In October of 1947, a piano concert was presented here in Fairbanks. That concert, while not earth-shattering, was the seed that grew to become the longest running concert presenting organization in all of Alaska. At a time when Fairbanks was not quite 50 years old, and Alaska wasn’t even yet a state, residents recognized the importance of arts and culture. In the late 40’s there were roughly 20,000 people in the entire area. The commitment of these pioneers in those very early days and their belief that the arts were an important part of building a community ensured that Fairbanksans would be able to enjoy first-class events from around the world, year after year, a privilege we still enjoy today.
Classical music was a primary focus of those who established the Fairbanks Concert Association. At the time, many of the artists who came to Fairbanks were stars who could be seen and heard on radio and television or in movies.
Today, Fairbanks Concert Association has the most diverse and exciting seasons in Fairbanks. The artists we bring can still be seen in movies or on TV or heard on the radio. Jazz, folk, and classical music; tap, ballet, ethnic and modern dance; comedy and spoken word, acrobats, circuses and family programs; symphony orchestras, chamber ensembles and virtuoso soloists; Celtic, African, and Latin music—you name it and FCA has presented it at some point in the last 64 seasons. No other arts and cultural organization, whether for profit or nonprofit, is as broadly diverse in what it presents. FCA seasons can be full of familiar art forms and at the same time can have lesser-known treasures that become magical discoveries. Because FCA is a community organization supported by its members and business partners through donations, we work hard to find artists that appeal to a wide range of interests and ages.
FCA is also committed to education. When visiting artists come to Fairbanks, FCA partners with local groups for educational presentations, workshops, lectures, and master classes. FCA works with the University of Alaska, local dance groups, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, and other organizations to share the experience of professional artists with our own musicians, dancers and actors, which in turn enhances the arts and cultural landscape of our community. Last season, 7,800 students were able to see performers like Calo Flamenco, Baka Beyond, Cherish the Ladies, Lazer Vaudeville and the Yuval Ron Ensemble.
As Fairbanks has grown and artistic and cultural opportunities have become more diverse, FCA has grown and changed as well. And as our community continues to grow, FCA will be here making Fairbanks a more vibrant and exciting place to live and ensuring that Fairbanksans are enriched and entertained during the cold fall, winter and spring months.
The First Concert
Russian-born pianist Max Schapiro on October 19, 1947, was the first of hundreds of programs that have been presented to audiences over the years by the Fairbanks Concert Association.
Early Organizational Structure
The local chapter of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority sponsored the first performance, and the following year this group was joined by Soroptimists International and the American Association of University Women in forming the Fairbanks Concert Association. Three programs made up the 1948-49 Season, and in the years that followed, Fairbanksans were treated to the sights and sounds of dozens of classical musicians and a variety of dancers. Programs of the 1950s featured performers of the Alaska Music Trail, and in 1958 a reorganization effort led to the establishment of the Fairbanks Community Concert Association and an annual season ticket sales campaign to provide the ongoing financial support needed to bring several artists or groups to perform each year. Volunteer board members generated the manpower necessary to present performances, and the association’s operations were conducted from private homes.
Today, Alaska’s oldest performing arts presenter organization has grown in membership and audience support. In addition to a volunteer board of directors, FCA has two paid staff persons, operates out of a permanent office, and has added jazz, theater, comedy, speakers, and family entertainment to its programming. A typical season now features an average of ten performances attended by a mix of season ticket holders and individual ticket buyers. Thousands of children attend school programs provided each year, and local artists regularly benefit from master classes and residencies. FCA collaborates with the Anchorage Concert Association and other presenters around the state to bring a variety of internationally known artists to Alaskan stages, and is working with its neighbors to bring performers to smaller communities in the interior.
Notable Guest Artists
- Isaac Stern
- The Chicago Symphony
- The Vienna Symphony Orchestra
- Chamber Orchestra Kremlin
- Van Cliburn
- Jean-Pierre Rampal
- The Juilliard String Quartet
- The Dave Brubeck Quartet
- Dizzy Gillespie
- Wynton Marsalis,
- The Paul Taylor Dance Company
- The Martha Graham Dance Company
- The Alvin Ailey II Dance Company
- The Chieftains
- Ladysmith Black Mambazo,
- Eileen Ivers
- Bonnie Rideout
- Riders in the Sky
- Garrison Keillor
- David Sedaris
- Chicago City Limits
- The Capitol Steps
- The Peking Acrobats
- Imago Theater