IN: News & Features

Jordan Hall and Sanders Theater Extend Closures


Boston Baroque subscribers heard this morning that New England Conservatory has closed Jordan Hall to outside organizations for the entire 2020-2021 concert season. This sounds draconian. But to the administration of NEC, protecting students and their tuition revenues apparently trumps the importance of hall rentals and the needs of the Boston concertgoers. We understand this. But we also hope that presenters will find venues where students’ needs won’t be factored into revenue and liability equations.

In announcing the unobtainabilty of Sanders, Harvard has told presenters more or less the same thing, although perhaps with more nuance.

The institutions’ official emails to presenters follow.

Peter Charig  NEC Director of Business Relations & Event Management sent an email to all renters on Friday, that reads in part:

The safety and wellness of our community – including students, faculty, and staff – is NEC’s first priority, and with that focus, we have determined that our performance and rehearsal venues will not be available for rentals for the 2020-2021 concert season. Specifically, the time period from September 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. This decision is one prompted by our concern for public health and implemented out of necessity. It is a decision founded in robust planning in consultation with public health agencies and officials. That said, it is also a difficult one, as we have developed many trusted relationships with our partners and friends. We hope that our providing advance notice allows your organization to make alternative arrangements for the coming season, and we hope to continue to grow our relationship, even in these most difficult times.

As the world continues to monitor the ongoing health concerns posed by COVID-19, so will NEC.  Should an opportunity arise to safely and securely re-open our performance venues to our external partners for rental purposes, please be assured that we will consider all possibilities.

Michael Sarra, NEC Vice President for Communications, tells BMInt: “NEC’s concert halls are not only home to hundreds of performances per year – the vast majority produced within our conservatory community – but are utilized even more frequently as venues for teaching and learning. Given the rapidly evolving public health environment, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to ensure that access to and usage of our performance venues is preserved – first and foremost – for our students and faculty. We expect that venue scheduling demand for NEC’s core teaching and learning needs, given the anticipated need for social distancing measures, will be greater than ever. We have therefore sought to proactively notify our renters of this need so that they can plan for their upcoming seasons.”

Thursday evening, Ruth Polleys Program Manager. Harvard sent the following:

While all 2020-21 season reservations that we’ve discussed via email remain in place, we are not able to contract these reservations until more is known about guidelines regarding gathering and event spaces. Harvard has not yet determined whether the fall term will bring students back to campus. As CDC, state, and University decisions evolve, and as parameters regarding events are established, I will be in touch. There is a real possibility that Sanders Theatre events may not be able to move forward in the upcoming months, or may be able to move forward under new guidelines. We just don’t know.

Presenting organizations with non-contracted reservations should not advertise Sanders Theatre as a venue until the date is contracted and confirmed. We are working closely with the University to keep communication as consistent as possible and want to avoid confusion with premature information.



2 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. All the talk about “reopening the economy” very soon sounds completely farcical. If one cannot attend concerts, then I consider the economy closed. Until it is safe to attend concerts, then social distancing would seems necessary. Basically Harvard and NEC are saying that they believe social distancing and isolation will continue for at least 14 more months.

    Comment by Bennett — May 11, 2020 at 6:41 pm

  2. One wonders with subsequent events whether these institutions will reconsider these policies. Recent events see a lot of these anti-Wuhan policies (calling it COVID-19 implies that COVID-20 & 21 are on their way or that one must kowtow to Xi) thrown by the wayside by the widely-supported protests so we don’t know what’s going to happen. One development could be that non-collegiate halls start being used more for groups’ concerts and other performances to get around this problem. Churches, perhaps even some commercial venues needing business. Maybe even “open air” productions. Or maybe we just give up on music.

    Comment by Nathan Redshield — June 3, 2020 at 8:58 pm

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