Tony Beadle, President and CEO
One day in February 2010, as the new Executive Director of Rockport Music, I donned a construction hat for my first tour of the 50% completed Shalin Liu Performance Center with Tom Burger, then the Chair of the Board of Trustees. While pointing out some of the nascent architectural features not yet totally in evidence, Tom related that the new hall could seat 330, about 60 more seats than a jam packed evening concert at the Rockport Art Association, the original and then current performance space of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. The intimacy provided by 330 seats has earned its keep a hundred times over in the last 10 years, drawing in thousands of attendees annually who are attracted to its interior beauty, acoustics and seaside views, making the Shalin Liu Performance Center one of the best known concert venues in the country.
Fast forward 10 years. Last week my assistant Shannon Mason and I walked into the Shalin Liu Performance Center, darkened and chilly since early March. With a seating chart and tape measure in our hands, our job was to figure out how many seats might be available to sell after the current recommended 6 feet of social distancing was observed. There were measurements made laterally, diagonally, backwards and forwards. The goal was to be ready with an interim plan to present concerts in the event the day comes that a partial opening may be allowed. The not so good news? Only 100 seats are available. The good news? We’re Rockport Music! This is the organization that has been around since 1981, survived one, maybe two recessions (and perhaps a third in the making), created the vision to build a distinctive hall for live music and an endowment whose value would be the envy of many an arts organization three times our size.
Once again we are facing extraordinary circumstances. But doom and gloom is not in the room. Rather, we are possessed by an insane passion to get back to our core missions as soon as possible, working to create reopening scenarios and tactics that must be able to turn on a dime with the daily ever-changing news. You, our audience and donors, have been effusive in your emails about how much our concerts mean to the quality of your lives.
Never forget that Rockport Music is about live music. Your email boxes are now bombarded with missives from every performing organization under the sun, including us, offering links to wonderful concerts, operas, plays and more everywhere. This is a palliative of course, born of necessity to remain relevant and engaged with an audience until things resemble normal again. But these will never replace the sense of place and immediacy that every concert hall provides. The reality of the sound of program books dropping, a mild cough, the dreaded cell phone ring, a false start of a quartet movement, and people going in during the music are all part of the reality of the humanity of concerts. We may walk out muttering about such things, but in the end they serve to remind us that we have just participated and listened as a community, whether there are 78 or 330 people in the room. It is that sense of community that is, you might say, a final construction detail – the glue that holds our organization together, ready to face the next challenge and bask in the sounds of the next concert.
Happy 10th Birthday, Shalin Liu Performance Center. You are made of strong bones, and your journey is just beginning!