Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

Q: How do you honor a 100-year-old beloved institution during a global pandemic? A: With creative planning, and lots of it. Executive director Jessica Mallow Gulley, musical director Julian Kuerti, and the staff of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra have been working non-stop to navigate the possibilities and the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hear how the season will begin, and how it may transform into live concerts, in our interview with Gulley and Kuerti. 


Colin Howe for Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

Jessica Mallow Gulley's first nine months as executive director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra have been extraordinary ones. Pulling off a spectular 100th season was supposed to be the first order of business, but the COVID-19 pandemic soon put plans for the season in disarray. Since then, Gulley and the other members of the KSO staff have planned, re-planned, and re-re-planned ways to keep the music alive, and to stay connected to the wider community.


Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

"Should we shake hands onstage or not?" Jun-Ching Lin remembers the subject coming up with music director Julian Kuerti, prior to a Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra concert on March 6, as the spread of COVID-19 in the US began to increase.  


John Lacko/Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

It may seem like a conductor's job is to spend all their time rehearsing musicians and conducting concerts, but according to Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra resident conductor Daniel Brier, that's only 10% of the work. The other 90% is studying and interpreting the scores. So when the COVID-19 crisis prevented Brier from conducting, he found new ways to be productive.


Ad Astra Music Festival

Austin McWilliams had recently earned his master's degree in choral conducting from Western Michigan University and was working for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra when COVID-19 abruptly ended all musical activity within a few days. In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, McWilliams remembers getting the news that other schools were shutting rehearsals down, and after one final choral rehearsal, so were his. It was quite a blow. The much-anticipated performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion was going to bring together hundreds professional and student performers just before Easter for a work which hadn't been presented in decades. 


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