Chattanooga Symphony changing its tune for 2020-21 season

Staff file photo / Music Director Kayoko Dan conducts the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera during the 2019 Veterans Day concert at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium. The CSO is changing how it presents performances this year due to safety concerns associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, on pause since March, has announced plans to resume playing in the 2020-21 season, but not as originally scheduled.

The 88th season would have included music by Beethoven and The Beatles, and Verdi's opera "La Traviata," but those plans have been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. Regular programming will now be postponed to the 2021-22 season.

Instead, the CSO will be performing smaller concerts with fewer musicians and "significantly smaller audiences," Executive Director Samantha Teter said.

"Depending upon the severity of the pandemic at the time of each scheduled concert, we anticipate having 20 or less musicians perform on a concert, with 100 or less audience members present," she said. "However, we will be offering two or three performances for most programs, as well as offering several live-stream/recorded opportunities for patrons to view online."

Teter said patrons were surveyed in April "to get a sense of their comfort level" for attending performances during the ongoing pandemic.

"We didn't want to just shut down," she said. "A lot of orchestras are, which is unfortunate and challenging and upsetting. We felt like we were still small enough as an organization to stay nimble and flexible."

New safety protocols will include mask wearing, socially distanced seating for musicians and the audience and open-air venues during warmer months, Teter said.

The new programming will feature mostly chamber music, highlighting different instrument groups. Music Director Kayoko Dan is coordinating the repertoire.

"While it is challenging to construct, I find it to be an opportunity for the CSO to perform works and present musicians in ways that we normally do not get to in nonpandemic situations," she said.

CSO leadership has been working with the Tri-State Musicians Union, Local 80 of the American Federation of Musicians, to create a new collective bargaining agreement specifically for the unique challenges of the 2020-21 season, Teter said. The new agreement guarantees 66% of regular services and pay for all contract musicians, plus several health and safety guidelines.

"This won't be a typical season, but we all found it important to get creative and modify how we do things this year in order to get live music to our community," said Joey Demko, CSO horn player and negotiation committee chairman for the union.

More details about concert dates and programming will be released in early August. For more information, visit

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photo Staff file photo / The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera performs during the Veterans Day concert at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium in November 2019. The latter portion of the CSO's 2019-20 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.