UMS president talks upcoming season, new announcements in live Q&A
By Sydney Hawkins and Mallory Shea
ANN ARBOR—How will COVID-19 affect this year’s lineup of performing artists that the University Musical Society will present? What can audiences expect this season? Will there be any virtual opportunities to engage?These are some of the questions that UMS president Matthew VanBesien will address in a live Q&A at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 7, via the UMS YouTube and Facebook accounts. Jennifer Conlin, deputy editor of the Michigan Alumnus, will lead the discussion as the two address UMS’s plans for its 142nd season and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. They also will answer questions submitted live by viewers. The event will take place just a few days after the University Musical Society announced several changes to its fall season due to the novel coronavirus that continues to pose a serious threat to public health around the world. Housed on the campus of the University of Michigan, UMS is one of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country. During a normal season, they present about 70 performances and hundreds of free educational events reaching the K-12, university and greater southeastern Michigan communities. According to VanBesien, while some of the live events that were originally announced won’t take place as planned, UMS will present several new and reimagined programs that will provide unique opportunities for audiences over the coming months, both in person and in the digital space.“Some have asked us why we aren’t simply canceling our fall season like so many other organizations across the U.S.,” said VanBesien. “Put simply, we feel that we have both a unique opportunity and responsibility to continue delivering on the promise of our mission, to engage our audiences with exceptional and compelling artistic and educational offerings.“On Tuesday, we hope to answer more questions like this and explore some of the ways that UMS plans to fully utilize our resources and our creative, collaborative spirit as expansively as we can in finding safe ways to provide our community with inspiring, memorable artistic experiences.”Additional presentations that were announced for the 2020-21 season include streamed performances by artists and ensembles like the Paul Taylor Dance Company, sibling artists Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason, the Takács Quartet, and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre.
UMS also will partner with several artists like actor Wendell Pierce, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, and performance artist and U-M alumnus Brian Lobel + Friends to provide extended digital residencies. It also plans to present a live outdoor concert with Detroit-based musicians in Ann Arbor's West Park (215 Chapin St.) in late September or early October. UMS education programs will continue during the months of August, September and October, when its free "You Can Dance" movement workshop series moves outdoors, where dancers and "curious movers" can participate while socially distanced. It also will continue to create online resources for teachers and students by further developing its Performance Playground series, which debuted this spring. In collaboration with U-M and public health authorities, UMS is developing clear safety protocols and capacity restrictions to ensure that any live performance experiences are presented in the safest, most public health-informed way possible for audiences and artists alike.Any future changes to the 2020-21 UMS season will be announced around the first of each month. An up-to-date listing of changes and additions can be found at ums.org/coronavirus.