By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special for www.AllOTSEGO.com
“Two days before the Cabaret concert, the musicians had the carpet ripped off under us,” he said. “A lot of our musicians are independent and they rely on that. “
The annual Cabaret concert, the orchestra’s largest fundraiser, was scheduled for Saturday, March 14, but canceled when SUNY announced its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The concert was also set to be the debut for new music director Maciej Zoltowski, who traveled from Poland for the concert and has been stranded at Oneonta ever since.
Wolf heard of the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the CARES Act that provides loans to small businesses to help them pay their employees who were put on leave by the pandemic, he knew he had to apply.
“These are our employees,” he says. “I know what it’s like to be an independent 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 orchestra members for the missed concert.
“Everyone got a salary,” he said. “We also had money left 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 canceled and turned into a tax-free grant.
The CSO was the only union orchestra in the state to ask for funds. “I think it’s shocking that others haven’t,” he said. “I know how precious these artists are and you must respect that value.”
He noted that in many orchestras there are often divisions between musicians and conductors, and he seeks to correct that.
“When I was working in Europe orchestras and singers were loved by the management, but when I came back here the attitude was quite different,” he said. “But now I have musicians who say, ‘You are so different, you actually talk to us! I want to continue to consolidate this good relationship between musicians and management. “
He noted that many members of the orchestra wrote to him thanking him. “One person told me his family really needs it,” he said. “But we had to do it for them.”
Although the cabaret was canceled, Wolf said donations arrived regularly and that he was working with Zoltowski and Rosemary Summers, the new director of operations, to anticipate the 2020-21 season.
“We don’t know what SUNY has in store for us,” he said. “We don’t know what it means to us if they don’t have students returning to campus this fall, or if they can’t organize large gatherings.
He sees it as a chance for the orchestra to innovate. “People are looking to have gigs again,” he said. “It’s a chance for us to test our abilities and our intelligence, to think about different ways to bring concerts to people.”