Covid’s Impact on Arts Education in 2021: Survey Results & Analysis

FansRaise conducted a survey, researching the pandemic’s impact on arts programs in the US.

More than 100 band directors told us how their programs are managing through the pandemic and recovery.

We hope to make empty concert halls a thing of the past.

Virtual Band via Zoom.

Right now (Spring 2021), how is your program rehearsing/gathering? Were you using a hybrid model at any point?

These types of questions will help performing arts educators—and the dedicated volunteers who support them—understand the state of our activity.

Summary of our key findings:

1. This spring, most groups were rehearsing in a hybrid model. About ⅓ were in-person

2. Throughout the 2020-21 school year, ¾ rehearsed remotely, at least part of the time

3. ⅔ performed virtually. 20% never performed at all.

4. At least 81% lost members during the pandemic. Could be 90%.

5. 73% of groups suffered financially. Of those, 40% were “devastated”

6. Financial hardship seems to be widespread throughout U.S.

There’s no getting around it — the Covid-19 pandemic has left a mark on the performing arts fields. But just how big is that impact? And will it last?

We don’t know yet.

But we’re trying to find out. Responses to these survey questions will help guide us toward some answers.

Thanks to our respondents, this survey has begun to uncover some of the trends that have played out in classrooms and concert halls around the country.

Covid Arts Impact Survey Report.

Download the Report

Want the print this report and share it with your staff or band parent boosters?

Download the PDF version right here!

Print it, email it, or share it around with your co-teachers or ensemble staff.

How were ensembles rehearsing this spring?

Most groups were hybrid this spring. Less than 20% were fully remote.

The much-discussed hybrid model was the most common response from our respondents (38.6%), just barely breaking a tie with in-person (37.3%).

19.3% of our respondents’ programs were entirely virtual as recently as this past spring.

And, sadly, 4.8% could hold no rehearsals at all — that number is MUCH higher than we expected.

Covid arts impact survey Q1: How are ensembles rehearsing?

If you add the Hybrid and Virtual numbers together, 57.9% of groups—nearly 3 out of 5—were still doing some virtual rehearsing this spring.

As one band director in Ohio told us:

We have not been in our feeder schools for band this year. The effects will be seen starting next year, I’m afraid.

Sadly, this seems to be fairly common— even as groups were nearing the end of the school year, certain aspects of rehearsals or venues were either unavailable or restricted.

How did ensembles rehearse all year?

Majority of groups did some remote rehearsing.

Looking at the whole 2020-21 school year, most groups reported that they rehearsed remotely (40.6%).

It makes sense— by August/September of 2020, the pandemic was still very much in full swing. In the northeast, where we’re located, most schools started their academic year either hybrid or fully remote.

Maybe the biggest surprise here is that 1 in 5 groups (21.7%) rehearsed in-person all year.

Covid arts impact survey 2 how are ensembles rehearsing

And, like the spring 2021 responses above, a depressing 4.3% of programs were unable to rehearse at all—for the entire year.

That’s enough to kill a program entirely.

One director in Indiana told us:

“We went to a totally virtual environment. The students checked in, assignments were given, but no ensemble rehearsals took place.”

This is an all-too-common model for groups around the country this year.

It could have been an excellent opportunity for students to improve their own playing, but these are just kids… and they had to be kids in a global pandemic.

Instead, most took the path of least resistance and simply didn’t play as much as previous years.

There’s some good news for the Indiana band director quoted above.

At the beginning of this school year, we returned to an in-person environment until October, when we went to a hybrid setting.

We stayed on the hybrid arrangement from mid-October through mid-February, when we returned to an in-person arrangement.

To date, the band students have remained safe.

How have ensembles performed?

2/3 performed virtually. 20% never performed.

As we awaited the responses to this survey, this is the one question that really gave us pause as we braced for impact.

Almost 20% of ensembles we surveyed did not perform. Not once.

Covid arts impact survey 5 how are ensembles performing

The act of “performance” is the reason most performing artists follow their passion. When you take away that important feedback loop and subtract applause, name recognition in concert programs, grandparents in the audience – it just isn’t the same experience.

And while arts educators adapted and overcame significant limitations to what they were ALLOWED to do, students were forced to accept the new reality that performing for live audiences of any type.

68% were forced to do SOMETHING outside of the norm, and while it’s true that there are bound to be benefits by experiencing and participating in a virtual ensemble, it’s just not the same.

We’re also going to speculate that the lack of live performing and the experiences that come along with festivals, trips, contents, and concert appearances had an impact with our next question…

Have ensembles lost members?

Huge majority of groups lost members during the pandemic.

Almost 82% of those ensembles surveyed said “Yes.” What’s equally frightening is that another 10% said “Unsure.”

So it’s evident that the lack of program clarity caused by Covid may reveal lower student membership down the line as programs find their way back to operation.

Covid arts impact survey 3 have ensembles lost members

Also, consider all of the middle school/high school marching band recruitment efforts that high school educators commonly hold during the pivotal spring months.

These few weeks are often the lifeline to the incoming freshman class in most high school programs, and while we don’t have any data to support this, we’re guessing that we’ll all see an impact on fall program participation numbers.

Have programs suffered financially?

30% of groups were “devastated” financially. 5% somehow profited.

About 74% of the performing programs we sampled answered with responses ranging from “Yes” to “We’re Devastated.”

Almost 22% of the luckiest programs reported no significant financial impact.

Surprisingly, about 5% indicated that they were actually “better off” than before Covid — perhaps due to an increased focus on fundraising for marching bands?

Covid arts impact survey 4 have ensembles suffered financially

While some programs informed us that eliminating things like travel, facilities rental, and other overhead brought them out ahead, we’re thinking these scenarios are programs that receive full district funding and probably didn’t rely on fundraising and incoming program revenue in the traditional sense.

When asked about the financial impact to their program, one ensemble director from Massachusetts told us,

“This year no, but I’m very worried about next year.“

This sentiment was echoed a few times from various respondents. Fall 2021 marching bands will likely look very different from their 2019-era predecessors.

Covid arts impact survey 7 financial impact state

While we must remember that these results were obtained via a relatively small sample size, we endeavored to engage programs across the United States.

While these results are by no means “scientific”, we feel that they are, in fact, directionally-sound and quantifies the impacts on the performing arts across the board.

Now what?

Share the report with a colleague

Grab your free copy of this report below, and share it with your colleagues and other teachers in music, theater, and performing arts.

Together we can get our students back to playing and performing again.

Covid Arts Impact Survey Report.

Download the Report

Want the print this report and share it with your staff or band parent boosters?

Download the PDF version right here!

Print it, email it, or share it around with your co-teachers or ensemble staff.

How has Covid impacted your program?

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You’ve read the article. Now we need to know how you feel. Are you feeling the affects of Covid in your recruitment or budget? It’s your turn to let us know.

The first step?

Leave a comment to let us know what you think.

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