The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra will furlough seven of the nonprofit’s 10 employees in July to cope with the extended shutdown of the arts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At present the furloughs are only intended to last through the end of July, said RSO Executive Director David Crane. “We are taking the time to see that we can preserve capital. We’re going to use the time to work through and preserve the organization for future events.”

In addition, all employees have taken a pay cut, he said.

The symphony has also moved house and in doing so will save about $1,000 a month in rent going forward. The move was in the works prior to the onset of the pandemic, Crane said, but the need to conserve funds during the shutdown made it even more timely.

RSO has left its home of eight years at 128 Campbell Ave. S.E., the old Shenandoah Hotel building owned by Center in the Square, and moved south to offices in 1125 First St. S.W., near 5 Points Music Sanctuary. “It’s a financial stewardship move here for us,” Crane said.

In making this move, RSO has given up the small performance venue inside the Campbell Avenue location called the Green Room where the symphony occasionally gave small concerts and hosted art exhibitions.

The pandemic shutdowns have thrown the national performing arts scene into disarray. The Metropolitan Opera has canceled its fall programming, the New York Philharmonic canceled all 2020 performances, and the Nashville Symphony has canceled its entire 2020-21 season.

“We’re kind of the first to close and we’re going to be the last to open,” Crane said, referring to performing arts organizations in general.

Usually operating on a $1.6 million annual budget, RSO received a federal paycheck protection program loan, but as the shutdown has continued the organization has needed to cut more expenses to stay sound.

The symphony still intends to put on performances in the fall but has not yet determined what they would be. With Phase 3 of Virginia’s reopening approaching, RSO is working to figure out what kind of programs will be possible in the fall and after the new year.

“We will be playing together for some concerts this fall,” Crane said. “I’m hopeful that we can play an Elmwood Park concert of some kind.”

It’s not just a question of creating events that fit social distancing restrictions for audiences and musicians, but also gauging whether patrons will feel safe attending group events. “We’ve got to decide on this very carefully.”

Those wishing to support RSO can go online to, Crane said.

Mike Allen covers government happenings in Franklin County and Botetourt County for The Roanoke Times and also writes the weekly Arts & Extras column.

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