2020/21 Annual Letter to the Community
Message from Gustavo Gimeno, Music Director
As I anticipate the excitement of reuniting with our wonderful orchestra and our patrons in the concert hall in a few short months, I am filled with a sense of pride in how magnificently TSO musicians sustained the artistic legacy over this past year, and indeed, throughout this pandemic. If this historic and challenging period taught us nothing else, it is to cherish the things most important to us. And for me, it was working closely with musicians and the dedicated TSO staff to continue to connect with our patrons and donors through performances was energizing and inspiring. Our musical impact throughout the GTA reminds us that the TSO has a special relationship with its city, and that is something that should be celebrated.
The TSO On Demand concert with Beethoven’s Septet alongside Schubert and Emilie LeBel, our RBC Affiliate Composer, beautifully illustrated how contrasting works tell a story in one program. And under Concertmaster Jonathan Crow’s masterful leadership, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons invited audiences even deeper into the music. Our TSO Live Streams, which featured three Canadian compositions, captured the thrill of the moment and for me, reuniting with the orchestra in Roy Thomson Hall to conduct two Beethoven programs for some of our philanthropic leaders, volunteers and students was a personal highlight of the season. Being on stage again with the musicians was a powerful reminder of the incredible energy and passion we share for creating music together. And Sarah Jeffrey’s superb Mozart livestream was a true pleasure and the perfect finale to the season.
I would also like to thank my colleagues—Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke for developing such dynamic pops programs as part of our TSO On Demand Series. Kings of Ragtime and Holiday Pops were a joy, as were the CityView Drive-in concerts last fall. Barrett Principal Education Conductor & Community Ambassador Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, who conducted First Ladies of Soul at CityView Drive-In, also created an imaginative and humorous Halloween concert for our young audiences and developed meaningful and educational experiences for our partners and schools all year, igniting an interest in orchestral music in new audiences. And to the talented and disciplined Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra who continued to learn and perform virtually, led by RBC Resident Conductor & TSYO Conductor Simon Rivard, I am immensely proud of your achievements—you are our future.
Musical collaborations enabled us to expand our audience reach, such as our collaboration on a much-loved CBC television series—Murdoch Mysteries. We co-created the soundtrack with Indigenous music makers as part of a collaboration with Red Sky Performance which will premiere this season, and participated in a reimagining of Handel’s Messiah, created by Against the Grain Theatre, which showcased diverse artists and languages, and garnered international acclaim. Our musicians also performed chamber concerts in vital artistic spaces such as the AGO and the Aga Khan Museum. And, to add to the celebration this season, TSO was recognized with a Juno Award for its critically acclaimed recording of Thaïs.
Of course, at the centre of what we do is our patrons. It brought an overwhelming sense of pride for me and the musicians to hear the responses from our subscribers, regular concert-goers and even people who were experiencing the TSO for the first time through our digital programs. Your emails and letters meant so much to us.
I hope that as we reflect on this past year and look towards our 100th season, we are reminded of the artistic excellence, adventurous musical spirit and, most of all, our collective dedication to share the very best orchestral music as the path towards our future.
Being on stage again with the musicians was a powerful reminder of the incredible energy and passion we share for creating music together.
Message from Matthew Loden, CEO
The intensity of musical activity, the quality of concert performances, and the indelible impact we had on our community will characterize this historic year for generations. Despite frequent lock-downs and stringent public health restrictions, the TSO was unwavering in our commitment to share music that inspired and sustained our city this season.
Whether it was our TSO On Demand Concert series, our Livestream Concerts, CityView Drive-in concerts, our special subscriber and donor virtual events, or our voluminous musical offerings over our social media channels, the powerful performances by TSO musicians illuminated lives. Music Director Gustavo Gimeno programmed these virtual concerts with as much thought and creativity as he programs the concert hall and audiences provided so much positive feedback to us.
In addition to the exquisite performances, many of which were filmed from Roy Thomson Hall, the TSO expanded its reach into long-term care homes, hospitals such as Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, community and cultural centres such as the YMCA and Chinese Cultural Centre, libraries and schools, and to those living with Alzheimers. While the TSO has an established history of community engagement, I believe that the personalized performances for isolated seniors and other vulnerable populations in the midst of the pandemic that made social isolation for this population acute was an incredible service. The emotional and heartfelt feedback we received from participants in our many programs is a testament to how music can not only enrich but also change lives.
The TSO remains on firm footing as we navigate the rocky waters towards our much anticipated return to in-person concerts and recovery from the pandemic. Our surplus this year of $3.2 million was achieved through philanthropic and government funding, disciplined financial management, compensation reductions, and the cancellation of activities due to pandemic restrictions. In particular, our public funders recognized the vital role of arts organizations in Canadians’ lives and responded to the pandemic circumstances with significant investments. I also want to acknowledge our musicians and staff who accepted a compensation reduction, making personal sacrifices to help the TSO get through this global crisis. There are still uncertainties next season, including the number of tickets we will be able to sell, so this year’s financial achievement will provide some much needed insulation. And a successfully negotiated three-year musicians contract will ensure that we are all working towards our recovery, together.
Our financial health this season was most significantly impacted by an extraordinary gift from the Mary Beck Estate. The $2.5 million donation helped to offset the serious financial impact of the pandemic and is another example of the Beck family’s philanthropic leadership and generosity. Remarkably, this gift is in addition to the transformative $10-million gift in 2019! All of us—staff, musicians, board members, volunteers, and patrons—owe the Beck family and our Board Chair, Cathy Beck, so much. Our donor community is incredible, and Cathy serves as a guiding light. I would also like to celebrate the $3.875-million gift from the Barrett Family Foundation which was directed in part to support our extensive Education and Community Engagement efforts and to name Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser’s role the Barrett Principal Education Conductor & Community Ambassador. We were all very touched by the moving tribute by Susan Brenninkmyer to her late husband Hans in supporting Gustavo’s appearances this past season and for the next four years of his tenure. Hans was such a valued member of our TSO family and this support recognizes his deep connection to our Orchestra and the future of our artistic leadership.
As I close this season and my tenure at the TSO, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the TSO community for the commitment to share and enjoy the world of orchestral music. And especially to the musicians, who give us all so much to look forward to and whose reunion with our patrons in the concert hall with Gustavo in just a few short months will make all our past efforts worthwhile. Thank you to everyone who contributed to such an extraordinary year. I believe the power of orchestral music at the TSO will continue to be celebrated by our city, country, and around the world.
The intensity of musical activity, the quality of concert performances, and the indelible impact we had on our community will characterize this historic year for generations.
Message from Catherine Beck, Chair of the Board
This was a year that defied expectations, which is no small achievement, since my expectations of our great TSO are, and will always remain, high. When confronted with so many pandemic-related obstacles, our musicians, staff, Board members and volunteers soared. I could not be more proud and moved by what we were able to accomplish this year—and at the centre of it all, the enthralling music continued, all season.
Philanthropy has always played a vital role in the TSO’s history, but given the economic uncertainties our world faced, it was not clear how our donor community would be able to contribute when we began our year. I am beyond delighted to share that not only did donors contribute, but they exceeded what we had hoped. A remarkable $6.8-million was raised from 5,923 donors. Through their incredible generosity they sent all of us a message: music matters; the TSO matters.
I would also like to acknowledge the incredible dedicated members of the Board whose oversight, support, counsel, and very hard work in steering us through this turbulent year has been an exemplar of leadership.
As excitement builds for our return to in-person concerts, and most especially, having Gustavo Gimeno on the podium, I want to offer my gratitude to musicians and the staff, who give so much of themselves to the TSO. When celebrations of our 100th season begin in the spring we will all be able to feel proud that this past year contributed to the foundation for the next 100 years, proving that our orchestra will remain resilient and extraordinary for generations to come.
TSO was in the news! Here are a few examples of extensive media coverage from this past year!
- CityTV Breakfast Television: YMCA & TSO Launch Partnership with Music, Meditation
- CityTV News: Toronto Symphony Performs Live at Drive-In
- CBC Radio, Metro Morning: Interview with Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser on Barrett gift and Halloween On Demand concert
- New York Times: A Polarizing Canadian ‘Messiah’ Shows How Pandemic Is Shaking Up Culture
- CBC The National: 9-year-old violinist wows the Toronto Symphony Orchestra | The Moment
- Global TV, Making a Difference: Toronto Symphony Orchestra helping to reduce social isolation among seniors through music
- Toronto Star: Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Star look back on a year full of Musical Moments
- CityTV: Bringing the Symphony to the student
- Globe & Mail: The road to Ode (to Joy): Maestro Gustavo Gimeno’s plan to gradually ramp up the TSO postpandemic
- Toronto Star: Music fans should mark Nov. 10 on their calendars: that’s the day the TSO hopes to open the doors of Roy Thomson Hall