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Salisbury Symphony creates a relief fund for contracted musicians

SALISBURY — The last time the Salisbury Symphony had a live performance was in January, conductor David Hagy said.

COVID-19 has effectively canceled all upcoming concerts, since it is unclear when large numbers of people will be able to congregate again, Hagy said. Upon the discovery that some musicians in the symphony were struggling, the organization recently created a relief fund, known as the Salisbury Symphony Musicians Relief Fund.

Most musicians will have four or five positions as opposed to one salary from one organization, Hagy said. They make a living by lining up different places to play or earn money through music, such as playing at a wedding while also teaching at a college.

“Many can make an adequate living when all of that works,” Hagy said. “But when 90% of it evaporates, that living is severely challenged.”

In the times of COVID-19 and social distancing, some are struggling.

The Salisbury Symphony contracts musicians for the season. Normally, that’s around 65 to 70 people, Hagy said. If concerts are canceled for some reason, payment for that concert is not included in the contract.

The new relief fund is meant to offset that loss of income for members experiencing financial difficulties, he said.

The genesis of the fund involved Pops at the Post. Musicians were given an honorarium, since filming happened accidentally and the musicians didn’t initially agree for the films to be shared later.

Some musicians sent that back, Hagy said. The money could’ve gone to Pops or to the symphony itself. But Pops at the Post is in a good financial state, and the symphony itself has received some government support in the midst of COVID-19, he said.

One musician who sent the money back asked that they money be given to other musicians who were struggling financially, Hagy said. He thought that was a good idea. Since the creation of the relief fund, a variety of other musicians have also returned their checks and asked for them to be put into the fund, he said.

A survey created and sent out to musicians with the symphony by Executive Director of the Salisbury Symphony Bill Bucher Jr. made clear the necessity of having a fund. About a quarter of contracted workers were having trouble securing necessities like food and housing, Hagy estimated.

“That alarmed me,” he said.

Contracted musicians with the symphony can apply by sending in a short application, which will remain confidential, Hagy said, and the fund will do its best to make sure applicants have the money for necessities.

Hagy is overseeing the relief fund, but there are also two other anonymous people helping go through requests and allocate the money, as well as one other person overseeing and checking all the finances.

Any members of the public wishing to donate to the fund can write checks made to David Hagy and mail them to Hagy at 100 West Innes, Apt 5C. Donations are not tax deductible, he said.

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