While the Coronavirus has infected every artist and arts organization, none appeared more potentially devastated—at least on the calendar—than the Brevard Music Center.
Its entire existence is geared toward a summer concert season and a summer music camp considered the best of its kind in the southeast. The center had also planned to cut the ribbon on a new 400-seat, indoor performance space designed to house concerts year-round.
But when the center's board unanimously voted to cancel all public programs for 2020, president and CEO Mark Weinstein said it was a moral decision.
“Very early on, we knew this was not our year,” Weinstein said. “This was not our year to expose everybody to this kind of risk.”
All ticket, tuition and sponsorship revenue were instantly gone. But unlike even many of the region’s other large arts entities, Brevard Music Center had money in the bank—a deep endowment and contingency fund—allowing management to do something extraordinary: Pledge to the staff of 15 full-timers they would keep their jobs through the pandemic.
“We built up a cushion, a rainy-day fund and, my god, it’s hailing now,” Weinstein said. “We’re strong financially, and we knew the moral question trumped anything to do with finances.”
Brevard’s model presents one advantage within this new reality. With this summer already written off, leaders can focus on the summer of 2021 and, ideally, a return to business as normal. Still, there’s work to do now to remain active and relevant to prospective students, to donors and subscribers. Later this month, Brevard is launching a drive-in movie series for up to 80 cars in its parking lot.
Leaders are also developing contingency plans for a pandemic with no concrete end in sight.
“Rather than looking at what we won’t do and can’t do, I’m looking at what we can do,” said Jason Posnock, the center’s vice president and chief artistic officer.
“If we’re not allowed to have 500 students on our campus at one time, can we have a hundred?” Posnock said of his many considerations. “Can we combine in-person and online teaching to create a new program that still embodies our beliefs and that we’re really connecting them with our faculty?”
Whatever those answers are, Brevard’s leaders insist community comes first, regardless of any clearance from county or state officials to resume concerts.
“Just because the government says you can do something doesn’t mean you should,” Weinstein said. “The most important thing in the world is not putting on concerts right now. It’s really what’s happening all around us. The arts can bring people together. There’s a time for healing. But when you’re under fire, you gotta protect the people around you in the foxhole.”