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Jefferson City Community Concert Association to disband

Jefferson City Community Concert Association to disband

March 23rd, 2018 by Samantha Pogue in Local News

Steven Houser conducts the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra as it performs Georges Enesco's "Romanian Rhapsody No. 1," in A Major, opus 11, in April 2011 at Lincoln University.

Photo by Kelley McCall

The Jefferson City Community Concert Association announced Thursday the 2017-18 season will be its last.

Beginning as a subscription-only membership organization in 1953, the association has brought live musical performances of all styles from all over the world to Jefferson City.

Association president Don Otto said the board of directors made the decision at its annual meeting in January, as the association has lost money each year for some time because of declining audiences, decreased season tickets sales and increased competition for sponsor support.

"When JCCCA started 65 years ago, there were almost no other groups putting on musical acts in town. Last year, on the night of one of our concerts, there were six other musical performances being held in Jefferson City at the same time," he said in a news release. "Also, at one point, there were two TV stations in Jefferson City — three if you held the antenna just right and it was a cloudy day. Now everyone has a thousand channels at home and a cellphone in their hand with all the music in the world on it. It is hard to compete with all of that."

Otto said it is a nationwide problem, with many other season ticket-based groups experiencing the same things — like the growing number of theater and musical events in the area, difficulty in matching performer availability with open dates at venues and increased fees for performers.

Even though the association has tried many ways to increase audience numbers for its outside acts, none have worked in a time when public entertainment tastes have changed from season ticket support to individual performances.

"People don't want to commit to season tickets, waiting to buy a ticket for a concert a few days before it takes place. Another problem is we don't have our own theater in town, so we have to plan out a year and a half in advance to secure dates at the Miller Performing Arts Center or (Lincoln University)," Otto said.

He said their season tickets 10 years ago ranged between 300 and 500 but dropped to slightly more than 100 in recent years. They have received sponsorship support from several local businesses and from the Missouri Arts Council, being a 100 percent volunteer-based organization. However, it has not been enough to offset the other factors.

After finishing its current season and paying bills, the association's remaining assets will be transferred to the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra, for which the association has been a primary financial and administrative supporter for many years. Otto said the association urges its sponsors and members to transfer their support to the orchestra, which is a tremendous asset to the community, has a strong attendance and is looking toward a bright future.

"The symphony is not going away. As a matter of fact, they have a strong board now and draw a great audience to their shows, with people wanting to see that local talent," he said. "They won't have to schedule around (the association) anymore, which limited them on when they could do their own shows. In the long run, it will be better for the symphony and give them some seed money to control their future, grow and expand."

After the association, MOstly Opera and the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra presenting "The Magic Flute" on Thursday, the association has two remaining events before its 2017-18 season ends.

The next show is the Jefferson City Symphony's annual concert featuring piano concerto competition winner Tanner Henley at 7 p.m. April 24 at Lincoln University. Otto said this will be a special concert, as this is the first time a Jefferson City pianist has won this prestigious statewide competition.

The association's final show is May 13, when Steve Lippia will performs his "Simply Sinatra" with Jefferson City favorites Jim Widener's Big Band.

The association began in partnership with a New York-based booking association, Columbia Artists, according to the news release. The symphony, which has roots dating to a small group performing at church events in the 1920s, became part of the association schedule at that time. When Columbia Artists stopped sponsoring events with local associations, the association began booking acts on its own.

Among the early performers were opera stars Rise Stevens, Mimi Benzell and James Melton; pianists Jorge Bolet and Eugene Isthmian; the Robert Shaw and Roger Wagner chorales; the Vienna Academy Chorus; and the Chicago Ballet.

In more recent years, the association has brought pianist George Winston, the Sons of the Pioneers, The Four Freshmen, Project Trio, actor Hal Holbrook as "Mark Twain Tonight," The Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey orchestras, the Pittsburgh Brass, international ragtime performer Mimi Blais, and the Dukes of Dixieland.

Otto, who has been involved in the association for more than five years, has enjoyed the concerts and acting as master of ceremonies for many of them, wearing everything from lederhosen to a tuxedo depending on each theme. However, he is encouraged that despite the end of the Jefferson City Community Concert Association, another organization will prosper.

"It is sad this is happening, but for the symphony this will be a very positive thing," he said. "I believe we are passing our legacy on to another group."

For more information about the Jefferson City Community Concert Association's final season's shows, visit jeffcityconcert.org.