The end of an era


If it’s too late to save the IWV Concert Association, I wonder if we are marking the end of an era in our community. There are few organizations that have served our community longer, and arguably none that has brought such high-quality entertainment to so many.

Last week, the News Review sent a reviewer to the association’s presentation of virtuoso pianist Julian G. IWVCA President Julius Botelho made an announcement (see related story, Page 1) preceding that performance that insurmountable debt is prompting the organization to re-home the bulk of its scheduled programing and wind down its affairs, presumably shuttering a group that has for more than 70 years brought to our community such legendary acts as Arthur Rubinstein, the Joffrey Ballet, Vienna Boys Choir, Isaac Stern, Marcel Marceau, Charo and Vincent Price.

Ken Robinson, a legend in the IWV, was instrumental in establishing the association. Prominent leaders of China Lake and Ridgecrest championed the efforts to bring these world class performers to our doorstep. For decades these acts packed the Station Theater as hundreds of season ticket holders and single-event patrons flocked to performances ranging from classical music to broadway revues to contemporary dance.

Knowing none of this history, I first purchased season tickets when I was still a teenager. It was more of a gamble at the time — I wanted to see three of the six concerts, and the cost of a season ticket was slightly cheaper than purchasing individual admissions. I ended up going to every show, and loving all of them. Subsequently I renewed my membership for several years, until the introduction of children into my life made attending mid-week concerts difficult (read: impossible).

A few years later, the Station Theater closed. In addition to losing hundreds of sellable seats, the association discovered that subsequent venue options limited scheduling flexibility as well as seating. Longtime volunteers and coordinators retired from the organization. Membership declined sharply. I heard the reports, but remained mostly absent for a good 15 years. As my personal availability increased in the last few years, I started scanning the season schedules for interesting programs. While I enjoyed the ones I was able to see, I could tell that in the intervening years the organization had changed. Lower-tier acts were brought in. Audience enthusiasm waned. Membership seemed to continue to dwindle.

Perhaps, with all of these changes, an end to the IWVCA was inevitable. This is a tough pill for the optimist in me to swallow. I’m hoping, rather, our community might rally around such a worthy cause to determine if there are possible lessons learned we can apply to reviving it. If not, I will carry these happy memories of the IWVCA experience for the rest of my life.

— Rebecca Neipp

Story First Published: 2019-10-04