Anne Harrigan is the conductor of two orchestras, one in Billings, MT, and one in Battle Creek, MI. Both have had their seasons derailed by the pandemic. In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, Harrigan says she and the Battle Creek Symphony took two weeks to regroup when the shutdown began in Michigan. Then came a pivot: Harrigan and other orchestra musicians began offering free online music lessons to young people in the Battle Creek school system. Harrigan also created a series of videos featuring past performances, sharing them on Facebook and YouTube.
The Black Lives Matter movement caused the symphony to examine its efforts to combat racism, says Harrigan. It requested and received advice, stories, and suggestions from Black community members and artists, who shared honest and often painful experiences. One of the outcomes is that the orchestra has commissioned a new work, to be premiered in 2022, from composer James Lee III, which will combine testimonies and music. It will be similar to Peter Boyer's Ellis Island, says the conductor.