RPO holds first livestreamed performance for students after week of canceled concerts

Mar 13, 2020

Guest conductor Herb Smith leads the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in the orchestra's first live-streamed performance.
Credit Max Schulte / WXXI News

Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra held its first livestreamed performance Friday morning for classrooms whose field trips were canceled due to coronavirus concerns and precautions.

This week, the RPO had to cancel a series of interactive, educational performances around the concept of voting for fourth- through sixth-graders. According to Marie-Andélina de la Farrière with the RPO, more than 5,000 students in 250 classrooms participated in the live-stream in more than 50 schools.

Musicians warm up before the concert amid livestreaming cameras.
Credit Max Schulte / WXXI News

Herb Smith, guest conductor and third trumpet with the RPO, said despite the circumstances, he’s overjoyed to be conducting the orchestra’s first-ever livestreamed performance.

“We need music. Everything is shutting down," Smith said as members of the orchestra walked on stage and warmed up their instruments.

"We need to have something that is going to lift up, something that is going to give you a brief pause from what is going on right now, and I think that’s a good thing,” he added.

Curtis Long, RPO president, said the organization's situation is evolving, but for the short term, musicians with the orchestra will continue to be paid in accordance with collective bargaining agreements.

"At least in the short run, our musicians are fine and not going to be affected by this as opposed to other freelance musicians in the community who might well have a substancial negative impact on their livelihood in the short run," Long said.

Guest conductor Herb Smith rehearses his introduction to the streaming audience.
Credit Max Schulte / WXXI News

He added that if cancellations continue, it could cause significant problems for the RPO in the long term.

While the orchestra has postponed all concerts through April 15, Long said time will tell whether other concerts will be able to be livestreamed as well.

“We’re in uncharted waters, and from day to day, the world is changing around us," Long said. "Last Saturday, we started making plans on what we were going to do to respond to the situation, and by Tuesday, those plans were obsolete.

"And so we started making a new set of plans and then by yesterday, those plans were all obsolete," he added.

The RPO partnered with Global Events to produce a multi-camera livestream that Long said helps bring the audience inside the performance.