Rural Outreach Concerts
Rural Outreach Concerts is an initiative whereby each of the concerts are taken on the road to small rural towns in eastern Iowa. The goal is to bring high-quality chamber music to rural audiences in a non-threatening way in the comfort of their own environments.
By collaborating with these rural communities, we develop a broad audience for chamber music, serve the cultural needs of the under-served rural population in Iowa, and offer expanded performance opportunities for the participating musicians.
Rural Outreach Concerts was initiated in FY99 with a concert at Sts. Peter & Paul Community Center — a former Catholic Church in Solon, Iowa with strong ties to the local Czech community. It is located on a gravel road in the country near Solon, and has become an activity center that draws audience from many surrounding rural communities. Since 1999 rural performances has expanded to rural libraries, early twentieth-century opera houses, restored historical churches, and more. One example is the St. Wenceslaus Church in Spillville, Iowa, where Antonin Dvorak played the organ when he resided in this rural Czech community with his family in the summer of 1893. Our concerts served over a dozen rural sites.
A strong and long-time collaborator is the Ainsworth Opera House. Mike Zahs, the Programming Director, volunteers to collaborate in identifying and subsequently bringing Red Cedar performances to other small Eastern Iowa Communities. Mr. Zahs is about bringing culture to rural communities. He writes:
“We had over 100 people attend the Red Cedar Chamber Music concert (near our capacity), and they enjoyed the experience greatly. Our community, as well as most other small Iowa communities, has a great and appreciative audience. Most of the opera house audience would not feel comfortable attending a chamber music concert in Iowa City. At the opera house, they can sit with people they know and be more at ease being in the audience.”
Sts. Peter & Paul is a picturesque former country church, now a community center north of Solon, Iowa (population 2,000). It is maintained by a strong community of rural Iowans who claim a strong Czech heritage.
The Fayette Opera House located in Fayette Iowa (population 1,300) was lovingly restored by dedicated volunteers. Lovely acoustics.
The Fairfax Public Library transports its community room into an evening “soiree” with intimate tables laden with homemade cookies and lemonade for our concerts. Because the train runs just a half block away, the sound of whistles and the rhythm of the rails occasionally accompany us! Fairfax, Iowa’s population is 2,100.
The The Ainsworth Opera House (Ainsworth, Iowa: population 569) is a special place. We have performed there annually for more than 15 years. People in surrounding counties watch the Ainsworth schedule carefully and drive for miles to the many varied events here.
The Williamsburg Library (Williamsburg, Iowa: population 3,100) draws audience for chamber music from surrounding counties.
The Clermont Opera House.