

San Francisco Symphony, SF Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony with music director Michael Tilson Thomas, during rehearsal at Davies Symphony Hall on Nov. 2, 2016. Courtesy of SF Symphony.

Following the cancelation of numerous concerts in batches, the San Francisco Symphony on Wednesday canceled the majority of its remaining schedule in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and San Francisco’s continuing shelter-in-place warning. The organization’s Summer with the Symphony program was also canceled through Aug. 31.

The abrupt conclusion of the season also marks the end of lauded Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas’ 25-year tenure. The San Francisco Symphony is facing more than $13 million in lost revenue and $5.4 million in net losses due to the cancelation of 64 performances in San Francisco as well as a three-week tour to Carnegie Hall and Europe.

A small number of concerts that have been previously announced as postponed will be rescheduled for a later date. Ticketholders for those performances may hold onto their tickets until a new date is confirmed.

In order to help counter the financial impact to the organization, members of the orchestra, chorus and stagehands have all agreed to reduce their salaries by an average of 25 percent between April 19 and Sept. 5. Tilson Thomas has agreed to not be paid for canceled concerts. The symphony is working to maintain healthcare and insurance benefits during this time for its staff.



“Our top priority from the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to take care of the people who are the San Francisco Symphony family,” symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson said in a prepared statement. “Realizing that it may be many months from now before we will be allowed to resume normal concert activity, we worked together to implement a shared-sacrifice plan that attempts to balance individual and institutional needs.”

In response to the current global environment with audiences seeking new ways to connect with the arts, the SF Symphony will be creating and curating online content and education resources, joining the likes of the San Francisco Ballet. A 25-day online celebration of Tilson Thomas is already planned.

In an effort to remain financially viable, the symphony is asking ticket holders to consider donating the cost of their tickets back to the organization or to ask for a gift certificate rather than ask for a refund. The symphony is planning a fundraising strategy and perks for those who donate their tickets. Additionally, a group of San Francisco Symphony Board members and donors has promised to match all ticket donations through an initial matching fund of $1 million.

Those who opt for gift certificates will receive a 20 percent credit applied to their gift certificate based on the value of tickets they had purchased for use in future concerts. These credits won’t expire.

Additional donations can be made at SF Symphony’s website.

All requests for ticket donations, gift certificates, exchanges and refunds must be received by Aug. 31. For assistance, ticket holders can call 415-864-6000 or email patronservices@sfsymphony.org between Monday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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