The original nationwide concept for the Community Concerts was formulated during the l 920s before there was funding for the Performing Arts. Its marketing strategy was to raise the money for the concerts first, then hire the artists. And the new, inventive, fiscally responsible system worked! Since it was established in Leisure World (now Laguna Woods) on May 31, 1965, Community Concerts has been a musical treasure for residents.
Over the years, the stars in the classical music firmament sparkled as participants in the network of Community Concert Programs. The plan was designed to bring fine music to ordinary American neighborhoods at a price the neighbors could afford. The organization's slogan was "A Carnegie Hall in Every Town". It guaranteed the finest quality concerts close to home. The program grew to be "The largest, most enduring network of performing artists that ever existed", later expanding to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South Africa.
The Community Concerts Association was established in Laguna Woods (then Leisure World) by a dedicated man named Syd Hall; he wanted to bring music performed by world-class artists to his community. Artists were contracted through Columbia Artists in New York; pianist Leonard Pennario performed the very first concert. While only 50 music lovers attended that initial concert in LW, subsequently, membership in the Association grew to nine hundred, with a waiting list for series tickets. Mr. Hall did such an admirable job of bringing glorious music to his neighborhood that he was re-elected president of the club for 23 years! Syd finally turned the gavel over to Jessie and Frank Dolezal in 1988.
Eventually, the National Community Concert organization was dissolved, and Community Concerts of Laguna Woods Village became an independent organization, required to find exceptional musicians on our own. This job, including negotiating fees and contracts, is an essential function of our Board of Directors. Our Village residents especially enjoy our Sunday afternoon concerts, the primarily classical music we present, and the appearances of the virtuosos to whom they do not have easy access. Between 1965 and our Golden Anniversary last year, we had a brief episode of falling membership; however, thanks to longtime friends of CCLWV, Joan Nugent and Jeanne Michaels, there was a resurgence to packed houses. Due to the Covid pandemic, membership has once again declined. To sustain the program, efforts are underway to build back the membership.
A prestigious electric concert series has developed over the years, with enthusiastic LW Villagers returning every year to fill the Performing Arts Center for a series of six performances. Selling only the entire series is in keeping with the original philosophy of Community Concerts: ensure a paying audience, then hire the artists. As far back as 1991, a series of six performances cost $35; thirty-two years later, the series is but a mere $75. It is undoubtedly the best, first-class entertainment investment one can make in the Community of Laguna Woods Village at a fraction of the price at outside venues.
With an extremely high standard for excellence, the Laguna Woods Village Community Concerts has been supplying musical magic for the enthusiastic and appreciative residents of Laguna Woods Village. The goal of Community Concerts has been "to provide some of the world's most beloved music performed by world-class musicians."
Here's to the club's next fifty years!
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