Paul Hoverman
Paul Hoverman

It was Oct. 21, 1953, when the headlines in the Van Wert Times-Bulletin announced a new concert association had been established in Van Wert. Columbia Artists out of New York sent a representative to our hometown and met with some local cultural visionaries to hammer out details of what would become the Van Wert County Community Concert Association. A membership drive would be held in the lobby of the Marsh Hotel for exactly one week.

They were hopeful of selling close to 900 memberships which would be the capacity of Lincoln Auditorium, where concerts would be held. After that one week campaign, there would be no more memberships sold and no single tickets would be sold for the concerts. Nearly 150 volunteer campaign workers would be disbursed throughout the area, selling season memberships in hopes of reaching their goal. Here’s an interesting note from the article, “A temporary phone number would be installed for people to call into the headquarters at the Marsh Hotel.” My, how far we have come in a relatively short amount of time!

Herbert Jones, a very well respected music teacher in the Van Wert Schools, was elected president, Mrs. James Johnson, secretary and James Hall, treasurer. Memberships cost $6 for adults and $3 for students. That first season consisted of the World Famous DePaur Infantry Chorus (37 male negro singers - their words, not mine!), and two other concerts to be selected. Sixty years ago, people attended concerts for the experience, not necessarily for who they were. Today’s audiences are a little more discriminant to say the least.

I could go on and on about the history of this cherished music series. There are many people still in our community today who remember the beginnings of Community Concerts in Van Wert. I was fortunate to have shared many good memories with some of you.

Today, we respect the past and look to the future with Community Concerts at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. This Saturday is a big day in the life of Community Concerts as we celebrate the end of the 61st year and announce six huge concerts for next season. Although we have changed venues from Lincoln Auditorium to the Marsh Auditorium and now the Niswonger, we strive to keep the integrity of Community Concerts while adding a present zest and zeal to the series.

Saturday evening’s concert features the award-winning Voices of Unity Youth Choir from Fort Wayne. Over the years, many youth choirs have performed for Community Concerts, but not many like the Voices of Unity singers. This choir consists of many inner-city youth who have discovered discipline and education, friendships and loyalty through their involvement. And because of their close proximity to Van Wert, they are bringing their entire entourage of singers, over 100 vibrant kids who can’t wait to display their talents on our stage for you. You can still get tickets for this concert. That’s one of a few things that has changed over the years, if you want to attend, and if we have seats available, you can purchase a single ticket and enjoy this great concert!

That being said, you will really enjoy the entire new season we are about to unveil Saturday night; and it is certainly the best value to buy the entire season. Many of you will soon be receiving our mailer describing all the details and concerts. I am confident you will be excited with next year’s line-up as it features two of the most admired TV stars of all time as well as exciting and inspiring artists of all genres of music and dance.

We can’t wait to share the new season with you this Saturday evening! FINE