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GBCCA entertains the Golden Belt
community-concert-MikeFarris PRESS
Mike Farris will present the final Golden Belt Community Concert Association production of the 2015-16 season March 17 at the Great Bend Municipal Auditorium. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO


Lifetime Great Bend resident Justin Engleman lists his hobbies as genealogy, cooking and baking, and playing trumpet in the Great Bend Municipal Band and Prairie Winds Concert Band.
Q: What first drew you to serving on the GBCCA board?
A: “I love music and enjoyed attending the concerts. Shortly after joining the association I was asked to help with the annual campaign. Then I was asked to take the position of membership chairman and held that position for 14 years. I became the president two years ago.”
Q: What do you most enjoy about what you do?
A: “The most important part of what we do is to bring live, professional entertainment to the Golden Belt. In today’s technological society, it is important to remember to unplug and enjoy social time with friends and attend a concert, and furthermore learn something while attending the concert. It is also important to remember our history – almost 80 years – and to carry on the tradition that was started by Mrs. M. F. Russell and those 11 others who served on the first board of directors. They saw a need to bring top-quality entertainers to Great Bend, and there still is that need; therefore, helping to select the performances is a great privilege for all of our 35 board members.”
 Q: How has it changed over the years, and what changes do you anticipate in the next 5-10 years?
A: “Little has changed in the way we operate the association since its beginnings in 1937. One of the major changes has been to go from a predominantly highbrow series to one of popular music. While we still have a wide genre of offerings each year, we try to have something that meets the needs of each member – anything from a classical pianist to a country western singer to a big band. I see us continuing to bring top-flight entertainers to the Golden Belt far into the future.”

Founded in 1937, the Golden Belt Community Concert Association has a rich heritage of providing quality, diverse, musical performances to the residents of Barton County and the surrounding area. The association’s vision is to enrich the cultural awareness and appreciation of the performing arts for everyone in the communities served.
The remaining shows for this season are “The Wonderful Wizard of Song,” coming to the Great Bend Municipal Auditorium on Monday, Feb. 29, and Mike Farris, on Thursday, March 17.
“The Wonderful Wizard of Song,” a Matt Davenport Production, brings out pivotal moments in the life of Harold Arlen, one of America’s most influential songwriters. A cast of three men and two women backed by piano and bass will perform many of his songs, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “That Old Black Magic.”
Exhilarating rhythm-and-blues vocalist Mike Farris has genre-defying style. His music has been described as “blue-eyed soul to soothe the spirit.” He performs with a five-piece band playing songs from Billboard’s top 100 hits of 1969.

Through the decades
Great Bend musician and history buff Joe Boley has been involved in the association for more than 50 years. He compiled the following information about its beginnings:
During the early 1900s, the cultural atmosphere of the community was influenced by war-time patriotism, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression, as well as a plan by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to revitalize the nation and bring back those lost “happy days” with the New Deal. In 1938, Great Bend was in the midst of an oil boom, the economy was thriving and a diverse population was being established.
These attitudes of a booming economy and a unique population base may have influenced the citizens of Great Bend to organize an association that would bring professional musicians to the community. The organization to bring about this concept would be the Columbia Artist Bureau, New York City, an organization that was formed in 1927 by seven leading impresarios with ties to several stars. Their plan was to export musical culture to all parts of the country. In 1930, the Columbia Broadcasting System took over the new entity, named the Community Concerts Corporation.
The Great Bend Community Concert Association, as it was then known, was organized in 1937 with Dr. M. F. Russell’s wife, Ethel, as president and 11 other charter board members. The first concert was held in February 1939, when the Mozart Boys’ Choir of Vienna performed in the Great Bend High School Auditorium. The other concert that year was Metropolitan Opera soprano Josephine Antoine.
The association continued on until the end of the 1941-1942 season. The concert association stopped performances during World War II and began offering cultural presentations again in the fall of 1947. Following World War II, the association had a membership of 773 adults and 145 student memberships.
The structure of the community concert association has gone through only a few changes throughout its history. The New York Association of Community Concerts founded the practice of subscription concerts so as to guarantee a substantial amount of money to provide professional quality entertainers. Several years ago, family memberships were established to bring in additional members at an economical price. The local name has changed to Golden Belt Community Concert Association and reciprocal agreements with Dodge City, El Dorado, and Garden City are still honored.
In 1986, the patron program was inaugurated to bring in additional income. Columbia Artists no longer contracts with Community Concerts organizations. The Great Bend association now contracts with Live on Stage Inc., a Nashville, Tennessee, based organization for its concert selections and full range of services.
The Great Bend concerts are still given in the renovated Municipal Auditorium with a board of directors responsible for concert selection and administration.
The Golden Belt Community Concert Association celebrated its 75th season in 2012-2013. Over the years, the Golden Belt Community Concert Association has afforded the citizens of central Kansas the ability to see live, high-class musicians at a price affordable to everyone. Some of those artists include the Robert Shaw Chorale, the Boston Pops, William Warfield, Mantovani, Paul Lavalle and the Band of America, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, Duke Ellington, and Arthur Fiedler. A few artists have appeared in Great Bend multiple times, including Ferrente and Teicher, Peter Nero, Mr. Jack Daniel’s Original Silver Cornet Band and Dorothy Warenskjold.