Community Concert Associations

Established in 1958, the Palm Springs Community Concert Association is the oldest performing arts organization in the Coachella Valley. Its officers, Directors, and Volunteers bring first class, internationally acclaimed performing artists to local audiences at prices that welcome everyone.

The idea for the Palm Springs Community Concert Association can be traced to the 1920’s, when funding for the arts was not easy.

In 1927 a plan, destined to revolutionize the performing arts in America, sprang to life simultaneously in two areas of the United States: the Great Lakes region and in several Eastern states. Begun as a humble experiment, it grew into a sophisticated “organized audience plan” and ultimately into “Community Concerts,” the largest, most enduring network of performing arts presenters that ever existed in America.

It was a simple idea. Instead of struggling to find funding i n advance (and make up deficits after the fact), money was raised by subscription and only then were the artists hired. The plan worked well. Lovers of fine music were willing to spend a modest sum for a season of three or four concerts, even not knowing in advance what the concerts would be.

Financial risk for the associations was eliminated and the idea fostered audience development on an unprecedented scale. Families and couples that had been indifferent to “highbrow” single concerts were attracted to a whole season of varied concerts at reasonable prices.

Remarkably, the community concert idea even flourished during the 1930’s despite the stock market crash in 1929 and the Great Depression which followed. At the time of the crash there were 42 community concert associations in America. By 1940 there were 335. Hard times had a way of throwing deep human values into high relief. Obviously, people regarded the concerts as much more than mere entertainment. They were a lifeline to humanity, sanity, and normalcy during those very troubled times.

In 1930, a group of prominent artists’ managers in New York City formed a company called Columbia Artists’ Management, Inc. These managers adopted Community Concerts and made it part of their new venture. With Columbia Artists’ impressive roster as its source for performers and attractions, the success of Community Concerts was assured. “A Carnegie Hall in Every Town” became the company’s proud slogan.

From 1945 through 1950, the total number of community concert associations rose from 330 to 1008. The idea was so “hot” that associations were formed not only in the U.S., but also in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and briefly in South Africa.

The Palm Springs association dates from this period with its first concerts scheduled for winter and spring of 1958. Elvis lived here at the time, but the presenters were more likely inspired by Van Cliburn who electrified the music world that year by winning the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow.

Another brilliant young pianist, Leon Fleisher, was the Palm Springs association’s first offering. Many other brilliant and talented artists, including Leontyne Price, Andres Segovia, Leonard Pennario and Misha Dichter, were headlined here in those early days.

These were the first regularly scheduled classical concerts held in the valley and they were popular immediately. The subscription plan which worked so well elsewhere in America worked fine here as well. During the ‘60’s and 70’s, a steady string of established artists visited the valley performing for sold out audiences.

In the ‘80’s and ‘90’s two important changes brought the concert associations some new challenges. Many of them had soured on Columbia Artists’ methods and wanted to try something fresh. Operating independently, the varied presenters began drawing up their own rosters of artists and attractions from many different sources. In 1999, Trawick Artists’ Management purchased Columbia Artists, in an attempt to re-establish the old relationships and continue Community Concerts’ rich tradition with new energy and the entrepreneurial spirit of an expanding company. Many associations signed up with Trawick.

In 2002, however, another change in affiliation became inevitable. Many local associations, including Palm Springs, were still booking many of their artists directly, and most of them severed their short lived connection with Trawick, whose corporate mission had evolved into something other than what the associations needed.

At the same time a new company called “Live on Stage, LLC” came on the horizon with “products and services” much better suited to the very large Community Concert world. Since 2003, Palm Springs Community Concert Association has dealt successfully with Live on Stage, which is headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., as its source for outstanding talent.

The Palm Springs association, its many “sister cities” in Southern California, and the whole Community Concert “family” nationally have been able to showcase many new and inspired seasons of great music thanks to their relationship with Live on Stage, which operates like a “clearing house” for the many, mostly young, performers who have so much to offer.