Established by Aaron Richmond in 1938, the Series has evolved into New England's major presenting organization with over 100 performance and outreach activities annually.
From its inception the Celebrity Series became a mainstay of Boston's cultural life with performances by Ignace Jan Paderewski, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, Jascha Heifitz, Lily Pons, Francois Poulenc, the Trapp Family Singers, Isaac Stern, Andres Segovia, Marian Anderson, Martha Graham and Company, Yehudi Menuhin, Glenn Gould, Burl Ives, Rudolf Serkin, Van Cliburn, Maria Callas, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Bolshoi Ballet, Maurice Chevalier, the Joffrey Ballet, the Israel Philharmonic, Ravi Shankar, Olivier Messiaen, Marilyn Horne, Dizzy Gillespie, Victor Borge, Beverly Sills, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Jacqueline du Pre, Twyla Tharp Dance and Luciano Pavarotti.
Many nationally and internationally recognized artists have made their Boston debuts with the Celebrity Series. They include the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Yo-Yo Ma, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Emanuel Ax, and Leontyne Price.
Each season from October to May, the Celebrity Series presents more than 50 multi-cultural and international artists and performing ensembles to audiences in the greater Boston area. By utilizing a number of different performance venues throughout the Boston area, each year the Celebrity Series presents programs of classical music, modern and classical dance, jazz, folk, world music, family music and multi-media performances.
Organizationally, the Celebrity Series has operated under a number of umbrellas. In 1953-54, it affiliated with Boston University and took the name, the Boston University Celebrity Series. In 1984, the Celebrity Series changed affiliations and moved its operations under the auspices of the Wang Center for the Performing Arts (now Citi Performing Arts center) a not-for-profit institution. Then, in 1989, the Celebrity Series incorporated as an independent, non-profit institution with its own Board of Directors and an annual budget of over $3 million (now between $6 million and $7 million). After 18 years of operating with the title sponsorship support of Bank of Boston, BankBoston, FleetBoston Financial, and Bank of America, the Celebrity Series began the 2007-2008 season operating under its incorporated name, Celebrity Series of Boston.
Leadership of the Celebrity Series has remained consistent over its lifetime. In 1958, Aaron Richmond hired Walter Pierce as a Programming Associate. He later became Executive Director and guided the Series from a "mom and pop"-style presenter to a fully-staffed, not-for-profit organization. In 1986, Mr. Pierce hired Martha H. Jones as the Series' Director of Marketing. She later became General Manager, and, in 1996, was appointed President and Executive Director. Ms. Jones increased the impact of the Celebrity Series on Boston audiences through the creation of new outreach programs, the presentation of innovative dance programs and the commissioning of new works. In 2011 the organization appointed Gary Dunning as President and Executive Director, the fourth leader of the Celebrity Series over its 73-year history and the first appointed from outside the organization. The Celebrity Series currently has 24 full-time staff members.
The Celebrity Series operates one of the most extensive education and community service programs in New England. The Celebrity Series education and community program, Arts for All! has grown from a small, school-based ticket giveaway program reaching 200 people a year to an innovative outreach program reaching over 22,000 individuals each year with a series of residency programs, masterclasses, workshops and interactive concerts for students, families, seniors, and special needs groups. The Celebrity Series works with more than 450 community-based organizations who each month receive mailings detailing upcoming Arts for All! activities and ticket programs in which they are able to participate.
Between 90,000 and 100,000 individuals attend Celebrity Series concerts each year, with an additional 20,000 individuals participating in the Arts, Education and Community Program. While participants come from as far north as Maine and as far south as New Jersey, the majority come from the greater Boston metropolitan area. The Celebrity Series - through Arts for All! - ensures that its audience is ethnically diverse and includes people from all age groups and socio-economic backgrounds.
The focus of Arts for All! is to reach out to underserved communities in order to make the performing arts accessible to as many people as possible. In addition to the many projects designed to bring the performing arts to a broader audience, Arts for All! makes specially-priced tickets available for Celebrity Series performances to a large number of community groups, students, senior citizens and special needs individuals.
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