While the unassuming city of Zanesville may not seem like a hub for the arts, the Zanesville Concert Association has been putting on concerts featuring widely known entertainers such as Tony Bennett and Art Garfunkel since 1938.
“There are some people that think you can’t have a quality event in Zanesville. You
have to go to Parkersburg West Virginia, Wheeling West Virginia, Columbus or Cleveland, you have to go to some big city,” says Jim McLaughlin, the Zanesville Concert Association’s current booking agent. “Yet, some of the artists had their first performance in the United States in Zanesville.”
The association grew out of the Thursday Music Club (formed in 1909) and supported a community concert series, McLaughlin says. It began as a way for members to actively support local musical opportunities for their community.
As the club grew, members decided to include interested businesses and community leaders in the process of establishing a fine arts presence in their town.
This resulted in the formation of the Zanesville Concert Association, giving it independence from the Thursday Music Club. The association credits much of its success to the Thursday Music Club for granting it the freedom to develop into a separate fine arts organization.
For the citizens
As a public school music teacher of 31 years, McLaughlin understands the kind of impact access to the arts has on a community.
“When I came to Zanesville after graduating from Ohio University, I was amazed to know I could take my students to a concert with real live artists in this town,” he says. “So that is a wonderful tool to have [as a teacher].”
Each year a free concert is held at Secrest Auditorium for fourth grade children in the community, and McLaughlin noted that not one school in the county has a dedicated auditorium for the arts.
Another major asset to the community implemented this year is the free admission provided to children attending with an adult as well as free admission for college students with valid identification.
The association is able to provide free tickets because of a grant obtained by the Muskingum County Community Foundation. The association is hoping to renew the grant for the following year to continue providing free admission to students.
From the citizens
Community support doesn’t stop with ticket and membership sales. Yan Sun, a professor of fine arts at Muskingum University, donated two paintings to the Zanesville Concert Association so they could be sold in a silent auction fundraiser during their February 27 concert.
The monies from the silent auction will go into the Zanesville Concert Association Foundation to help fund future concert series as well as support the annual free concert for fourth grade students in the area.
With the association holding a non-profit status, it relies on community support and surplus funds through the Zanesville Concert Association Foundation to provide entertainment for the community. The board’s members even give their time year-round on a volunteer basis.
Ticket and membership purchases, donations through the Zanesville Concert Association Foundation and support from the city and chamber of commerce help fund the associated costs with putting together the show, such as: production cost, artist booking fees, auditorium rental and food for the performers.
The city also recently put nearly 2 million dollars into the 1,776-seat Secrest auditorium, which is owned by the city of Zanesville itself. The money went toward a new roof, wall repair and new heating and cooling systems.
Aside from benefiting the community financially, the association aims to expose the area to cultures it may be unfamiliar with. They do this by booking international artists such as the Russian National Ballet, the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine, and symphony orchestras from Moscow, Mexico, Poland and Scotland.
Jennifer Shook, a pediatric physical therapist and Zanesville community member echoes that sentiment. Shook attended the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine show on February 27 with her children, Alex (13), Jaden (9) and Madeline (6).
This was their first experience with the Zanesville Concert Association. With this year’s implementation of free child admittance, parents like Shook are able to expose their children to an unfamiliar culture with more ease.
“I think it’s wonderful to add outside culture into the community. It’s definitely a rare opportunity for my children,” Shook says. “Our community is blessed to have such events taking place so close to home; a great experience for all who attend. We were amazed.”
The Zanesville Concert Association brings culture and arts into the community with the help of the community itself. Ticket and membership sales, donations through the foundation, volunteer work done by the association’s board of directors, and support from local businesses make it possible.
These rare opportunities to view world-renowned artists benefit the community, help the arts flourish and inspire youth to expose themselves to new cultures.
The business of booking
Over the last 79 years, the Zanesville Concert Association has developed a reputation that allows McLaughlin to book performances up to two years in advance. He says it’s easier to reserve classical musicians, especially if they’re international.
“The hilarity of it is the phone call or email [to book a show] can come at any time of the day because they’re in different countries,” McLaughlin says.
Frequently, Mclaughlin has artists and other booking agencies contacting him to set up a show. For example, the concert featuring the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine was offered to McLaughlin through Columbia Artists Management Incorporated (CAMI), a booking company McLaughlin works with.
CAMI brings a foreign orchestra to the United States every year. Between himself and CAMI, McLaughlin works out pricing and program logistics.
The Zanesville Concert Association brings unfamiliar culture and top-tier artists to their community, all while functioning as a non-profit. With a dedicated staff working purely on a volunteer basis, it’s safe to say the association and its people are passionate for the arts, music and their community.