By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
“Two days before the Cabaret Concert, the musicians had the rug pulled out from under us,” he said. “Many of our musicians are freelance, and they rely on this.”
The annual Cabaret Concert, the orchestra’s largest fundraiser, was scheduled for Saturday March 14, but cancelled when SUNY announced that they would be closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The concert was also slated to be the debut of new music director Maciej Zoltowski, who traveled from Poland for the concert and has been stranded in Oneonta ever since.
Wolf heard about the Paycheck Protection Program, a part of the CARES Act that grants loans to small businesses to help them pay their employees who were furloughed by the pandemic, he knew he had to apply.
“They’re our employees,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be a freelance musician, and I thought it was something we had to do for them.”
He missed the first round of funding, but was able to apply for the second, and on May 6, the CSO received $19,000 to pay the orchestra members for the missed concert.
“Everyone received a paycheck,” he said. “We also had some money left over for rent, phone, health insurance and other expenses.”
And because 75 percent of the loan was used just for payroll, Wolf said, the loan is forgiven and turned into a non-taxable grant.
The CSO was the only union orchestra in the state to apply for the funds. “I think it’s shocking that others did not,” he said. “I know how valuable these performers are, and you have to respect that value.”
He noted that in many orchestras, there are often rifts between musicians and management, and he seeks to amend that.
“When I was working in Europe, orchestras and singers were beloved by management, but when I got back here, the attitude was quite different,” he said. “But now I have musicians saying, ‘You’re so different, you actually talk to us! I want to continue to solidify that good relationship between musicians and management.”
He noted that many of the orchestra members have written to him to thank him. “One person told me that their family really needed it,” he said. “But we had to do it for them.”
Though the cabaret was cancelled, Wolf said that donations have been coming in steadily, and he’s been working with Zoltowski and Rosemary Summers, the new director of operations, to look ahead at the 2020-21 season.
“We don’t know what SUNY has in store,” he said. “We don’t know what it means to us if they don’t have students back on campus this fall, or if they can’t have large gatherings.”
He sees it as a chance for the orchestra to be innovative. “People are looking to have concerts again,” he said. “This is a chance for us to test our abilities and brainpower, to think of different ways to bring concerts to people.”