On Sunday, September 13, the San Francisco Early Music Society held its annual membership meeting—our first such gathering online—with over 40 in attendance. Highlights included a performance by Calextone, our newest affiliate, and a celebration of Jonathan Harris, our beloved communications director who retired in February after three decades of exemplary service.
Here are the meeting remarks from President Joyce Johnson Hamilton (edited for length and clarity):
This is a year that has been filled with wonder—as in, “We wonder what will happen next!”
We are all experiencing a lot of stress right now. I’m sure at some point this past week, you all felt as if you were standing on the edge of the abyss! The pandemic certainly has created a very inhospitable landscape for the arts and live performances.
You have probably had the experience of hiking in a fairly barren landscape, when you suddenly come upon a beautiful wildflower pushing itself into the sunlight through a crack in a slab of granite or sidewalk. You marvel at how a fragile little bloom has such a tremendous life force that it can succeed in accomplishing its purpose in life against all odds.
In the past seven months, SFEMS has managed to overcome a lot of obstacles to break into the sunshine and flourish in fulfilling its role as the portal to all early music activities in the Bay Area. It is challenging to overcome the restrictions that have been imposed on us.
The SFEMS Board and our marvelous staff have been in overdrive since March to survive the loss of the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, to create a relief fund for freelance early music musicians, to completely transform the summer workshops from in-person classes to online ones with Zoom, and to make plans for the coming year despite the high level of uncertainty that remains.
I am so proud of our Board for being willing to meet at least twice a month since March to make critical decisions and to provide guidance to the staff in carrying out those decisions. We also responded to the Black Lives Matter movement by scheduling our first meeting solely devoted to discussing ways the Society can attain racial and cultural diversity in our membership, Board of Directors, programming, artist selection, and educational projects. The 2020-21 main stage concert series will, for the foreseeable future, involve further adaptation with online live-streamed presentations.
Executive Director Derek Tam and Administrator Stacey Helley collaborated with the workshop directors and faculty in an herculean effort of technical prowess, ingenuity and creativity to develop over 100 classes which attracted 500 participants, helped enlarge our membership rolls, and reached participants from a wide geographic area.
The relief fund for freelance early music musicians is now in the sixth round of providing $250 grants to musicians who have suffered financially from the cancellation of all performances.
We are so grateful that many of our major donors and patrons agreed to allow SFEMS to repurpose their contributions to help our organization in this time of need.
Our annual meeting is a celebration of the accomplishments of the year that has just passed and a statement of our hopes and plans for the future.
I am confident the life force that resides in this organization will propel us towards every opportunity to fulfill our mission of presenting historically informed concerts, early music workshops, and providing ongoing support for our artists.