The Idaho Falls Symphany was not spared from the impact of COVID-19. Because performing is a work so heavily reliant on an audience, the symphony adjusted from having regular in-person performances to virtual ones. Thomas Heuser, the music director of the Idaho Falls Symphony, shared with BYU-Idaho Radio how social media became a greater part in sharing concerts than ever before.
“It’s much more of a focus for us now, the social media presence, the online presence. We have a much more robust website. My executive director partner Alekzandria Peugh has been managing the website, adding features, creating more social media connections and a bigger presence there. And so, we’ve had to really focus on that whereas some of the more traditional mediums of reaching our audiences have changed.”
Despite setbacks from COVID-19, the Idaho Falls Symphony saw success in its first virtual orchestra season in 2020. This year, its 72nd season continues to include virtual concerts and some live performance options for the community. However, live performances have not always gone as planned.
Due to public health concerns, the symphony cancelled its Annual Symphony in the Park Concert which was scheduled for Sept. 18. The disappointment from cancellation extends to both audience members who planned to attend and musicians who planned to perform. Heuser described how these cancellations have affected symphony members specifically.
“You know, we had one rehearsal for that symphony in the park concert in September…We have a vaccine and testing policy in place for our staff and musicians, so we are able to gather the large group as safely as possible,” Heuser said. “And so, we had a rehearsal. It was just a thrill to be back and playing the music. There was a lot of enthusiasm. It felt sort of like a family reunion after 20 months of being apart we finally had the group. There was lots of tears and smiles behind masks. I think they appreciate that what we are doing with these decisions about public health and safety are geared towards their wellbeing as well as the safety of their families and friends. They were understanding, but obviously very disappointed.”
Many members of the symphony travel to play in concerts in Idaho Falls, so cancellations can be especially frustrating. The necessary adjustments from the virtual seasons have taught the symphony a lot about community, technology and performing.
“I think the biggest take away from me has been the power of the live experience,” Heuser said. “Yes, we know now how to make music happen virtually with musicians in their homes and that kind of a thing. We’ve learned what it takes but not only does it not replace the live experience, it just doesn’t come close…We just miss the feedback that a live audience provides and that, I’ve learned this year, is just the driver of everything we do.”
The Idaho Falls Symphony will be holding their annual Pink Ribbon Concert virtually this Saturday, Oct. 9. This “New Beginnings” program is in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more information about the Idaho Falls Symphony, upcoming shows or ticket purchases, visit the IF Symphony website.