When I was a child, my grandmother Dorotea (Dorothy – which means ‘gift from God’ in Greek) was one of the best gifts that I ever received. We were very close. She was incredibly wise (the matriarch, and Yoda of the family), shrewd and influential. She had many well-known one-liners, which were always delivered with a Mona Lisa-like smile.
And I was inspired by my grandmother’s memory, a reflection which moved me to write this letter (around my birthday week) given her humble reminder that “on your birthday, you should say whatever you want.” Another one of her great lines was “I only spend time with good looking people…” but, for good looking, she primarily meant brilliant…and that brings me to our musicians.
Many musicians here in New York and around the world have been enduring this insufferable period of inactivity, and as a result – isolation, isolation from working and interacting with others, and from physically sharing their love of music with other like-minded souls. We have so many devastating reports and news articles documenting the painful consequences of the shutdown of live performances, with musicians either furloughed or displaced from the industry (some only temporarily hopefully, some permanently) due to financial or other dire needs, or even worse outcomes. Some musicians have left the country for jobs in Europe.
If we look at history, the most terrible virus outbreaks do not always end or conclude with vaccines. Regardless of what happens over the next few months, we must (like in Europe) find creative ways to sustain the continuity of the performing arts, even under temporally different and modified conditions for live performances. If not, we will suffer longer-term consequences not just to our classical music industry and others but with the human condition as a whole. If other professionals in different fields are finding solutions to return to work, then we must strongly advocate toward solutions for our music industry as well. It is possible, and we need to find the courage to help save our struggling artists especially.
I write this letter as one frustrated artist, who like many of us feels powerless to help those suffering the most. On my end, I am blessed to be a composer and that has allowed me to keep working rigorously throughout these difficult months, completing several orchestral works for publication including a new Respighi edition for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. But composing too is an isolated occupation, and we all miss our orchestra colleagues and shared experiences with our valued patrons very much.
I hope these sentiments help to add Chamber Orchestra of New York’s humble voice to the ongoing public conversation on preserving the performing arts, as we approach the end of the year and look forward to music-making anew in 2021.
In the meantime, I continue to reflect on the livelihood of musicians and, in homage to my grandmother Dorotea, leave you with this sentiment regarding the musicians of Chamber Orchestra of New York: This is surely the best looking orchestra that I have ever seen.
Salvatore Di Vittorio
Music Director & Composer
Chamber Orchestra of New York