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REPORT | US Survey Results Reveal Uneven COVID-Era Policies For Orchestras

By Anya Wassenberg on October 8, 2021

Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Image courtesy of DSO/Facebook)

The League of American Orchestras recently released the results from their Health and Safety Policies and Planning Survey on how orchestras across the United States are coping with COVID-era restrictions and policies.

The survey results were recorded between August 25 and September 10, 2021, and include responses from 202 US adult and youth orchestras of various sizes. As reference, there are about 1,600 orchestras in the US in total.

Of note: The orchestras are spread across multiple states and regions, each with their own laws and regulations concerning COVID protocols, and those range from virtually none at all to requiring so-called vaccine passports for non-essential public venues like concert halls.

The big takeaway: Not counting the youth-oriented organizations, 82% of all the orchestras had a mandatory vaccine policy or testing requirement in place for all musicians.

Overall numbers reported:


  • 65% had instituted a mandatory vaccination policy for their musicians
  • 58% tested some or all of their musicians
  • 66% reported that masks would be mandatory
  • 39% will continue with some forms of distancing on stage for musicians

The numbers reported, somewhat surprisingly, were different when it came to office staff.

  • 73% have either a mandatory vaccination policy or testing requirement in place for their office staff members
  • 68% had a mandatory vaccination policy for some or all of their staff
  • 87% included remote work at some level

What about audiences?

  • 41% reported either a mandatory vaccination policy or testing requirement for their audiences
  • 26% reported a mandatory vaccination policy for their audiences
  • 33% indicated they would require proof of negative COVID-19 tests
  • 71% required mandatory masking for audience members
  • 46% have plans on offering at least some performances with socially-distanced options

The survey represents a snapshot of current COVID-era procedures. It will be interesting, and crucial to the live music industry, to observe what policies become sustainable over time.


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