This story is part of a larger feature on 10 do-gooders from Saratoga and the rest of the Capital Region. To meet the other nine honorees and purchase tickets for annual fundraising event, visit our Capital Region Gives Back event page.
For the everyday Capital Regionite, COVID seems like a nightmare that has come and mostly gone. But for Albany Symphony Orchestra’s executive director, Anna Kuwabara, recovering from its aftermath is still very much on the forefront, as the arts struggle to secure the sponsorships needed in a belt-tightening, post-pandemic world. But there is an enchanting, driving silver lining: the music.
“The world needs more touches of magic, and music is something that connects to your heart and soul,” Kuwabara says. “Some people are still scared to leave their homes or maybe still feel uncomfortable around groups of people. There has to be a reason to take that step out to go and see other people—that’s what the arts can offer.”
Kuwabara has been in the orchestra world for more than three decades and was drawn to Albany’s symphony (and its renowned music director David Alan Miller) because of its long history of throwing itself behind new music. When the performing arts industry as a whole started to focus
on increasing diversity, Albany was ahead of the game.
“We’re doing a lot of work on diversity, equity and inclusion now,” she says, pointing at a goose bump-inducing opening night piece by Black composer Joel Thompson, which ended with (almost all of) the musicians standing up and singing to represent the unity and vulnerability needed in the world right now. “And after three decades of David and the orchestra’s commitment to new music, it feels like a natural extension of our work to find and amplify voices of all kinds.”
Since COVID, the symphony has suffered a 25 percent drop in donations, which not only go to funding the concerts, but also its educational programs that ensure the local arts community is fostered in the next generation.
“People,” Kuwabara says, “should have access to what makes life rich and beautiful.”