The COMMUNITY CONCERTS®
The history of Community Concerts parallels in many ways that of the past century. In the 1920’s America underwent rapid change and modernization, and the performing arts were no exception. While Chautauqua tours, traveling minstrel shows, and vaudeville had created a national appetite for live performance, they were disappearing from the scene. There was a demand for concerts; the question was how to find a new way to cover their cost.
In 1927, an idea destined to revolutionize the performing arts in America sprang up simultaneously in the Great Lakes region and in several Eastern states. Instead of struggling to make up deficits after the fact, people thought, why not raise some money first and then hire the artists? It was a plan that worked, and it ensured the success of the humble experiments that grew first into the organized audience plan and ultimately into Community Concerts, the largest, most enduring network of performing arts presenters that has ever existed. The organized audience idea caught fire and spread: it fostered cultural development on an unprecedented scale. Early featured artists included Vladimir Horowitz, Lawrence Tibbett, Jascha Heifetz and Yehudi Menuhin.
Although the stock market crash of 1929 threatened this brave experiment in the arts, Community Concerts continued to grow. People were determined that economic hardship would not deprive them of beauty and meaning in their lives. Minutes from Association meetings held in Dust Bowl towns refer to families who could not afford the fifty cents to attend the concert and were being carried by loans from neighbors or by the Association itself.
After World War II, Community Concerts expanded rapidly. Between 1945 and 1950, the total number of Community associations rose to an all time high of 1,008. Audiences enjoyed the talents of performers like Rudolph Serkin, Paul Robeson and the Von Trapp Family Singers. Community Concert Associations were formed in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and even, briefly, South Africa.
Since then, Community Concerts has continued to adapt to change and has successfully weathered many challenges. Faced with the advent of television, competing performing arts presenters, and changing lifestyles, the total number of Associations has declined from the remarkable figures of the early 1950’s, but Community Concerts remains a vital force in the arts world today with close to 400 affiliate Associations. Community Concerts programs have contained names including Van Cliburn, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, the Alvin Alley Dance Troupe, the London Symphony Orchestra with Andre Previn, Claudio Arrau, Leontyne Price and a wide and impressive variety of others. The concerts continue to be of the highest quality, a vital mix of major stars and performers still on their way to prominence. And Community Concerts’ goal remains, as it always has been, "to offer every, man, woman, and child in this country the opportunity to experience the magic of live performance by bringing artists and audiences together."
--- by Community Concerts©