san Francisco SYmphony

The State of the State

Dear Friend of the San Francisco Symphony,

Throughout the past four months, we have been grateful for the outpouring of support and well-wishes from our patrons. We are writing you today to provide some important updates in light of the ongoing challenges brought about by COVID-19. In the following letter, we would like to share some key information about the current state of the San Francisco Symphony, our ongoing commitment to our patrons and our community, the financial impacts of the pandemic, and ways that you can help.

Status of San Francisco Symphony Programming and Events 

All San Francisco Symphony performances featuring the full orchestra are canceled through December 2020. Most of the administrative staff team continues to work remotely as the City is allowing only minimal activity to resume within Davies Symphony Hall. While we are deeply disappointed to cancel the exciting lineup of live concerts we had planned for Fall 2020, including the start of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s tenure as Music Director and a festival of events featuring our eight Collaborative Partners, we know this action is necessary in order to ensure the health and safety of our Orchestra, Chorus, staff, and audiences. 

As we continue to seek meaningful ways to connect to music and each other from home, the San Francisco Symphony has dramatically increased our online offerings. Highlights of these efforts include a robust social media presence featuring personal messages and performances by our musicians, the launch of MTT’s Keeping Score programs on YouTube, and a 25-day tribute to MTT in lieu of his final concerts as Music Director. Throughout the month of June, we relived an unforgettable era in American music history with MTT25: An Online Tribute for Michael Tilson Thomas, a digital commemoration of 25 years with our iconic Music Director, which culminated in a star-studded online farewell celebration on June 28. To experience our incredible MTT25 collection of archival photos, audio clips, and videos, and trace the entire MTT-San Francisco Symphony journey, visit 

As we have done since March, we continue to “plan for the worst, while hoping for the better.” We will continue to share news about the status of activities at Davies Symphony Hall as plans develop, and we appreciate your patience as we navigate this uncertain time. Bearing all this in mind, we invite you to join us on a journey of hope as we look to the future. We look forward to launching innovative new programming in the coming months, comprising an engaging variety of new online content, digital experiences, opportunities for exploration and learning, and socially distanced outdoor performances featuring small ensembles of musicians.

Our Patron Promise

The pandemic has changed a lot of things in our world, but not our high standard of customer service. As we look ahead to the 2020–21 season, our Patron Promise ensures that we will be there for you just as you continue to be there for us. 

  • We pledge to be flexible, empathetic, and accommodating should you be unable to safely attend an event.
  • If an event needs to be rescheduled or canceled, we will let you know as soon as possible, providing you with the choice of ticket donations, gift certificates, exchanges, and refunds.
  • We remain committed to bringing the best in music to our stages, while keeping our audiences, musicians, and staff safe.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In 2018, the San Francisco Symphony established a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Workgroup. For the past 18 months, this group, led by an external facilitator and made up of dedicated musicians, Board members and staff, has debated and discussed many issues including our institution’s role in normalizing exclusionary practices that are extensions of broad systemic imbalances of wealth and power. Amid the protests that emerged in the days following George Floyd’s killing, we made a public statement on our social media channels in support of standing against injustice and racism. As CEO, Mark sent a letter to the Board, Orchestra, Chorus, and administrative staff affirming the SF Symphony’s commitment to contributing to different and more just outcomes; excerpts from that letter were posted publicly on our social media channels.  

Our efforts to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization continue to be an important institutional priority. As of this writing, a group of SF Symphony family members is spearheading a “Community Promise” for the organization that will serve as both a statement of our values and a code of conduct for the San Francisco Symphony community. In addition, we are developing a formal DEI plan for the organization. We look forward to sharing our progress with you as this important work continues to evolve.

Actions to Address the Financial Impact of COVID-19

Faced with the dire financial challenges brought about by COVID-19, SF Symphony senior leadership were compelled to implement a shared sacrifice plan at all levels of the organization.

  • From mid-March through August 31, 64 San Francisco Symphony performances were canceled, resulting in more than $13 million in lost revenue during the 2019–20 season. With cancellations now extending through December 31, 2020, we are working to forecast and prepare for the ongoing financial impacts of COVID-19.
  • Members of the Orchestra, Chorus, and stagehands agreed to reduce their salaries by an average of 25% during the period of April 19 to September 5. Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas has not received compensation for canceled concerts. Parties will retain all healthcare and insurance benefits during this time.
  • Tiered salary reductions were implemented in April for senior administrative leadership; further reductions occurred in June for additional staff members. A total of 48 staff have been affected by these salary reductions.
  • Also in June, 24 administrative staff positions were eliminated, and another 22 were furloughed for either 6 or 12 weeks while summer activity remains at reduced levels. Furloughed administrative staff members joined 40 members of our concert usher team already furloughed. All staff who were laid off received severance commensurate with their years of service; all staff impacted by furloughs and layoffs will retain their health benefits through August 31 along with other forms of support such as outplacement services and the establishment of an employee support fund.  
  • Repeat Performance, the SF Symphony’s beloved resale shop since 1972, closed permanently on July 31. 

Our shared sacrifice plans were undertaken following months of planning and countless hours of discussion. These wrenching decisions were not made lightly, but we believe they are the most responsible way forward for the San Francisco Symphony as an institution. We deeply regret the hardship brought about by these measures and extend our heartfelt gratitude to every member of the SF Symphony family for their remarkable service to our organization. 

How You Can Help

Donate your tickets

By donating your tickets for canceled concert(s), you play a vital role in supporting our Orchestra through a very difficult time. Your ticket donation will be matched by a group of generous SF Symphony Board members and donors, and you’ll receive a tax deduction for the total value of your ticket(s). Special additional thank you opportunities for those who opt to donate their ticket(s) at this time will be announced soon. Tickets may be donated on our website or by calling 415.864.6000.

Make a gift or renew your support today

In this time of uncertainty, one thing remains constant: Our deepest gratitude for the dedication and support of each and every member of the San Francisco Symphony family. Your generosity has helped us face challenges in the past and is even more vital today as we take meaningful steps to safeguard the future. You can help us sustain the San Francisco Symphony by making or renewing a tax-deductible gift now. Please donate today by visiting us online or by calling 415.503.5444.

Create or update your estate plans

Whether you are creating a first-time estate plan or reviewing your existing plans, now is an excellent time to ensure that your wishes will be carried out for the benefit of loved ones and charitable organizations such as the San Francisco Symphony. To learn more about planned giving options, please contact Dan Coleman, Senior Director of Development, at 415.503.5445 or [email protected].

The commitment and support of our donors has never been more vital, or more deeply appreciated. If you have any questions or comments about the updates detailed above, please contact us at 415.503.5444 or [email protected].  

On behalf of all of us at the San Francisco Symphony, thank you for your dedication to our Orchestra as we navigate a new reality together. We look forward to sharing some exciting news about our new online offerings and socially distanced small ensemble performances as those plans take shape this summer. In the meantime, we wish you, your loved ones, and your communities good health.

Sincerely yours,

Sakurako Fisher

Mark C. Hanson
Chief Executive Officer

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