In 1937 a group of area people interested in presenting quality musical entertainment to the region formed The Cooperative Concert Association. Later named The Community Concert Association, it became the Rapid City Concert Association (RCCA) in 1949. Records are not complete, but it appears that some concerts were held during the World War II years. From its inception, much effort has been expended by volunteer board members and others to arrange performances by notable artists. Beginning with the 1964-65 season Allied Concert Services (ACS) of Minneapolis (currently in Plymouth, MN) was selected as the primary source agency and remains so today. In 1990, the organization was formally incorporated as a non-profit. After a number of years as an associate member, RCCA joined the Allied Arts Fund family in 2000 as a full member. Shortly afterward it began selling single admission tickets through the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Box Office in addition to its highly affordable season memberships. The number of performances offered has increased over the years. Currently six concerts are presented between September and early May each season.
The mission of RCCA as stated in the corporate By-Laws is:
“The purposes of this non-profit organization are: to bring to Rapid City and the surrounding Black Hills residents the finest musical and stage entertainment; to encourage and foster the love of live music; to present a variety of concerts, performances, and stage productions for the cultural enjoyment of its members; and to foster an interest in, and education for, the musical arts.”
The organization has always been staffed entirely by volunteers. Primary funds for operation are derived from season subscriptions and single ticket sales with additional support from the City of Rapid City, Allied Arts Fund and generous businesses and patrons in Rapid City.
Because the Black Hills area has a very lively arts scene, one of the evolved practices of RCCA is to bring in artists and stage presentations of national and international caliber that would not otherwise be heard and seen in the region. Maintaining prices that are affordable is also of primary importance.
The inspiration for the founding of what is now RCCA was that of Mrs. J. L. (Mable) Robbins. Together with Zona White, Isle Phillip and others, she organized the first Board of Directors in 1937 with the following officers: Homer Schwenker, President; Gladys Terhune, Secretary; and Art Dahl, Treasurer, followed by Frances Vincent who served as treasurer for many years. The first season consisted of three concerts presented at the former High School, now the Performing Arts Center. Attendance was by season subscription only at a cost of $3.50. (The price of a gallon of gasoline in 1937 was 10¢ and a loaf of bread was 9¢.) Sufficient subscriptions were sold in a one week drive (largely by walking door to door) to enable the first season.
The group originally worked with Columbia Concert Corp., and in 1948 began using the services of Arthur M. Oberfelder, a Denver entrepreneur. After Oberfelder’s death, bookings were contracted through Allied Concert Services. The relationship with ACS, begun in 1957, has remained strong over the years as they have provided access to many artists at costs that permit RCCA to continue its program of affordable presentations.
A partial list of distinguished artists, rising stars and well-known ensembles appears on the past performers page. Many will recognize the names as a virtual “Who’s Who” of the performing arts world over the last seven decades.
RCCA’s Silver Anniversary season (1962-63) included such greats as pianist Phillippe Entremont, dramatic soprano Elinor Ross, and the Chicago Chamber Orchestra.
Shortly afterward in 1965, when it had become apparent that the elderly grand piano used by the school system was no longer satisfactory, RCCA purchased a Steinway concert grand piano to be available to performers. This piano is currently housed at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Theatre.
The Association’s 30th season was highlighted by the Minneapolis Symphony under the direction of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Roger Wagner Chorale and internationally recognized pianist Byron Janis. The season was hailed by the Rapid City Journal as “leaving a bright mark on local musical history”. The season also included Jess Thomas, a Hot Springs native, who had a meteoritic rise to fame in opera and solo performances. He was also feted in his hometown during his stay in the Black Hills.
In 1987 RCCA celebrated its 50th season by dedicating it to Zona White, who served on its Board for over 40 years and was the only remaining member of the original founding group. A part of the celebration was a special concert in combination with the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (BHSO) featuring soprano Johanna Meier of Spearfish with her husband, tenor Guido della Vecchia. The season also showcased the Minnesota Orchestra directed by Edo de Waart; Dukes of Dixieland; the Montovani Orchestra; and Jeffrey Siegel, a rising American pianist.
During this 50th year RCCA conducted an essay contest. It was won by Trista Farmer, a 17-year-old recent graduate of Stevens High School. Her essay titled “The Historical Influence of the Rapid City Concert Association” won the $250 top award. Farmer’s thorough research and well-written words are a great history of the organization up to that time.
RCCA was privileged to achieve a special relationship with two world-class performers in the winter of 1999. On their way from Cheyenne to Rapid City, duo pianists Valentina Lisitsa and her husband Alexei Kuznetsoff’s SUV was struck by a snowplow in one of the High Plains freak snowstorms. Arriving late in a newly rented car, the duo played magnificently even though worried about their damaged SUV and getting transportation to their next engagement in Miles City, MT. Through the volunteer efforts of the Nielson, Peppers and England families, the Lisitsa/Kuznetsoff SUV was repaired, the rental car returned and the duo delivered to their next engagement. Because of the friendships formed here, Valentina and Alexei have returned a number of times and become favorites of area audiences. Fortunately they consider Rapid City and the Black Hills to be their second home.
In 2003, RCCA’s concert grand piano had reached a condition such that artists were refusing to play it. RCCA developed a project with Jeffry Turner, a local highly skilled piano technician. With the financial support of generous patrons, the piano was remanufactured and is now an extremely fine concert instrument that all players since have complimented. As part of the fund raising effort Valentina Lisitsa performed a benefit concert and two years later gave the concert reintroducing the piano for use.
Please see our Organization Page if you are interested in becoming a part of this tradition as it moves into the future.