COVID-19 Relief Fund & FAQs

Commitment to USUO’s mission to connect the community through great live music

Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s Board of Trustees, staff and artists are deeply committed to continue the legacy of great live music in our community, and are determined to fulfill our mission in some fashion, even within the constraints of the current environment. We are re-envisioning USUO’s next chapter to inspire hope through the miracle of music:

  • Multiple, more frequent performances of the same program to accommodate smaller audiences
  • Shorter performances with no intermissions for audience safety
  • Creative programming requiring smaller forces on stage for performers’ safety
  • Streaming opportunities
  • Creative education and community outreach programming

Purpose of Relief Fund

To support USUO’s most urgent needs and expenses, and to offset losses from earned and contributed revenue; to provide a bridge to resuming performances; and to allow us to plan for the future. Current and expected losses and needs
  • $4.7 M in lost ticket revenue in FY20
  • Projected shortfalls in FY21 ranging from $3M – $5M due to modified season, smaller allowed audiences, and reduced sponsorships and public funding, even as we contemplate severe expense cuts.
  • Operating expenses as we plan for the future (essential staff and direct costs)
  • Seed money to ensure we can fulfill our mission in the future
  • Health insurance for all talent and staff, instrument insurance, and unemployment supplements


$3,000,000 to offset losses and enable us to sustain the 2020-21 season


  • Utilize lead gift of $500,000 from Dell Loy Hansen and Dr. Julie Aiken Hansen as the core for an unrestricted fund and as a challenge grant to major donors and the community at large.
  • Challenge USUO Board of Trustees to participate in relief efforts through personal commitments and by utilizing their networks to encourage additional support.
  • Leverage the challenge grant by inviting community leaders and those closest to USUO to contribute
  • Cultivate grassroots efforts to invite the broader community to participate in securing the future of one of Utah’s flagship cultural treasures and calling cards.



Accomplishments since the pandemic hit Utah in mid-March 2020:

  • Performances (including archived video footage) moved online, as possible
  • Two world premieres commissioned and presented on YouTube and Facebook:
    • Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity by Augusta Read Thomas
    • Longing from Afar by Dai Fujikura.
  • Utah Symphony’s 80th “birthday party” was also celebrated online with performances by orchestra members and appearances by prominent guest artists who have previously appeared here in Salt Lake City.
  • Utah Opera’s family-friendly performance of Rachel Portman and Nicholas Wright’s The Little Prince (recorded in January 2019) was available for complimentary, on-demand streaming June 22 through August 5, 2020.Utah Symphony Musicians and Utah Opera Resident Artists recorded informal “Quarantunes” performances at their homes to share online in the spring and summer of 2020.

After a six-month hiatus, USUO returned live to Abravanel Hall and the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre in the fall of 2020 to maximum audiences of 400 and 250 respectively to adhere to the approved safety plan. Shorter programs without intermissions minimized risk. Since September 2020, Utah Symphony and Utah Opera have undertaken the following activities:

  • Four Utah Symphony Masterworks and one Entertainment concerts that were expanded to add Thursday performances and some Saturday matinees in addition to Friday and Saturday evenings
  • Second annual ¡Celebración Sinfónica! concert, with tickets offered free of charge by advance reservation.
  • Utah Opera’s re-imagined October production with a program of two one-act operas, La voix humaine by Francis Poulenc, sung by one vocal artist to piano accompaniment, and Gentleman’s Island by Joseph Horovitz, performed by two artists and a reduced orchestra. The number of performances was increased from the usual five to ten to accommodate more audience members in the time of social distancing.
  • With the closure of our facilities to the public at the end of November, 2020, USUO launched its streaming platform, USUO: On Demand to offer performances online (org/on-demand/). We are currently recording and uploading new events to this site on an ongoing basis.
  • Utah Symphony Musicians and Utah Opera Resident Artists recorded a variety of education programs for streaming to classrooms.
  • 13 chamber ensembles of Utah Symphony musicians created and recorded short concerts released via the USUO: On Demand streaming platform.
  • Opportunities to delve into less-often performed repertoire allowed artists and audience members to play and experience unusual pieces, enhancing their musical experiences.
  • A mobile app for contactless tickets, a digital playbill, on demand streaming platform, and online opportunities for audiences to connect with artists and USUO leadership.


  • All education programs were moved online and include:
    • Pre-recorded videos of education programs
    • Live remote Zoom sessions between students and artists
    • Online instructional methods and resources for teachers
  • Newly acquired experience in remote learning will continue in the future for outreach to distant schools that our artists cannot visit, or for students unable to attend our events in Salt Lake City


  • A side-letter to the collective bargaining agreement with the orchestra that provides unprecedented, newly realized, or unique flexibility throughout the season, and allows for the creative use of our performances for streaming, virtual education programs, concerts featuring small ensembles, and adaptive programming and presentation.
  • The adoption of a safety plan vetted and approved by our staff, engineers at the University of Utah and an epidemiologist, Salt Lake County, and ratified by both the musicians of the orchestra and USUO’s Executive Committee.
  • Planning for the future amidst a pandemic:
    • The opportunity to continue to play, perform, and record together throughout the current season means our musicians have been able to maintain the highest level of artistry.
    • Creativity and flexibility have flourished with opportunities to explore new repertoire, new presentation formats, and more chamber ensembles and music.
    • Recording and streaming opportunities have built technical skills which will continue to serve USUO in the future as we provide access to larger and more distant audiences.
    • Ability to move many of our contracted soloists, guest artists, and programming into future seasons has helped with scheduling.
    • Thierry Fischer’s decision to extend his contract by one year into 2022-23 gives us more stability as we continue the Music Director search.
    • Full employment of staff and artists puts us in a position to plan for the future with optimism and confidence.


The pandemic will have a multi-year impact on USUO as we recover and return to more normal, pre-pandemic circumstances. As we transition to future seasons, we continue to pursue all funding opportunities as they become available to successfully bridge this transition. over at least a two-year period and it is unknown how long it will take the organization to recover to more normal, pre-pandemic circumstances. We continue to pursue all funding opportunities as they become available to successfully bridge this transition.

Factors contributing to a gradual but slow recovery:

  • We will begin the 2021-22 season with a large ticket liability due to ticket credits on account, reducing our earned revenue capacities.
  • It is uncertain when the public will feel comfortable returning to live performances, or how long we will be required to perform to reduced audiences due to social distancing, which will further impact our earned revenue capacity.
  • The uncertainty of the pandemic’s impact on philanthropy puts our contributed revenue at greater risk.

Support that has allowed us to maintain operations and continue to fulfill our mission:

  • CARES funding from numerous sources, including 2 rounds of PPP, that have helped to keep our artists and staff employed, allowed us to stream, and provided personal protective equipment necessary to do our jobs.
  • Establishment of a Covid-19 Relief Fund spearheaded by 2 board members and supported broadly by the board of trustees.
  • A $500,000 challenge grant from the Alternative Visions Fund was successfully met, and combined with other private sources of funding and CARES monies, allowed us to fulfill our mission and continue full employment of staff and artists.
  • Thanks to one-time funding through Covid-19 Relief efforts, significant CARES funding, and expense cuts, we have been able to maintain our operations and are projecting a surplus for the 2020-21 season only, with future funding still precarious.


  • As much as the current pandemic-induced conditions are not desired, I still have to say that I LOVE the unique concert experience right now! The concerts feel more intimate and personalized — like it’s just for me and a few others. And I am SO enjoying the pieces that have been selected, some are new to me and others are old friends. But having the opportunity to enjoy them in-person at Abravanel Hall with such world-class musicians is an absolute DELIGHT! Everything about the concert experience is fantastic!!
  • I was quite moved by the great lengths that the staff and the musicians went to in order to bring live music to us here. Their spirits were a great tribute to the essence of sharing the oxygen of music.
  • I was thrilled to hear live music again! Even though the entire orchestra was not onstage at once, I appreciated that all sections were featured (and really enjoyed the percussion number, but would’ve liked a camera on them to see what they were doing). It’s got to feel weird to the musicians to be so spread out as they perform and to see such a sparse audience, but thank you, thank you for a wonderful evening back in Abravanel Hall!
  • I was told that the concert would be only about 1 hour so I had a friend who drove me to the concert and then during the concert found out it would go longer so I had to leave. I was very impressed at all the precautions you have taken to create a safe environment and of course I was thrilled to be experiencing live music again at Abravenel Hall. I was afraid that that would never happen again. Hurray for you and creating cultural nourishment again. this is so hugely important that this part of human life isn’t eliminated due to what is happening with Covid. Hey even in London during WWII the Blitz they kept on with theatre/music/culture. Thank you
  • It was outstanding in all ways. Precautions were excellent and handled with care and respect for everyone. In spite of the reduced number of musicians, the program was wonderful. In fact, maybe because of that everything felt very special. I loved (!!!) the percussion piece which is something that would not have been done otherwise. In fact, each piece worked as intended, it pointed out how remarkable each section of the orchestra is. The video portion was also touching, seeing musicians individually, some in their homes or in scenic spots unique to this area, it just all gave me a feeling of gratitude for each of them and for Thierry Fisher. Everything from the addition built onto the stage to the extensive and careful planning that went into this made me feel most fortunate to be there and very moved. To all of you from the ushers to the Utah Symphony organizers, the new App’s designers, office and stage help, and especially to the fantastic performers I send my deepest gratitude and thanks AND congratulations for pulling this off!
  • I’ve been very frustrated by much of Utah’s response to this pandemic but you made me feel grateful to be present and you made me feel that you cared about my well being. It is deeply heartening. I’ll be buying more tickets besides my subscription. As someone who got no musical training but loves music I can’t tell you how much you mean.
  • The performances were emotional, varied, and beautifully done. The Adagio brought us close to tears. Bravo!
  • It was wonderful to be back in Abravenal Hall after a long dry spell. The Orchestra was perfect and brought tears to my eyes with the beautiful renditions we were privileged to hear. I can’t wait for this week’s performance. Filled my soul with joy. It was weird to sit so far removed from the women I attend with, but small price to pay to be able to be there. Thank you to the musicians of the Utah Symphony, and all those that worked so hard to make this performance possible.
  • Finishing Touches… So great to be back. Missed the Symphony and opera tremendously. We did miss the coffee and breads.
  • Thank you so much for your moving performance. We were so happy to have the Maestro Fischer back as well. Please don’t leave us after this season!
  • The orchestra was its same old excellent. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy has turned COVID ignorance into stupidity and thus limited the number of people who could listed to this marvelous music played by such talented and well-led musicians.
  • I and a friend were there at the opening. Ms. Reese Newton’s review captured the touching beauty of both the importance of the evening and the glorious music. I wept uncontrollably at the national anthem. I wept at the profound messages in Barber’s and Tchaikovsky’s music made even more profound by the Covid pandemic. Congratulations to the Utah Symphony and the entire organization for giving us our symphonic music again. Thank you all.
  • Loved it! Felt blessed to be among the relatively few who were there Friday night. Felt very safe. The program was perfect–beautiful and inspiring. Loved the strings only. So interesting to see & hear each section so well. Fisher was at his best! Didn’t want it to end. Season ticket holder–Pick 5.