In these trying times, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has used music as the universal language to unite our community. Baltimore OUTloud recently spoke with Tonya McBridge Robles, the Vice President and General Manager of the BSO, regarding engaging content that has reached the masses through both online mediums and social networks.

Frankie Kujawa: Could you explain for our readers how the BSO is engaging with audiences during this time of social distancing?

Tonya McBridge Robles: During this time of social distancing, it is vital to the BSO to continue our mission of engaging, inspiring and educating audiences through music. Since we can’t all be together in the concert hall, the BSO has launched the online platform BSO OffStage, which is filled with a range of digital content for audience members of all ages and interests.

FK: Could you share with our readers some of the great resources that the BSO has online for those at home during this time?

TMR: The BSO has launched a number of new and exciting resources during this time, reaching far beyond our usual audience. To name a few:

  • BSO Performances: Our incredible musicians have been performing live on the BSO’s Facebook Page a number of times a week. Every Sunday at 3pm, a different BSO musician performs and answers questions live. There are also a number of pre-recorded performances from our musicians that are shared throughout the week.
  • BSO Podcasts: We recently launched our Off The Cuff Podcasts with Music Director Marin Alsop, which features performances from our popular Off The Cuff series exploring the history and stories in classical music. In addition, WBJC 91.5 Program Director Jonathan Palevsky provides entertaining and informative insights into classical selections in our Classical Insights podcast.
  • At Home with the BSO: As well as their beautiful performances, our musicians have also been showing their talents in other ways! The musicians have been creating self-produced videos as they shelter in place, welcoming us into their homes and introducing us to their families. A personal favorite is our BSO Lunch Bach series, which is made by our viola section and premieres every Wednesday at 1pm on the BSO’s Facebook Page. This week included a bake off amongst the violist section!
  • Virtual Governing Members Lounge: These weekly 20- to 30-minute conversations help us provide insightful, exciting, and interactive content for our audience members. The conversations feature artistic leadership, musicians and guest artists in thoughtful and topical discussions that include the opportunity for live audience Q&A.
  • Just Announced! The BSO will be partnering with WTMD to revisit our BSO Pulse series on air to their audiences. These Pulse performances will be broadcast live as “BSO Pulse Rewind” for 6 weeks, every Wednesday at 7 pm, and features the Orchestra collaborating with prominent indie and alternative bands.

FK: With schools shut down, At Home With The BSO is open for students of all ages! Could you describe how this idea of sharing music and musical instruments virtually came to be?

TMR: Audience development and music education have always been some of the BSO’s most important initiatives, and they became even more of a priority during this time as we hope to assist the parents in our community as much as possible right now. We strive to make classical music accessible for as many people in our community as possible. Whether the audience is toddlers from our Music Box series with singalongs and craft videos, or “Learn from the Pros” videos made by our musicians to reach lifelong learners, there is something that audience members of all ages can enjoy.

FK: The BSO is definitely doing a lot for the Baltimore community, even though your building is closed right now to patrons. What does community mean to BSO? Why is this so important?

TMR: We know that music and the arts have the ability to provide a sense of comfort in this unprecedented time. It is important to use to help our community in the best way that we can during this time and stay connected with our BSO family. We also continue all of our education programs in the community, although virtually! OrchKids, our program for Baltimore City schoolchildren, continues to provide lessons online, as well as our Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras, which have been participating in virtual rehearsals, recitals and even performances.

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Author Profile

Frankie Kujawa
Frankie Kujawa
Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.