UMS embraces 2020-21 season, announces changes and additions to fall

ANN ARBOR – As the novel coronavirus continues to pose a serious threat to public health around the world, the University Musical Society is announcing several changes to its fall season. While some of the live events that were announced in late April won’t take place as originally planned due to travel restrictions and tour cancellations, UMS is pleased to announce the creation of several new and reimagined programs that will provide unique opportunities over the coming months, both in-person and in the digital space. In collaboration with the University of Michigan and public health authorities, UMS is also developing clear safety protocols and capacity restrictions to ensure that any live performances are presented in the safest, most public health-informed way possible for audiences and artists alike.A complete listing of changes, additions, and safety protocols is included at the end of this release.

“Some have asked us why we aren’t simply canceling our fall season like so many other organizations across the US,” said UMS president Matthew VanBesien. “Put simply, we feel that UMS has both a unique opportunity and responsibility to continue delivering on the promise of our mission, to engage our audiences with exceptional and compelling artistic and educational offerings.”

“Due to the incredible support of the community over the years, UMS is financially secure and, because of our lean structure, a more nimble company than many larger arts organizations. We’re also fortunate to have an amazingly creative team of people and enjoy deep, long-lasting relationships with artists around the world. All of this together not only affords us greater flexibility as we embrace the coming season, but also compels us to fully utilize both our resources and our creative, collaborative spirit as expansively as we can in providing our community with the inspiring, memorable artistic experiences that they have come to know, love, and expect from UMS.”

On Tuesday, July 7 at 5:30 pm, VanBesien will co-host a live video Q&A with Jennifer Conlin, deputy editor of the Michigan Alumnus, a U-M Alumni Association publication. The two will talk about UMS’s plans for the fall, discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead, and answer questions submitted live by viewers. The live Q&A can be viewed on YouTube or Facebook Live.

UMS will continue to announce changes to the 2020/21 season on a monthly basis. Up-to-date information about changes and additions will be available

Ticketholders for affected performances should visit for detailed information about how to request exchanges or refunds.

Paul Taylor Dance Company (canceled; new digital presentation)
PTDC has had to cancel all of its fall engagements, including its Ann Arbor performances. In its place, UMS will offer a free digital presentation of select Paul Taylor dance works, curated and hosted by PTDC artistic director Michael Novak and U-M Dance Professor and Paul Taylor historian Angela Kane . The digital presentation will be available from Friday, September 11 through Monday, September 21 and will include a live chat with the company on Monday, September 21.

Itzhak Perlman (date changed to Sun, Apr 25, 2021)
Itzhak Perlman has rescheduled his UMS recital for Sunday, April 25, 2021 at 4 pm in Hill Auditorium, subject to an improvement in the coronavirus situation. This recital will take place almost exactly 51 years after his very first UMS appearance during the Ann Arbor May Festival.

Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart (canceled)
The tour of Béla Fleck’s My Bluegrass Heart has been postponed to the 2021/22 season.
A MoodSwing Reunion with Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and Brian Blade (canceled)
The MoodSwing Reunion tour has also been postponed to the 2021/22 season.
Takács Quartet (modified seating; additional performances; live stream)
The Takács Quartet will present three one-hour performances with identical programs on Friday, October 16 at 8 pm; Saturday, October 17 at 8 pm; and Sunday, October 18 at 4 pm. These concerts will be presented in Rackham Auditorium with significantly reduced seating capacities and performed without intermission. This concert will also be live streamed. Note: Jeremy Denk will not be joining the Quartet for these performances.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and Sheku Kanneh-Mason (canceled; new digital presentation)
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has postponed its US tour to the 2022/23 season. In its place, UMS will present a free digital concert recorded especially for UMS audiences by Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason , available for a 10-day period in late October and including a live chat with the artists . Program and more details to be announced.
Berliner Philharmoniker (canceled)
The Berlin Philharmonic has postponed its US tour to the 2022/23 season.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (canceled)
Cloud Gate has canceled its US tour. UMS is working with the company to showcase a special dance-on-camera viewing of one of the company’s signature creations. Further details will be forthcoming.


Digital Artist Residencies
During the 2020/21 season, UMS will partner with several artists — some who are very familiar to UMS audiences and some who are new — to provide extended digital residencies, expanding UMS’s impact into the digital space. These digital artist residencies will include a variety of offerings, which may include mini-performance experiences, art made specifically for the digital frame, an inside look into the creative process through new works in development, plus casual artist interactions with our audiences — interviews, viewing parties, and more. Many of these projects may find their way to UMS stages in future seasons.

Participating artists include actor Wendell Pierce , mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato , and performance artist and U-M alumnus Brian Lobel + Friends . Other artists and projects will be announced in the coming months.

Erato-Warner Classics, the exclusive label of Joyce DiDonato is proud to be associated with this innovative project.

“You Can Dance” Moves Outside!
During the months of August, September, and October, the popular You Can Dance series will be moving outdoors, where dancers and “curious movers” can participate while socially distanced. These free workshops will be taught by local dance professionals and will take place at Ann Arbor’s Wheeler Park (200 Depot St) on five Saturdays: 8/29, 9/12, 9/26, 10/10, and 10/24. Advance registration is required, and total capacity will be limited in order to adhere to public safety guidelines.
Free Outdoor Concert at Ann Arbor’s West Park
UMS intends to present a live outdoor concert with Detroit-based musicians in Ann Arbor’s West Park (215 Chapin St) in late September or early October. More details to be announced.
Digital Presentations by UMS Artists
The Paul Taylor Dance Company , sibling artists Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason Cloud Gate Dance Theatre , and the Takács Quartet will offer streaming performances produced specifically for UMS audiences.

UMS Performance Playground
UMS will continue to create online resources for teachers and students by further developing its Performance Playground series, which debuted this spring. The digital learning series can be streamed for free at .

Series:You Updates
With the changes to the season, UMS will make subscribing easier and simpler by reducing the minimum number of concerts required to subscribe its most popular subscription package, Series:You. Buyers who purchase at least three events (instead of the previous minimum of five), will save 10% off the total ticket price and receive the full benefits of a subscription package. This includes refunds and exchanges for any event this season with no questions asked. More details available at .

UMS is collaborating with the University of Michigan’s venue managers and U-M public health professionals to develop a plan to return to in-person performances that is informed by the health guidelines in place at the time of each concert. While these plans are still under discussion, new safety protocols for live performance attendance may include, but are not limited to:

Physical Distancing
    • Shorter performances without intermissions
    • Significant capacity reductions to ensure social distancing
    • Timed entry and exit to facilitate social distancing
    • Significant capacity reductions to ensure social distancing
    • Timed entry and exit to facilitate social distancing
    • Face masks will be required for all audiences, staff, and volunteers at any live event
    • Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the venue
    • Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of any high-touch areas such as door handles, elevator buttons, restrooms, etc.
    • All seating areas will be cleaned and disinfected with anti-bacterial/anti-viral compounds before each performance
    • Artist merchandise and food/beverages will not be offered for sale
Health Screening & Contact Tracing
    • Health questionnaires and contactless temperature checks (completed by both artists and audiences)
    • In order to facilitate potential needs for contact tracing, UMS will capture name and contact information for each individual attending a UMS event

Additional details will be sent out in advance of each live performance with the safety protocols that will be employed.

A recipient of the 2014 National Medal of Arts, UMS (also known as the University Musical Society) contributes to a vibrant cultural community by connecting audiences with performing artists from around the world in uncommon and engaging experiences. One of the oldest performing arts presenters in the country, UMS is an independent non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Michigan, presenting over 70 music, theater, and dance performances by professional touring artists each season, along with over 100 free educational activities. UMS is committed to bold artistic leadership, engaged learning through the arts, and access and inclusiveness. Since 1990, the organization has co-commissioned and supported the production of nearly 80 new or reimagined works. Matthew VanBesien became the organization’s seventh president in July 2017.