As the Lebanon County Community Concert Association prepares to open its 2015-2016 season, the nation's oldest consecutively run concert association gets ready for some modern, first-class acts.
Community concert associations began popping up across the country during the Great Depression as a way for people outside of major metropolitan areas to experience great music.
Gradually, however, a number of concert associations were forced to close their doors.
"There was something like four or five hundred. Now they're down to around 100," explained George Hollich, President of the LCCCA Board.
Many also lay dormant during WWII. The LCCCA was one of the few that kept running through the war years and all the way up to its present 81st season.
That record was won not by relying on tradition, but rather by being open to change. Through the years, the LCCCA has continually changed its focus, bringing in fresh faces and new styles during each season rather than stagnating.
"With these five concerts, you've shifted from Eastern European classical music to various types of music," said Hollich. This includes "everything from orchestral and instrumental to singing and acting."
Acts are chosen through a process starting with an artist showcase in Nashville, where board members have the opportunity to see a large number of performers available to them.
"One of the real neat things about the showcase of the artists is you get to watch how people react to an artist," said Hollich.
Artists who evidence an "instant contact with the audience" during the showcase, he explained, are the ones that the LCCCA sets its eyes on.
After the initial showcase, the board continues to narrow the list down, looking at availability, cost and other factors.
Then, at their first concert of the season, they give audiences a chance to decide on the next one. The audience is surveyed and asked to choose who they are most interested in.
"We've found it to be successful, because we've increased our attendance from 300 to 1,000. We're basically bringing the people what they want," said Hollich.
First up for the 2015-16 season is "The Wonderful Wizard of Song: The Life and Songs of Harold Arlen," coming on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 3 p.m. The performance will showcase the music of Harold Arlen, the renowned American popular music composer responsible for iconic songs like "Paper Moon," "Get Happy" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," through a retrospective theatrical production.
Stringfever arrives on Sunday, Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. with their unique take on the string quartet. The group's four members utilize custom electric instruments, distinctive techniques and popular songs to bring audiences an energized concert full of originality.
November brings 12-year-old prodigal pianist Ethan Bortnick to Lebanon on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 3 p.m. Bortnick, a Florida native, holds the Guinness World Record for "The World's Youngest Solo Musician to Headline His Own Tour" and possesses the uncanny ability to play back anything that he hears. The young pianist has been featured on Oprah and Good Morning America, and played with the likes of Elton John, Celine Dion and Tony Bennett.
"He's rubbed shoulders with many famous people on stage," said Hollich.
Presidio Brass makes a stop on Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m. on their "Sounds of the Cinema" tour. The acclaimed brass quintet will be rearranging classic movie themes for their group style and presenting them to the audience.
Next up is the patron concert on Sunday, April 10 at 3 p.m. with The Irelanders. The concert, separate from the regular season, can be attended with a $25 donation, which covers the cost of two tickets. The Irelanders, who have entertained heads of state worldwide, will perform a variety of traditional Irish songs and dances.
Wrapping up the season is the timeless Glenn Miller Orchestra on Sunday, May 1 at 3 p.m. The Glenn Miller Orchestra is still one of the most sought after big bands, and the 18-member group continues to play the swing hits of the 30's and 40's that audiences love.
The LCCCA also holds master classes at local schools with some of the artists and gives local high school musicians the chance to come and open for the concerts, which visiting artists are usually enthused about.
"When they hear that it's going to be a young budding musician, they're pretty excited," said Hollich
All of this for simple reasons- bring great music to Lebanon and showcase young, modern performers.
"We felt that the music of America, that people hear today, is going to be the classics," said Hollich.
With a concert lineup of this caliber, he's probably right.
Season tickets are available for $60 for adults ($12 for students). Individual tickets will be available for each show at $25. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit their website at lcca.net.