End of an era in Boise’s music scene

After 83 seasons, a concert group is calling it quits.

doland@idahostatesman.comApril 8, 2014 

Since forming in 2006, Presidio Brass has rocketed to success as the face of a bold new generation in brass entertainment. By combining a brass quintet, piano and percussion instruments with fresh, original arrangements, their unique sound has become a trademark for the ensemble from San Diego, captivating audiences everywhere.

PRESIDIO BRASS

It has been a staple in the Treasure Valley, but Boise Community Concert Association organizers say they’ll present their final show on April 24 when they host Presidio Brass, a chamber ensemble from San Diego.

The BCCA depends heavily on volunteers and has lost much of that support in the past 10 years, said Jack Cogswell, who has run the group for more than a decade.

“It’s really a matter of attrition,” Cogswell said. “And I’m not sure what to do about that. We’ve tried getting younger people involved, but that’s been a struggle.”

With an aging board and audience, the organization has seen its numbers fall despite producing strong seasons in Boise High School’s auditorium at an affordable price.

Season tickets ran about $65 for a series of five shows of classical, jazz and musical revues.

“I’ve really loved doing this,” Cogswell said. “It’s hard to let the thing go, but you get to a stage where you’ve got to.”

Like many traditional community institutions and fraternal and service organizations nationwide, the concert association is a victim of changing times and the proliferation of competing entertainment.

HEIFETZ AND HOROWITZ

Community Concerts started in 1927, when some leading East Coast impresarios came up with a plan to export high musical culture to small-town America. The Columbia Broadcasting System threw in its support three years later, and the Community Concerts Corp. was established.

With a focus on classical music, it found a ready audience for tours of performers such as Jascha Heifetz and Vladimir Horowitz. By the 1930s, the idea had caught on nationally. Boise started its organization in 1931.

Over the years, many famous performers got their starts touring and performing across the country through Community Concerts, including Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine, baritone Thomas Hampson and pianist Alpin Hong.

For the past 11 years, the Boise group has booked its acts through Live On Stage, a Nashville company that works with 180 Community Concerts organizations in 41 states.

In that time, said Live On Stage’s Mark Ross, the number of groups the company works with has stayed fairly consistent — though some have closed and some have started anew. He said that makes him think there is a possibility that the Boise group could restart at some point.

But Ross said he knows that times are changing and that such groups have had a hard time keeping pace.

CANYON COUNTY GROUP HOPES FOR A RENEWAL

Sylvia Hunt runs Caldwell Fine Arts, a group based at College of Idaho that is similar to the Boise association. She said the news is sad but not shocking.

“I’m sorry they weren’t able to find a way to continue ... like us, the audience we enjoyed 20 or 50 years ago has died out,” she said. “Their children haven’t carried on in the same enthusiastic way.

“There are so many avenues people can take to choose their own entertainment. With so many electronic devices, in this day and age, you don’t get the automatic support for the community.”

Caldwell Fine Arts started in 1961. Hunt took it on in 1981 and now wants to revitalize its presence in Canyon County.

This summer, she said, College of Idaho will install new seating in Jewett Auditorium, the organization’s performance home. She said she has a few younger volunteers and she hopes that they will keep the group going.

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