Name: Igor Shakhman
Organization: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Annual Operating Budget: $897,000
Learn more at vancouversymphony.org
Interview originally published on April 22, 2020.
How are the arts playing a role during this critical time?
Art is essential to quality of life. Its healing role is critical during these times. By continuing to provide the community with classical music of the highest caliber, we can give people a sense of connection and hope.
What has been the most notable / most unpredictable / most challenging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your organization? Biggest financial challenge?
We are dealing with the challenge of cancelling all of the remaining events for this season. When people cannot gather we are not able to serve our community in the way that we are meant to. Also, when we can’t hold events we can’t provide our musicians and our Maestro with the opportunity to work and make music.
To date, what steps have you taken to mitigate that impact?
We have applied for available emergency funding while making sure to connect with our supporters, donors and patrons. Our first priority after making sure we can stay operational is communicating our vision for the future to our extended VSO Family.
What kind of innovation in management has developed for your your organization, and what challenges have you encountered when implementing new innovative ideas?
We have risen to the challenges of working remotely. Daily Zoom meetings keep our staff connected and motivated. We have developed new ways to communicate with our audience via Social Media so they know we’re still here and planning for the future. In addition, we have piloted new forms of communication which includes our new podcast series we are using to share never-before-released recordings from our past concerts and interviews with past guest performers.
What are the short-term and potential long-term effects of this shut down for your organization and the arts in general?
At this time, long term effects are difficult to predict. For now we are remaining flexible in order to adapt to any long-term changes that may be coming.
What is the biggest lesson learned as a leader during this crisis?
The primary message we have received from our patrons at this time is their concern for the well-being of the organization and their hope that we will open again soon. I have taken away from this how necessary it is to provide comfort to our VSO Family and assure them that we are doing all that can possibly be done in order to keep the orchestra in business.
Understanding that the future is hard to predict, how might the lasting impacts of COVID-19 change your upcoming season? Should the tone of pieces or performances change?
At this time the program is set and is not predicted to change. However, we will of course monitor the situation closely and will make adjustments if necessary.
Regarding the creative process, what has been a source of inspiration for you/your organization at this time or how has your creative process changed and evolved? What outlets or channels have you sought out to continue to express your creativity, personally and/or professionally?
Our Mission is the source of our inspiration – To enhance the quality of life in Southwest Washington by providing symphony music of the highest caliber in live performances and through music education in schools, concert halls and throughout the community. I believe that this message is as relevant now as ever. Since we can’t do this in classrooms or concert halls right now, we are doing all we can to do the same good work digitally through our podcast and other upcoming digital media.
What message do you have for the artists and fellow art leaders in our community today?
When looking to the future, what brings you hope?
The past…. The arts have survived for centuries and will survive this.
About Dr. Igor Shakhman:
Dr. Igor Shakhman has been heard in recitals, chamber music concerts and orchestra appearances throughout Europe and the US. As an orchestral clarinetist, he has performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Colorado Opera Orchestra, Russian State Symphony Orchestra and others. He has participated in two critically acclaimed Broadway tours: “Oklahoma!” and as an on-stage soloist in the North American tour of “Fiddler on the Roof”.
Dr. Shakhman has been the Executive Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra since 2011. Under his watch, VSO is quickly becoming one of the most visible and sought-after performing arts organizations in the Pacific Northwest. During his tenure, the VSO has reached new artistic benchmarks, created advanced educational programs and achieved financial stability while balancing its budget and ending the year with a surplus.
Dr. Shakhman received Bachelor of Music degree from Kharkov Music College, Master’s from the Moscow Conservatory and Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Colorado. He is on the faculty in the Performing and Fine Arts Department at the University of Portland.