UCI News

Pacific Symphony working with UCI public health experts on COVID-19 plan

New protocols ensure safety of musicians unable to play together as an orchestra since March

December 8, 2020
Pacific Symphony working with UCI public health experts on COVID-19 plan
Pacific Symphony plays at Costa Mesa’s Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall earlier this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses and organizations to curtail operations. Courtesy of Pacific Symphony

Irvine, Calif., Dec. 8, 2020 — University of California, Irvine public health experts are providing consulting services to Pacific Symphony to enable the Orange County ensemble to once again play music together – which hasn’t happened since early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the past months, Pacific Symphony has held online events – including virtual concerts, living room concerts on video, internet interview programs, and KCET and PBS SoCal’s “Southland Sessions Presents Pacific Symphony” series – featuring offerings from the orchestra’s archival vaults.

As part of a consultation agreement between UCI and Pacific Symphony, UCI public health and epidemiology experts have reviewed Pacific Symphony’s plans for mitigating employees’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 and recommended ways to improve infrastructure, procedures and policies to protect against it.

“Pacific Symphony has some very unique considerations related to preventing the spread of the virus,” said Karen Edwards, chair and professor of epidemiology in UCI’s Program in Public Health and the project’s faculty lead. “Even without audiences present, they’ll need to take a number of precautions to stay physically distant, especially when performing music.”

UCI experts conducted a walk-through at Pacific Symphony’s concert hall and provided online training about the spread of infectious diseases and the best mitigation practices. The training included several Q&A sessions with remote attendees, and a recording is available for Pacific Symphony to share with employees.

The university team also created templates so that Pacific Symphony can establish procedures for staff screening, symptom and temperature checks, staff self-monitoring, physical distancing, hand hygiene and masking.

“UCI brought tremendous expertise in their review of the plans my staff and I developed. While they were complimentary of our preparation, they had important recommendations that will ensure the highest levels of safety for the musicians and staff involved in returning music to the stage,” said Eileen Jeanette, Pacific Symphony’s senior vice president of artistic planning and production.

Assistant Concertmaster Jeanne Skrocki, who is herself an engineer and the musicians’ representative, shared: “The musicians are pleased that Pacific Symphony has consulted with UCI’s Department of Public Health to address these health and safety issues.  We are ready and eager to return to the concert hall stage and this first important step paves the way for making music together again, while assuring the highest levels of safety for musicians on stage.”

Symphony leadership hopes to be able to bring musicians back this season to record concerts – without audiences – either indoors or outdoors. For those sessions, players of wind instruments are likely to sit farther apart than players of string instruments, with Plexiglas separating them.

“We know the musicians have missed playing and our audiences have missed hearing them,” said John Forsyte, president and CEO of Pacific Symphony. “We look forward to the time in the hopefully not-too-distant future when we can again record great classical music in the pristine acoustics of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. And this is the first important step in that direction.”

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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