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  • Writer's pictureZach Finkelstein

Oregon Bach Festival Cancels 2020 Summer in Mass Email, Some Musicians Find Out on Facebook

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

In an April 20th email sent at 10:06pm, the Oregon Bach Festival cancelled the 2020 season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The "official announcement" list of 543 people included alumni, patrons, donors, musicians, and faculty members. Dean Sabrina Madison-Cannon's communication called the move a "postponement" to 2021, replacing next year's festival with the current program, and delaying its decision to audition three "world-renowned maestros" for Artistic Director: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Eric Jacobsen, and Julian Wachner.


Dean Madison-Cannon wrote "as a part of their decision-making, we consulted with many stakeholders, including the finalists for our Artistic Director."


The cancellation of the 2020 festival came as a surprise to musicians involved, some of whom found out on social media this morning. One orchestra member discovered it in a private Facebook group. Another player said it was the first communication they had received in over a month. At least two choir members new to the 2020 season, not added yet to the general mailing list, found out through alumni or social media.


According to one source, members of the Oregon press were privy to the information as early as April 19th.


Communication with artists appears to be a hot-button issue for at least five musicians interviewed. One chorister who has been with the company nearly 15 years, said, "communication is near the top of the list of things they don't do well." This chorister purchased their flights ahead of time "in good faith" without a contract, and felt lucky the airlines offered no-penalty cancellations.


One long-term orchestral player said, "Of course I'm not surprised it's cancelled, nor am I surprised that this is how I'd find out."


Multiple musician sources cite a pattern of erratic and conflicting communications from the Oregon Bach Festival. For example, a few years ago one long-term chorister received an email on Christmas Eve informing them they were not accepted to the festival, and in early January were re-invited.


The artistic director candidate contacted declined to comment.


The full text of the communication sent by the University of Oregon is provided below:

More to follow as the story develops.


ZF



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6 Comments


Zach Finkelstein
Zach Finkelstein
Apr 22, 2020

Hi Steve, thanks for the quick response. I have updated the following language: "In an April 20th email sent at 10:06pm, the Oregon Bach Festival cancelled the 2020 season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The "official announcement" list of 543 people included alumni, patrons, donors, musicians, and faculty members."


As for providing you with a list of names of musicians who were not included on your larger list:


The list was not inclusive of all musicians and I am not in a position to give you specific names of people that were not on that list, as some of them were anonymous sources in this article. This also would not solve the problem of a clean list moving forward, because I…


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sfyffe
Apr 22, 2020

Zach – Thank you for your questions. Here is some additional information that will hopefully provide more context for your readers.


At 10pm PST on Monday, April 20, we emailed the letter from dean Sabrina Madison-Cannon to a list of 543 people, including OBF musicians, key faculty members from the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance and “Friends of the Festival” – a group of devoted patrons who support the festival through tax-deductible donations, in order to qualify for advance pre-sale tickets. Just to be clear, this is not our “general mailing list.” The Oregon Bach Festival has much more extensive email marketing lists that include thousands of additional addresses.


Please let us know of any musicians who…


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Zach Finkelstein
Zach Finkelstein
Apr 21, 2020

Update: Two modern orchestra musicians confirm they received the 1010PM April 20 General Announcement and they just received an email to the musicians of the modern orchestra informing them 20 minutes ago at roughly 430pm PST on April 21st.

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Zach Finkelstein
Zach Finkelstein
Apr 21, 2020

Hi Steve, Here are some examples that I am confused by if the original email was addressed to musicians in the OBF only, can you please clarify?


-An orchestra member received the above email at 10:08PM PST addressed what they perceived to be generally to audience/patrons, and then received a specific email to the baroque orchestra at 11:54 AM the next day on April 21st The orchestral email follow-up said specifically, "Greetings from OBF!  I you have not seen it yet, please read the attached official announcement from Dean Sabrina Madison-Cannon." indicating that the official announcement to the general public was first, not the musician announcement.

-Alumni confirm receiving the email at 10:08 PM PST who were not members of the 2020…


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Zach Finkelstein
Zach Finkelstein
Apr 21, 2020

Thanks Steve. I appreciate the follow-up. It looks like you are correct, the mass email to the public was sent out earlier at 10:06pm on April 20th. My understanding of the timeline is as follows:


April 20th 5pm board meeting

April 20th 10:06pm mass email to general listserve, including some musicians. Public April 20th, no timestamp update on your website.

April 21st 9AM press release. I am interested to hear your thoughts on this. There is nothing in the OBF press room on your site since last summer 2019. Can you clarify?

April 21st 1154AM email to at least some orchestra musicians

April 21st afternoon, various times as late as 215pm EST musicians were informed by choral and music program…


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