The Oregon Symphony, Portland's largest arts organization, has canceled all of its concerts and all other services except for its digital programming, through 2020, due to COVID-19 concerns.
The cancellations add up to 43 symphony performances in Portland and Salem, and about 250 education and engagement programs statewide, including those for schools, hospitals and prisons.
Ticket holders can get refunds, a credit toward a future performance or donate the price of their admission to the symphony.
Symphony president and CEO Scott Showalter says the decision was based on state health guidelines and the organization's ticket sale and marketing schedule.
"The reason we didn't do it sooner," says Showalter, "is because we really want to perform, and if there's any chance that we could, we were holding out hope."
However, concert halls will not be allowed to open until Phase 3 of Oregon's reopening process.
"It's become clear in recent weeks that that's not going to happen in the next few months," says Showalter. "No one can really imagine that come October, when we're scheduled to have our first performance, that we will have a vaccine and 7 billion people across the globe will magically be inoculated and we'll all be just fine."
Though the symphony is currently hoping to resume programming in January, December is typically one of the symphony's biggest-earning months due to holiday shows. Pre-COVID, half of the symphony's budget came from ticket sales. Oregon Symphony had already sold $4 million worth of tickets for the now-canceled concerts, and since single tickets are not yet on sale, expected to sell several million dollars more.
The symphony has already lost millions of dollars in revenue due to COVID cancellations. The organization's fiscal year ended June 20, and according to Showalter, it expects to report a seven-figure deficit, which is also its first deficit in over a decade.
"I don't know what revenues, particularly contributions, are going to look like in the coming year, but we're almost certain to have a multimillion-dollar loss," says Showalter. "The only way we're able to still survive is by using whatever assets we have on hand, and those aren't evergreen. It's going to run out at some point."
Nonetheless, the organization is planning to ramp up its digital programming, all of which is free. In addition to its existing virtual series Essential Sounds, which pays tribute to essential workers, and the kid-focused Symphony Storytime, Oregon Symphony will soon begin posting recordings of previous performances.