Arriving in Santa Fe in February, Santa Fe Pro Musica's new executive director certainly found herself traipsing into a minefield of COVID-19 chaos.
Still, with a pedigree including the Vermont Mozart Festival and New York City's Concert Artists Guild and Composers Now organizations, Mary Madigan is uniquely positioned to weather the storm and create solutions to new problems imposed on…literally everyone. With news of Pro Musica canceling the remainder of its 2020 performances, SFR spoke with Madigan about the present, the future and how the outfit plans on paying musicians meant to play in Santa Fe for the postponed season through a $50,000 emergency fund created at the advent of the crisis.
At this moment in time, what is going on with Santa Fe ProMusica?
I think at first it was natural to want to race to adapt to launch an online presence, and…and…and. And to get our new season out there and promoted, but realizing that life is suspended for most people, it seemed to me we had some time. The world is going to be different when doors start to open again. There's no question, no doubt that there's going to be economic fallout, so let's take a moment to prepare for that now. Let's not be in crisis management mode for the next month, for the next year and a half. The different phases of how we can engage with each other is unknown, but let's get ahead of that now.
How strange is it to take something over in the midst of an international crisis?
Honestly, it's not as crazy as you might think. I think perhaps for having been self-employed and having to be versatile and ride the wave as the standard course; for always being flexible, always adapting to different clients, running the organization I was running in New York City, where everybody was working at home—working at home is not new to me—I adapted to it right away. What's thrown me more is the concern for the health of everyone—my friends in new York, what might go down here in New Mexico, but in terms of managing the situation, I adapt and react pretty quickly. Being thoughtful about how we approach our new season—I'm used to things being in flux.
I assume short and long-term strategies are being planned, what things might these be and how are they being implemented?
Most of our time is being spent thinking about how best to plan and program the next season. What is likely to happen, or one of the things I'm considering seriously, is starting our season later than usual to allow more time for it be safer for people to be out there. We've created a few different scenarios for how it might look like in terms of the program, in terms of the schedule. Within, I'd say, a month, we'll know what scenario we're choosing. We're going to wait a little longer before we solidify that. We're mostly concerned with how to prepare for next season, but of course there's the immediate financial management. For us, managing the immediate crisis means logistic shifts, but also pausing to be thoughtful about how to plan for next season. I know what people will see next season—they'll see all the hallmarks of Santa Fe Pro Musica, but the structure of the season may appear different. It took some discipline because the initial reaction is to scramble and push plans forward, plans that have already been made. It took some discipline to say we can wait a bit and to reflect on how many ways we can roll out a season.
Are virtual concerts a possibility?
It's not a knee-jerk reaction for us to say let's just put concerts online. The experience is different. That's not to say we wouldn't consider streaming our performances. I think it can be done well, but for us, using our time and energy toward planning the future is our priority right now. We are very mindful of our audience and donors and wanting to maintain relationships with them. We've made calls to test some of our ideas, like if we could start concerts in September, how likely [are they] to attend? Economic times are uncertain, how likely [are they] to subscribe? That helps us as well in terms of how we consider the structure.
How has the $50,000 emergency fund been going?
We were in an executive committee meeting that was a regularly scheduled meeting, and this was also the day after the first cases were reported in New Mexico. We were scheduled to discuss the impact if we had to cancel. During that meeting, the mass gathering ban rolled out, and it was no longer hypothetical. One of our board members expressed deep concern for the musicians who'd be out of work—they're the heart of the organization—and over the weekend they made a structure for [the fund]. One member put up $10,000 in matching funds, and bam—we had a relief fund. I don't exactly know [how many musicians have been affected], but if 55 musicians are affected by the cancellations, and should we meet our goal, 55 will be receiving support.
*Author's note: After our interview, Madigan reached out via email to say "Great news! We have met and exceeded our goal! As we stated when we launched this campaign, any funds in excess of the goal will be allocated to ensuring the continuation of our concert presentations. We are so grateful to the community for the outpouring of support for our musicians. Thank you, Santa Fe! Thank you, supporters from elsewhere, too!"