Organizations respond to pandemic with creative programming
Downtown’s Theater District has been the cultural heart of the city for decades. A place where people of all ages, races and denominations have gathered together to experience vibrant, profound and fantastical works of art. Following Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the damage to many of the venues and organizations was devastating, but they came back stronger than ever. Now, just a little more than two years later, COVID-19 has struck, forcing each organization to re-think the way shows are produced and executed. In today’s physically distanced way of life, the Theater District now looks to Houstonians for support, as their lights remain off and their stages dark. Despite all the challenges, the Theater District organizations continue to hold on to the mantra of “resilience”, something our city knows a thing or two about.
DACAMERA is one of the more unique organizations calling Downtown Houston home. Believing strongly that music transcends genre, DACAMERA inspires individuals and enriches communities through diverse and inventive musical experiences. DACAMERA is fortunate to have Artistic Director Sarah Rothenberg, who is a gifted pianist and performer, as well as their Young Artist program, a pre-professional training program for local musicians. Beyond that, the staff is relatively small, but after canceling the balance of their season in March they are facing the same pressure to stay afloat as others in the Theater District.
“The big challenge is engagement, retention and keeping our relationships,” said DACAMERA Executive Director Robert Leslie. “We’re fortunate to have such a wonderful group of board members and very loyal subscribers.”
DACAMERA launched an initiative called Home Delivery as a way for the organization to both support artists by allowing them to create content and to keep in contact with patrons. One of the recent editions is with Jeremy Denk, a pianist who was scheduled to perform in the balance of their canceled season. Denk produced a short video where he performs and talks about composers such as Bach and Beethoven. This video series is then delivered to subscribers via email and published on DACAMERA’s website. The best part? Home Delivery support artists during this difficult time.
DACAMERA is well known for their Education and Community Initiatives that reach thousands of individuals through free community concerts and programs such as Music Encounters, a partnership bringing classical music and jazz into students’ core-curricular classrooms throughout Houston). In the same spirit, DACAMERA’s Young Artists have created video content that has been sent to local schools, Houston Methodist, and MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Center for people to enjoy, free of cost.
As DACAMERA looks ahead, they hope to come back in the beginning of 2021 with live performances and are currently exploring potential outdoor performance venues in and around Downtown. But for now, Leslie urges the public to visit DACAMERA’s website, sign up for their email list, and connect with them online.
“Music is such a wonderful way to celebrate community and reach people,” Leslie said. “Our goal is to continue that as best we can in this environment, and hopefully look through the near-term pessimism to long-term optimism.” DACAMERA will be back and will be back strong.