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.


Cancelled/Postponed Events March 12-August 31, 2020

All events from March 12 through August 31, including 10 opera performances, 19 symphony concerts, the 80th Anniversary Gala, 68 education and community outreach events, the 19 concerts of the 2020 Deer Valley Music Festival and our state-wide tour.  Estimated revenue loss due to cancelations $4.7M


SBA Paycheck Protection Program loan provided eight weeks of salaries, benefits, rent and utilities totaling approximately $2.5M, relieving some burden in the spring.

Lack of revenues will force orchestra and staff furloughs and salary reductions for the summer. Total expenses are projected to be reduced by approximately 20%.  Health benefits, instrument insurance and a small unemployment supplement will be maintained for furloughed employees, evidencing our commitment to them and to reopening in the fall.

In addition to lost ticket revenue and sponsorships, tickets sold for cancelled /postponed concerts total approximately $1.3M, which acts as a liability against next season’s concert revenues, further decreasing the potential for the 2020-21 season.

Due to required social distancing in our venues, maximum capacities will likely be 500 in Abravanel Hall and 250 in the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre.  Due to these smaller audiences, we anticipate sharp reductions in earned and contributed revenue.  Government support will also decline due to the economic impact of the pandemic on state and county budgets.  Even with deep expense cuts, we will likely lose money next season, making an increase in community support vital.

Connecting with the Community Virtually

USUO artists and staff moved quickly to post online performances and resources to keep connected with our community while unable to perform for live audiences

  • School From Home Utah Symphony and Utah Opera
    • Multiple age-specific activities and learning modules for students, teachers and parents featuring both Utah Symphony musicians and Utah Opera Resident Artists
  • Utah Symphony: Listening Room, Performance Clips, Audio Streaming, Living Room Concerts, 80th Anniversary Virtual Celebration Concert , Ghost light Podcasts
  • Utah Opera: Listening Room, Pre-performance Chats, Ghost light Podcasts, Performance clips

Preparing for the Future

While it is extraordinarily challenging to provide for an uncertain future, especially one that depends on community gatherings for live performances, USUO’s Board of Trustees, management, staff and artists are committed to producing music in some fashion to fulfill our mission, even within the constraints of the current environment.

Measures include:

  • Establishment of a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to cover losses and to ensure future programming
  • Continuation of the President & CEO Search and Music Director Search
  • Re-envisioning orchestra and opera for when we are able to perform in our venues again. Ideas include:
    • Shorter performances with no intermissions for audience safety
    • Multiple, more frequent performances of the same program, to accommodate smaller audiences
    • Creative programming requiring smaller forces on stage for performers’ safety
    • Streaming opportunities
    • Creative education and community outreach programming
  • Pursuit of all funding options, including all federal and private sources
  • Working closely with our counterparts in the industry and other experts to determine best practices during COVID-19 and the recovery period.
  • Budgeting and programming for multiple scenarios
  • Ongoing conversations with officials in counties where we perform to assess how we can gather in accordance with Utah’s recovery plan stages
  • Taking all precautions to ensure the safety and health of our talent, staff, and audiences, including backstage, onstage, front of house, and audience
  • Creating a safe space for the community to gather for an uplifting and inspiring experience