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In three sentences, what does the VOCES8 Foundation do?
The VOCES8 Foundation leads the music world in its innovative business and music education models, with a worldwide reach, diverse music offerings and collaborations all supported by its dedicated education team and its ensembles VOCES8 and Apollo5. The Foundation tours the world working with music superstars from individual artists to ensembles to symphony orchestras. Paul and Barnaby Smith, co-Founders of VOCES8, have a strong belief in social responsibility, which drives the Foundation’s entrepreneurial and community spirit and its innovative approach.
How has the pandemic impacted day to day operations?
All day to day operations came to an immediate halt in March 2020 and we are still waiting for those to properly resume. In a normal year, the Foundation ensembles would perform close to 200 concerts and give hundreds of workshops around the world. VOCES8 and The VOCES8 Foundation were the first in the classical music world to respond digitally at a worldwide level to the Covid crisis and the LIVE from London festival was born. Since the pandemic began, the LIVE from London online concert series has given a platform to 400+ artists and raised more than £1 million for artists and arts organisations around the world, selling over 130,000 virtual tickets in the process. Its unique cooperative economic model (giving as much money back to artists and arts organisations as possible), new digital format/experience and it’s fostering of a wider worldwide arts community through the pandemic has received much industry acclaim, international press features and many dedicated supporters and audience members around the world.
In one sentence, how would you describe the last 12 months?
Like being a ‘start up’ up all over again. We’ve had to reimagine the way that our industry works, and find ourselves a new way to bring our music to people all over the world.
Thinking back to March 2020, what advice did the VOCES8 Foundation need?
Initially, a total overhaul of budgets, plans and how to keep the Foundation alive using reserves and with appeals to donors. The focus was initially on staff retention, saving jobs and ensuring those in the Foundation weren’t negatively impacted financially by the pandemic. With government announcements changing by the week, interpreting the new rules as they arrived was also important.
How did HW Fisher and the VOCES 8 Foundation work together to tackle this challenge?
HW Fisher has provided great support throughout, and also made sure that our annual audit continued and was done in the ways required by the changing government guidance. The trustees of the Foundation also played a major role in assisting the Chief Executive, who remained at work full time while the rest of the Foundation staff were placed on Furlough (and flexible furlough since July 2020).
What was the overall result?
The Foundation is in a really positive place at the time of writing, and we have achieved more than we ever thought possible a year ago. With the world still facing big challenges however, we still remain worried about the outlook of the months and years ahead. We are hopeful that a return to something approaching ‘normal’ in the next 12 months will see our activities resume.
What are the biggest lessons learned?
We’ve learned so much during this last year that will live with us as we move beyond the pandemic. Finding a hybrid model between live performance and online interaction will have a positive long term impact on our work and our ability to reach millions of people around the world – many of whom would never have the opportunity to come to a live performance or workshop in real life. Across our last 3 festivals, we have now sold more than 130,000 tickets in 75 different countries!
Who was your biggest inspiration during the pandemic?
Our team! The huge adversity we have faced in the last year has really shown us that we have a team around us who are capable, dedicated and always will to give more than you would dream possible to make a positive difference in the world.
What are your hopes for the next 12 months?
A return to our calendar of international tours and community outreach programmes, whilst also maintaining that hybrid model to incorporate online performances and learning on our Digital Academy.
Find out more about the VOCES8 Foundation on their website here