IF Symphony to Require Vaccines and Masks for Musicians and Staff
Photo credit to Dennis Hammon of Hammon Photography.
The year 2020 will always be remembered as the “Season that Never Finished” at the Idaho Falls Symphony. Like arts organizations around the country and the world, concerts were canceled at the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic, including a monumental production of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The loss of in-person audiences forced the Symphony to recreate itself as a digital concert producer; staff roles and musical traditions morphed overnight, and the organization went into survival mode. Thanks to the incredible support of the Idaho Falls community, plus federal stimulus grants through the CARES Act, the Symphony staff successfully navigated a season filled with challenges. Now they have announced Season 72, called “Reconnect,” with details and tickets available at www.ifsymphony.org. Along with the highly anticipated in-person tickets, digital access for remote viewing is also available for most events.
At their most recent August meeting, in response to the escalating crisis with the Delta variant, the Idaho Falls Symphony Board of Directors voted unanimously to require all staff and musicians to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the exception of individuals seeking a medical or religious exemption. “We made the decision for many reasons,” explains IFS Board President Jake Durtschi. “Our central aim is to increase safety for our musicians, staff, and patrons, while increasing the likelihood that we can stay open, have a regular season, and deliver live music to our community. We are sensitive to the varying views among community members, but we believe the safety of our community is paramount.”
“When it comes to combating Covid, we are taking an all-of-the-above approach,” remarks IFS Music Director and Conductor Dr. Thomas Heuser. “An orchestra is a living, breathing ensemble. We must come together on the same stage and perform with each other in close quarters, and so we are asking our musicians and staff to be vaccinated. We feel that these measures are essential for doing our best work and protecting our loved ones.”
While the vaccines have proven effective against serious illness, the risks of infection and transmission still remain, and so the Symphony’s vaccine mandate will be accompanied by continued mask wearing for all staff and musicians until further notice, along with required Covid testing for all unvaccinated individuals. “Our organization hopes to present a unified front against the virus,” explains Executive Director Alekzandria Peugh. “We want to show our community that we care about each other, and so we are adapting and moving forward in the safest way possible.”
An online database of vaccination policies among orchestras, choirs, dance companies, and venues around the country shows how the industry at large is adapting to the ongoing crisis. Vaccine mandates are in place for musicians and staff in organizations large and small, and a handful of others are requiring proof of vaccination for their audiences as well. While the Idaho Falls Symphony has stopped short of that step for now, in-person audiences are currently encouraged to wear masks at the Civic Center for the Performing Arts, and other steps like physical distancing and mask requirements may soon become a reality of the reopening process. For updates, audiences are encouraged to add their name to the email newsletter of the Idaho Falls Symphony at www.ifsymphony.org.