Signup for concert association set for April 26 through June 1

Special to the Globe

A cultural movement began in Dodge City in 1936. This was the middle of Dust Bowl days and the Great Depression. That did not deter Louis F. Miller owner of Hulpieu Miller Furniture Company from pursuing a vision for Dodge City that continues to this day.

Miller’s wife and mother-in-law, Jan Miller and Mrs. Roy Hellworth, were both piano teachers with extensive musical talent and training. They were the catalyst for his idea of starting a concert series in Dodge City.

He contacted a division of Columbia Broadcasting Systems in New York City, New York.

At this point in time the Community Concert Service Division of Columbia was a fledgling 5 year old venture. They had community concert associations in 300 cities nationwide.

Dodge City, with a population of 9,000, was considered too small to support such a series.

Louis Miller persevered and convinced Columbia to initiate a concert series in Dodge City, thus Dodge City Cooperative Concerts Association was born.

March of 1937 was the beginning of the first membership campaign with 71 team workers that resulted in 300 members. The price for an adult membership was $3 and for a child/student $1.50.

Times were tough and money hard to come by with agriculture suffering and an economic depression. That $3 then is comparable to over $55 today.

The concerts could not be booked until money was “in hand.” But they did what was necessary and booked three concerts to begin that year. Those concerts were Rosa Tentoni, a Metropolitan dramatic soprano, Carola Gitana, a Spanish dancer, and The Russian Imperial Singers, a vocal quintet.

Those first concerts were held at the Dodge City High School auditorium which is now the Comanche Middle School auditorium at 1601 1st Ave.

Concerts were performed at that location until 1955 when the current Civic Center was built. They continue to be held at the Civic Center, which now has been updated to hold the School Administration.

The name of the association changed in 1944 to the Dodge City Community Concert Association, as it is today.

It became a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in the early years of the 21st century.

Though membership has declined over the past few years, in 1988 total membership was 2,212. In 1994 there were over 3,000 members, which is over the 2,500 seating capacity of the venue.

The purpose of the association remains the same 84 years later, to provide for its members an opportunity to enjoy quality entertainment.

Their goal is to make the best live performances accessible to everyone in the area. There is a magic to live entertainment, when audience and artist come together.

This art can ignite a spark in the mind and soul of a listener, so that our mundane, everyday existence can be transformed into a profound experience. This is a missing component in our current lives.

The Association wants to expand the arts into all walks of life. The performing arts are essential to the emotional and intellectual development of our children, our society. This compels the association to set educational outreach programs that open the minds of the children to a wide range of music and other performing arts.

Not only do concerts improve overall quality of life, but there are also benefits to the local economy. Often members of neighboring concert associations travel to Dodge City to attend concerts.

The Community Concert Associations of Dodge City, Garden City, Pratt, Great Bend and Liberal are all reciprocal. One membership in any of these makes it possible to attend in the other venues. Membership benefits can allow for many concerts in Southwest Kansas over the course of a season.

The Dodge City Community Concert Association strives to be flexible, open-minded and innovative in all that they do. They know they must adapt their service to meet the changing needs of society and be open to new ideas.

Yet they wish to honor and respect the traditions that has brought about 84 years of success.

For the future season beginning in the fall of 2021, there will be new guidelines and protocol to follow for the safety of the membership. There is going to be a new season, they have only been on hiatus due to the COVID–19 restrictions.

This new season will rise out of the ashes of the past year, like a phoenix, to become a better, improved version that will continue into the next 80-plus years.

The new membership campaign begins April 26 and continues through June 1. The benefit of membership is that the concerts are available at a reduced price and a local restaurant has offered discounted meals for members on the night of each concert.

Membership allows the association to be able to book future concerts based on the money “in hand.”

The concerts for the 2021-2022 season can be previewed at dodgecityconcerts.com.

For more information contact Julie Ellis at 620-682-2144 or Penny Lopp at 620-789-0856.