On November 24, 1945 a feature story in the Albert Lea Tribune carried the headline “Civic Music Group to be Formed Here.” The new Association’s mission was to bring quality music concerts to the Albert Lea community, and that day can properly be said to be the date of its birth. The Association elected H.S. Arveson, its first president; Grace Day, Secretary; Roy Delaney, Treasurer; and John F.D. Meighen, Paul Belknap, Sadie Bliss Cox, and J. John Halverson, Vice Presidents.
Early assistance came from a civic group called “The Committee of 100,” which formed in the 1930’s to bring concerts and public speakers to our city. This committee was still functioning in 1945, when it graciously turned over its assets of $180 and its expertise to the new Association.
The fledgling Association wasted no time getting under way. A season ticket drive was held almost immediately, with a Kick-Off Dinner on December 3rd, attended by 150 campaign workers! The drive was very successful, and the Association was able to present five concerts in the spring of 1946. Season tickets for the first year were $6.00 for adults and $3.00 for students, and the talent budget for the entire season was $3,500.
In 1950, the Association made a major purchase, a Steinway Grand Piano. The piano was rebuilt in 1977, and was used for our concerts and by the Albert Lea High School for almost 60 years. With the help of Civic Music and other donors, a new Steinway piano was recently purchased for the High School Auditorium.
With so many years of concerts come and gone, it is impossible to list all of the artists who have appears on our stage. The names are almost a “Who’s Who in Music”: Isaac Stern, Alec Templeton, Blanche Thebom, Lanny Ross, Peter Nero, George Shearing, Ferrante and Teicher, Sandler and Young, The Longines Symphony, The Roger Willams Chorale, The Norman Luboff Choir, The Ballet Folklorico, The Canadian Brass, Warsaw Chamber Orchestra, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Jian Wang, The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Dale Warland Singers, Shanghai String Quartet, Chanticleer, Tonic Sol-Fa, John Bayless, Per Tengstrand, Swingle Singers, Claremont Trio, Beverly Sills, National Lutheran Choir, Frederic Chui, and The Ahn Trio are just a few of the many concerts. March of 1953 was certainly one of our “high spots.” We had Marion Anderson on the 9th and the Minneapolis Symphony (now Minnesota Orchestra) on the 23rd!
We have had numerous presidents, hundreds of officers and board members, and thousands of campaign workers over the years. We have dealt with four different concert service groups: Civic Concert Services of New York, Continental Concerts, United Audience Service, and now Allied Concert Service. In all, Civic Music has brought in close to 350 top artists to Albert Lea for the enjoyment of its audience.
Albert Lea Civic Music Association has also been the recipient of several endowments. There are summer music camp, college, and music lesson scholarships available through auditions to give our local talented musicians an opportunity to continue their study of music.
In 2012, Civic Music partnered with the Albert Lea Community Theatre and the Metropolitan Opera of New York City, to bring the Met’s Live in HD transmission series to Albert Lea.
As we sit back and enjoy the season we do so with special thanks to those far-seeing folks who got us off-the-ground, and to countless others who have given their time, talents, and support to keep it alive and well in all the years that follow. And by keeping ticket prices low, we are proud to say that an Albert Lea Civic Music ticket is the best bargain in town!
2023-2024 Board of Directors
President – Solveig Sundblad
Vice-President – Becky Tennis Hanson
Treasurer – Bethanie Huston
Secretary – Sue Jorgensen
Box Office Manager – Sherry Seberson
Albert Lea Civic Music
P.O. Box 167
Albert Lea, MN 56007