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SVOG Spotlight: Academy of Music Theatre

Academy of musicNorthampton’s historic Academy of Music theatre has been offering a platform for local, regional, and national performing artists for over a century.  The beloved venue is a place where communities in Western Massachusetts gather for music, plays, dance, and films.

Prior to COVID, the Academy offered over 140 performances annually; This year, booked performances barely broke 100 – nearly a 50% reduction in activity.

The Academy struggled with keeping staff on payroll as public venues were not allowed to stay open for business – having to lay off 9 employees, while reducing time to 2 hours per week for 3 other full-time staff. Executive Director Debra J’Anthony was the sole full-time employee moving forward for almost a year and a half.

 

Surviving layoffs and preparing for reopening|
After getting through necessary layoffs, the Academy continued operating off cash reserves and grant funds.  J’Anthony during this downtime shifted focus onto capital projects already in the works, including: the installation of a fire suppression system in the attic space and egresses; expansion and renovation of lower level restrooms; repair of the inner lobby, salon and hallways leading downstairs.

Even while the space was not open to the public, the Academy allowed the use of their stage to artists for free to help them maintain content and provide a venue for performing virtual concerts.

At this pivotal time, the SBA’s Shuttered Venues Operators Grant was then made available, awarded with assistance from Rosa Taormina, Advisor at the Small Business Development Center at Salem State University – who provided free counseling services.

The SVOG helped with reopening the doors – enabling the Academy to rehire staff, including independent contractors, stagehands, maintenance, and bookkeeper personnel. 

“Because of the SVOG – it provided us with funding for re-staffing and also allowed us the ability to purchase necessary supplies, and replace some equipment for reopening,” said J’Anthony.  “When we first shut down, we lost all our concessions items such as candy, wine and beer products that went bad and all had to be repurchased.  Our theatrical equipment such as lighting and sound, also needed to be serviced and tested before reopening.  Additionally, because we lost experienced staff – all new employees had to be trained and onboarded according to covid-safety protocols for the hospitality industry.”

Necessary equipment such as masks, sanitizer stations, and additional staff for vaccine checks needed to get added to operational costs.  With the assistance of the SVOG, the Academy was now able to reopen fully staffed and trained with covid protocols in place.

 

Arts injecting economic impact in Western Massachusetts
On September 8th, 2021, Academy of Music has officially reopened with a full slate of shows throughout the fiscal year – hoping to re-build the business and replenish reserves, while keeping artists, staff and patrons safe.

Now entering the 10th Academy Season Series, the venue is presenting five mainstage events that will impress.  During the 2021-2022 season, the Academy intends to feature local storytellers with the Best of Valley Voices; host award-winning Latinx poet Denice Frohman; stage their Academy Youth Production, the Broadway classic, Oklahoma!; present “Please Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,” based on Mo Willems children’s book of the same name; and stage Annie Bakers’ play, “The Flick.”

The theater provides a major economic impact to the city and surrounding towns.

Academy of Music is downtown Northampton’s leading visitor destination, based not only on total ticket sales, but also on the consistent delivery of visiting patrons to Northampton and its 70 shops and restaurants.

In fiscal year 2020 (June 2019 – July 2020 / The Academy closed March 10th, 2020), the Academy of Music:

  • Drew over 62,000 patrons with 140 performances and events
  • $1.55 Million in ticket revenue
  • $1.0 Million in downtown meals and beverage purchases
  • $1.1 Million in hotel revenues
  • $227,000 in city and state tax revenues (meals, sales and hotel tax)

Based on conservative estimates of consumer spending by Academy patrons, over a 10-year period, it’s estimated that the Academy will generate over $2 million in sales, hotel room tax revenues for the state and city.