The Day The Music Died: The Mann Suspends Summer 2020 Season!
For the first time in its history, the stages of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts will remain dark this summer. Due to the consequences of COVID-19, officials of the Mann made the difficult decision this week to suspend completely its traditional summer season for 2020.
“We have worked diligently on contingency planning to prudently steward the Mann’s response during this time and ensure that our beloved campus in Fairmount Park would be ready to welcome patrons and artists back whenever it was deemed safe to do so,” said Catherine M. Cahill, President and CEO of the Mann. “We examined every option, and now, through guidance from the state and the city, we have arrived at the conclusion that staying closed this season is the best choice at this time.”
Cahill added, “While it is a heart-wrenching decision, it is one we share with arts and culture organizations across the region and around the world. It is very clearly the right thing to do for the safety and well-being of our artists, patrons, volunteers, and Mann team – which is always our top priority. What we do now is look with great anticipation to our 2021 summer season. The music will return to our stages. This is simply an extended intermission, and we are already working to build a blockbuster season for next year when we can again enjoy world-class entertainment under the stars at the Mann.”
Cahill noted that, in fact, well over 50% of all shows that were on the 2020 schedule have already rescheduled to play at the Mann in 2021 with more conversations happening daily.
The Need Now
As a non-profit organization, the Mann relies on a combination of earned revenue from ticket, concession, and parking sales, as well as rentals, public funding, and contributions from individual, corporate, and foundation donors to fund its operations. The Mann not only welcomes more than 200,000 guests to the storied venue each summer concert season, but as one of the most significant education and community outreach programs in the country for an outdoor summer festival, it also provides free access to arts education and concert experiences for more than 30,000 children and young people throughout each year.
Like most non-profits, the Mann is not fully capitalized to withstand the current financial challenges. With actual and anticipated decreases in each of its revenue areas, the Mann has systematically implemented a stepped expense reduction plan through decreases in staff hours, salaries, furloughs, spending freezes, and other cost-cutting measures. “Even with this level of shared sacrifice, there remains a $2 million gap that we must fill in order to ensure the long-term financial strength and viability of the Mann,” Cahill reported. “This is not an insurmountable situation by any means, but it does mean we must address the problem now,” she said.
To do that, just launched is the Let the Music Play Resiliency Fund for the Mann, a new emergency fund to support the Mann’s annual operations as well as its ongoing community engagement and education programming. “We are so grateful that through just our initial conversations with long-time Mann supporters, already more than $400,000 in generous support has been committed toward our $2 million goal,” Cahill said.
Despite the loss of not being able to perform and experience music in person, the Mann’s Education and Community Engagement team, led by Vice President Naomi Gonzalez, pivoted quickly in early March to introduce the Mann Music Room, a virtual experience for youngsters that features the talents of local artists. New episodes have been released weekly since March 23 that connects audiences and performers, home to home, through music and dance activities, printable student activity guides, and a six-lesson global music curriculum for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Episodes have featured everything from making music with found sounds, to the global music of India, Trinidad, and Puerto Rico, to hip hop and drum line experiences, too.
Additionally, the All City Orchestra Summer Academy (ACOSA), which is co-presented by the School District of Philadelphia, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and Project 440, will return as a virtual academy this year following its successful inaugural 2019 season launch. In ACOSA, young musicians are invited to participate in the free, two-week summer academy, designed to enhance the All-City Orchestra program and extend quality rehearsal and performance opportunities into the summer. More than 100 students are already committed to participating in this summer’s Academy.
The Mann is also developing the new Motion and Music Academy launching in the fall of 2020 at Global Leadership Academy or through a virtual model if schools do not reopen in the fall. In addition, the Mann will continue to develop opportunities to livestream programming.
Cahill said, “At times like these, each of us seeks refuge in our own circles of community, and for so many, that circle rightly includes the arts in Philadelphia and the Mann. Our patrons, staff, volunteers, and the artists we present make up a community of people who come together – united by music – for amazing experiences that push boundaries and excite the imagination. Now more than ever, the inspiration and hope we receive from that shared experience is especially meaningful. We’ll continue offering that inspiration through our virtual arts and culture educational programming, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back for an incredible season at the Mann next year.”