A Short History of the Beckley Concert Association
Our Beckley Concert Association had its beginning in January of 1938 when a group of community minded and music loving ladies, all members of The Monday Music Club, met at the Memorial Building with a representative of Columbia Artists in New York for the purpose of organizing a community concert association. Mrs. William (Mabel) Taylor was elected president and Mrs. Thomas (Louise) Wickham vice president. They and other officers signed an agreement with Columbia Cooperative Concerts. The first membership drive was held in April of 1938 and 736 members were enrolled exceeding the goal of 500, a significant result for a new community venture. This venture by Columbia Concerts provided venues for musical artists with community volunteers doing the work of enrolling members, mailing tickets and attending to the myriad details associated with presenting live performances. This organizational plan continues to work successfully today!
The first performances of the new Beckley Community Concert Association were held at the Memorial Building but were later moved to Woodrow Wilson High School (now Park Middle School) which had a larger auditorium. The move to the new Woodrow Wilson Auditorium in 1988, with its wonderful acoustics and facilities was a very significant event for the organization. The association continued and grew through the decades, encountering challenges and problems but, with the unwavering support of the community and dedication of the volunteers, always finding ways to overcome them.!
In 1996 the BCCA made a critical decision, leaving the Columbia Artists and Community Concerts organization to become an autonomous association, allowing the group more freedom to choose our artists and to make decisions locally. The new name chosen was Beckley Concert Association, as we are known today. In 2013, after 75 years of operating the organization from members' homes, United Bank generously provided us with our first permanent office space. Our new home on Main St. is a tribute to our history and enduring commitment to the cultural life of our community.!
A look back at the performances we've presented in Beckley over the past three quarters of a century is astounding. Symphony orchestras, pianists and instrumentalists of every kind, Broadway musicals, grand opera, "big band" and small combo jazz groups, and dance companies have all graced our stage. The last decade has featured even more diversity with our presentations of bluegrass and Celtic music, and the best "crossover" ensembles that blend pop, classical, and jazz elements to create new and exciting musical styles.!
The message that Margaret Sayre, past president and long-serving board member, wrote on the occasion of our 50th anniversary in 1987 is still relevant today during our 75th anniversary year:!
"This is a surprising accomplishment for a city of our size and attests to the dedication of a multitude of people over the years – people who believed, and continue to believe, that music is an integral part of life and that live, professional concerts are important to people and to a community. This season's performances are dedicated to those workers, officers, board members and financial supporters and above all, members, past and present, who have been so loyal."