Julia Carabatsos

As part of the University’s response to the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus, a slew of upcoming performances by undergraduate and graduate groups this spring has been cancelled.

On Tuesday, March 10, the Yale School of Music announced the cancellation of all public concerts through April 19. On Thursday, March 12, Yale College Assistant Dean for the Arts Kate Krier announced the cancellation of all Yale undergraduate performances and screenings through Sunday, April 5 — the earliest possible date when students may be allowed to return to campus. Krier’s announcement applies to all dance, music and theater events listed on the Yale College Arts calendar. Additionally, performances associated with Yale Bands, the Yale Glee Club and the Yale Symphony Orchestra scheduled from now through April 18 will not occur. 

“While the cancelation of music concerts and other performances at Yale is necessary to protect public health, it is nevertheless heartbreaking for the musicians and performers who have already spent so much time practicing and preparing for them,” said Yale Concert Band publicity officer Miriam Huerta ’22.

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness with at least 1,660 confirmed cases in the United States, according to the New York Times. The University’s response includes moving classes online, preventing large gatherings of people and asking students to leave campus and not return after spring break until April 5 or later. Performing arts events, by nature, involve large numbers of students and a live audience.

Violinist and Yale Symphony Orchestra president Epongue Ekille ’21 said the cancellations hold inevitable consequences for the close-knit performing arts community: “the loss of community that comes with the loss of [the orchestra]” for the rest of the season.

“For some members, the main reason they are in the orchestra is for the people and the relationships that have come from being in the ensemble,” Ekille said. “I’m in the orchestra for my friends, as well as to be inspired by Maestro [William] Boughton and the wonderful music we play.”

The cancellations include the inaugural Yale Symphony-hosted Contemporary Music Festival showcasing women composers. The festival would have involved many on-campus performing arts groups.

Most performing groups’ spring and summer tours were also called off due to COVID-19 concerns. Among many other groups, The Yale Bands and Yale Symphony canceled summer tours, and the Yale Philharmonia, Yale Schola Cantorum and Yale Glee Club canceled spring break tours. The day the Yale Glee Club was scheduled to depart for their tour, students met at their departure point and were told to remain in New Haven.

Jeffrey Douma, director of the Yale Glee Club, called the decision a “reflection of the unpredictability of the progression of the COVID-19 virus and of our concern for the safety and health of our students, faculty, staff and the residents of the areas we had planned to visit.”

As of now, the remainder of the term’s concerts — from late April through commencement — may still occur. According to Yale Symphony Orchestra director William Boughton, the administration “will evaluate the possibilities for the remainder of the term as we receive further guidance from the University.”

Douma remains “hopeful that [the orchestra] will be able to perform again before the end of the semester.” 

“But like all of our fellow musicians and performers on campus and around the country, we recognize that this situation continues to evolve, and we all understand that we will have to be patient and flexible,” Douma said.

Unlike typical academic classes such as lectures and discussion sections, Yale’s performing artists have not set plans to host concerts over video conferencing software. Many major performance groups and venues, including Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera, shut down to impede the virus’ transmission, and hosted live-streamed concerts instead. Although it is possible to live-stream performances from venues such as Sprague Hall and Woolsey Hall, Yale students’ absence from campus prevents this possibility.

Huerta stressed the importance of finding “innovative ways to connect the performing arts community virtually, so that even in a time of great anxiety and anguish, we can still continue doing what we love.”

The first coronavirus case in the United States was announced on Jan. 21. Since then, people in 46 states and Washington D.C. have tested positive for the virus, with six confirmed cases in Connecticut as of March 13.

Phoebe Liu | phoebe.liu@yale.edu