When UA Presents called off the second half of its 2019-20 season in March, the folks at the University of Arizona arts presenting arm were at a loss of what to do next.
It was their busiest time of year, with shows a couple of nights a week and the excitement of locking down the season ahead.
Suddenly the staff was homebound conducting business remotely.
It didn’t take long before “some of our staff who are used to being in the theater all the time were tired of the Zoom calls and were saying what can we do,” UA Presents Executive Director Chad Herzog said.
And while the world of live entertainment to the scale they were used to was at a standstill, they started to recognize that the local music universe was transitioning to a new virtual world.
That’s when they got to thinking: Why not turn their attention homeward?
“We started building a tool kit for local and regional artists on how do you make work in the age of COVID when everybody is streaming and you only have a laptop and your guitar,” Herzog said. “Our bigger goal at UA Presents was to have an opportunity for these artists to make a little money around it.”
Hence was born a virtual concert series in collaboration with Tucson Botanical Gardens and Broadway in Tucson.
For the next few Thursday nights, beginning May 21, the three partners will stream 25- to 30-minute performances by local artists that UA Presents crews filmed at the Botanical Gardens. The events will be streamed on the Tucson Botanical Gardens’ YouTube channel.
First up is Argentenian tango guitarist Maxi Larrea, who moved to Tucson in late December. Also on deck: the pop band Sweet Ghosts, singer-songwriter Carlos Arzate and the folk duo of Matt and Rebekah Rolland of Tucson bluegrass band Run Boy Run.
The Botanical Gardens was an ideal setting; like every attraction in Tucson, it had been sitting idle since Gov. Doug Ducey issued his stay-at-home order in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That order was fully lifted on Saturday, May 16.
“It’s almost like the wildlife has taken back over,” said Herzog, who took over the top job at UA Presents last August.
“The birds, things you just don’t see in downtown Tucson were going crazy.”
Herzog and his crew filmed the four performances over two nights in the past two weeks. The hope, he said, is that viewers will contribute to the artists’ virtual tip jars so that the artists can make some money. Tucson musicians have been hard hit by the pandemic and many have lost thousands of dollars of income due to lost gigs.
Herzog said the four performances are just the beginning. They want to continue filming concerts at the gardens and other areas around Tucson and Southern Arizona.
And once we are on the other side of the coronavirus crisis, Herzog said he plans to continue building relationships with local musicians many of whom he would love to have be a part of UA Presents programming.
“When we are able to do concerts in front of an audience again, these are the artists we will turn to,” he said.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at email@example.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch
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