Like all organizations, National Sawdust is hit hard by the pandemic – live performances at our venue have not been possible since March. We were fortunate to pivot quickly to a digital stage thanks to a large grant from the Alphadyne Foundation; a Match for Music Challenge from Kevin Dolan, our board chair, and Jill Steinberg, our board president; the Howard Gilman Foundation, and many other generous supporters. The Alphadyne grant enabled us to pay over 100 artists for appearances in our Digital Discovery Festival, which ran weekly from March to August. In addition to their fees, artists received commissions, gifts of sound and video equipment, and technical training from our team for how to sound and look good, from home. I was fortunate to host weekly masterclasses with Helga Davis, where we learned about how artists were coping, and how this moment in time affected their performance practice. These sessions and performances serve as artifacts of a complex, challenging time. The festival continues this Fall – 20 composers were commissioned for the festival’s New Works Commissions, and the National Sawdust Ensemble and JACK Quartet are now mentoring the composers, and bringing those premieres to life for a December live stream premiere from our venue. Our deep dive into mentoring for the winning composers and musicians began in September, and runs weekly through November.
In many ways, this phase at National Sawdust was like beginning from scratch, yet with a deeper unknown and less stability than before. In the arts we are all prepared to cope with impermanence, and challenge. I am grateful we were able to reinvent, and that in an urgent time, that we were able to serve our communities. Please visit here to see our current program of digital performances.