Name: Tiffany Lai
Organization: Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra
Annual Operating Budget: $50,000
Learn more at hillsborosymphony.org
Interview originally published on July 7, 2020.
How are the arts playing a role during this critical time?
The arts have always been a form of creative outlet and stress relief. We at Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra are also lucky to have an amazing membership that is a community and a network of support.
What has been the most notable / most unpredictable / most challenging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your organization? Biggest financial challenge?
The pandemic itself has been the most unpredictable and challenging part. No one knows what is going to happen so we are all doing our best to be informed and make the best decisions we can for our organization, membership and audience.
To date, what steps have you taken to mitigate that impact?
We have canceled the remainder of out 2019-2020 season. The Board is developing contingency this summer for next season. The safety of our members is our highest priority.
What kind of innovation in management has developed for your organization, and what challenges have you encountered when implementing new innovative ideas?
The board has had to learn to work completely remotely including Google Meet board meetings. We are also relying on the technologies that we have developed such as using Google Drive for shared documents and extensive digital communication. We are using this summer to develop methods for connection and rehearsal for this upcoming season.
What are the short-term and potential long-term effects of this shut down for your organization and the arts in general?
Our first concern is our orchestra members. Our rehearsals and concerts are a creative outlet and a stress reliever. We are worried that we will have a turnover in membership. We are also concerned that we will lose some of our audience, either from distance or being tentative for attending a concert with many other people. Not holding concerts removes a segment of our funding in ticket sales and merchandise.
What is a positive collaboration or initiative born as a result of this situation within your organization or that you’ve seen from your peers and colleagues in the arts industry?
One plus side of our current situation is that conferences, presentations and networking events are all remote. Nearly all our board members have full time jobs and we have one that doesn’t live in Hillsboro. This has made the presentation easy to fit into a busy schedule.
What is the biggest lesson learned as a leader during this crisis?
We’ve learned how important it is to have a great board. We have a group of people with diverse backgrounds who care deeply about the members and this organization. They have developed well informed opinions and innovative ideas of how to continue during these times.
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?
We are worried that this will be an industry-wide downturn for live performances. We are not anticipating a change in program or tone. We are discussing it with our artistic direction committee, who develops our concert programs. We will acknowledge our COVID-19 first responders and heroes with a tribute at our first concert back. We are rescheduling our Pacific Northwest concert that was originally scheduled for May of 2020.
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 personnel manager, Dean Renner, has put together Daily Dashes of Humor. He sends an email to the membership just about every work day. They are jokes, stories and videos submitted by the orchestra members. It has been a delightful way for the membership to share our love of music and community with each other.
What message do you have for the artists and fellow art leaders in our community today?
We want to tell our art community that we are still here and still support you.
What question do you wish someone would ask?!
How they can help support HSO. We are always looking for support either in time or funding.
When looking to the future, what brings you hope?
We are looking forward to playing together again and performing for our audience. It may not be for a while, but we will be together again.
About Tiffany Lai:
Tiffany Lai is lead trombonist and president of Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra. Tiffany joined HSO in September of 2005, shortly after moving to the Portland metro area. She joined the board in 2016 as vice president and became president in 2019. During Tiffany’s time with the board she has overhauled the email marketing, coordinated with the grant writer and led the effort to find a new associate conductor.
Tiffany has led the diversity, equity and inclusion measures to make the orchestra as diverse as Hillsboro and Washington County itself. She helped develop the initiatives and grants for the Women’s, South and Central American and Pacific Northwest concerts featuring composers and performers of those underrepresented minorities.
For her profession, Tiffany is a self-described ‘building mastermind’ at Ankrom Moisan Architects. In her off time she enjoys practicing her trombone, playing video games and camping in her teardrop trailer.