One month ago, Jefferson Center was able to safely welcome back patrons to not just one, but two, amazing performances by two powerhouse artists at the top of their professions, Bela Fleck and Gladys Knight. We hosted two packed rooms with audiences that were not only appreciative for the opportunity to be back together but understanding of the challenges we have faced and willing to be flexible when asked.
In April’s inaugural publication of The Session, I made the analogy of jam sessions to current times. Much like when jazz musicians come together to improvise and create together, Jefferson Center staff have worked tirelessly to do the same in what has continued to be confusing and chaotic times. All said, I am proud of the decisions we have made about the safest and most responsible way to gather nearly 900 patrons in Shaftman Performance Hall. They have been hard decisions with both expected and unexpected consequences and encouragements along the way. On the whole, I continue to believe masking and vaccination cards lower risk and increase overall safety and sense of security for the majority of our patrons. I trust that by doing so we are ensuring a sustainable comeback for our live venue that will continue into the spring, which is the driving force of my decision making—it has to be.
The pandemic has caused sustainability discussions to evolve in the live music industry beyond just that of financial sustainability in the traditional sense, especially for nonprofits. COVID19 has pushed that conversation into risk mitigation where we now have to navigate how we protect our most precious commodity from future closures and loss of revenue that could result in shutting our doors either temporarily or potentially forever if rescue money is unavailable.
I am confident Jefferson Center will continue to thrive due to having a strong and stable board and staff, a solid balance sheet, and generous donors who value and generously invest in Roanoke’s premiere performing arts and community center. I am so grateful to each of you for helping us prevail these past 17 months, not to mention the past 21 years!