By Myron G. Martin, President and CEO, The Smith Center
The arts and entertainment sector was hit especially hard during the pandemic. Venues across the country were required to close and, unfortunately, some may never reopen. Producers were forced to cancel tours. Agents had to postpone engagements. Ticket sellers, ushers and professional stagehands were laid off. Artists were out of work. It was a terrible time. Fortunately, thanks in large part to the Save Our Stages Act, many venues have been able to reopen, with kudos to our caring congressional delegation.
I’ll get to The Smith Center later, but allow me to focus on the many friends and neighbors across our state who could not find work during the pandemic. Think about the number of musicians, for example, who simply could not get a gig. Think about their families. Think about the human beings who play instruments and create amazing music on the Strip – the symphony musicians, the lounge bands, the wedding singers, the studio musicians – not to mention the many artists and bands that entertain us in venues across the rest of our state.
Things are starting to come back, but these musicians are still playing catch up. So, I come to you this month with two requests: First, if you can, please think about giving to one of the funds set up to help struggling musicians, most notably the Composers Showcase which provides financial assistance to the local entertainment community right here in Las Vegas. Secondly, please think twice before asking musicians to donate their time for your event, party or gathering. They are professional musicians who deserve to be paid for their expertise, just like any other professional. Quite simply, it is a slap to their musicianship and their years of training to say that they will get “good exposure” by playing at your event for free. Great musicians don’t need exposure, they need to feed their families. And this applies to others in the performing and creative arts. I urge you to please be part of the solution as we struggle to get back to normal. Please support the Las Vegas Philharmonic, the Nevada Ballet Theatre or your choice of any other local nonprofit arts group here in Southern Nevada. Hard-working and talented groups like Broadway in the Hood or the Majestic Repertory Theatre would really appreciate your support. Ditto for those in Northern Nevada as The Reno Philharmonic Orchestra or Artown would also appreciate your kindness. At the very least, the next time you see a musician playing for tips, drop a little something in his tip jar. OK, I’m off my soapbox (for now).
What about The Smith Center? After furloughing and laying off about 160 people last year, we were finally able to reopen this fall. I am pleased to report that we have been very busy. More than that, I am pleased to say that the vast majority of our guests are so happy to return to the Heart of the Arts, saying that they appreciate all we have done to prepare for them. (As a side note, suffice it to say that reopening the facility was much more difficult than the grand opening 10 years ago because of the many hoops we had to jump through due to Covid!) However, along with the happy people, there is also the handful of mean spirited, unpleasant and unreasotnable people who show up refusing to wear a mask or show us their vaccination cards, despite agreeing to our clearly stated terms when they purchased their tickets. They agreed to follow the rules, but were turned away at the front door as a result of their own actions. We have made no exceptions to the rules, and as a result our audiences have thanked us profusely for keeping them safe. I cannot say enough great things about the Smith Center team whose heroic efforts have made our successful reopening possible.
The reopening process has been difficult, but the outpouring of love and support has made it more than worth it. I look forward to the day when can get back to something close to normal, but for now our Smith Center family is thankful that we get to greet people at our facility every day, including welcoming the most talented people in the world to Las Vegas.
Allow me to thank everyone reading this who has attended a show. Ten years ago when we first opened, we distributed lapel pins that read “I Was There” to all of our guests. Today, I am immensely proud that so many people can say that they were here again, masks and all, and that they liked it.