Our History

The Performing Arts Society is an all-volunteer, nonprofit, organization dedicated to bringing classical music and jazz concerts to the central Kenai Peninsula. Four or five times each year, we present world-class music and musicians at affordable ticket prices. Because we are equally dedicated to enriching the musical lives of the younger generation, we regularly sponsor musicians for free in-school concerts.

Since its 1999 beginnings, the PAS has produced a great variety of concerts. A majority of our guest artists and ensembles have been Alaskan musicians, some who are faculty at the Universities in Fairbanks and Anchorage, and others who are professional musicians who live here but tour the world, such as Paul and Linda Rosenthal. We have also sponsored musicians who freelance around the state, including two concerts by the Arctic Chamber Orchestra. We seek to bring at least one nationally or internationally known artist or ensemble each year, with resulting concerts by Turtle Island Quartet, Alexander Quartet, Riverrun Quintet, Zum, Chic Gamine, and this year’s special ensemble, the Axiom Brass.

Chic Gamine presenting a high school vocal workshop, Skyview High School, Sept. 2010

Chic Gamine presenting a high school vocal workshop, Skyview High School, Sept. 2010

Over the years, members have moved on and off the Board, but we have always been able to draw between eight and ten volunteers from the ranks of local musicians, theater and arts aficionados, educators, and members of the business community. We support our efforts completely through donations, occasional grants, admission receipts, and program ad sales.

Our work would not be possible without our supportive friends and community. We have many donations of hotel, motel, and B&B accommodations for our visiting artists. In addition, board members sometime house the artists, and members of the community often help set up the performance space and host a reception after the concert. Froso kindly offers to keep her restaurant open so we can take the musicians out to a late dinner. These joint efforts help us keep our ticket prices below those in Anchorage and other venues.

Andrew Cook, cellist, with Emily Grossman, violinist, Tammy Vollom-Matturro, clarinetist, and Maria Allison, pianist, at the Christ Lutheran Church, April 2006

Andrew Cook, cellist, with Emily Grossman, violinist, Tammy Vollom-Matturro,
clarinetist, and Maria Allison, pianist, at the Christ Lutheran Church, April 2006

Our free school concerts often feature the concert musicians, but occasionally we engage a special artist. Three years ago, we presented a set of school concerts by a harpist from Anchorage. She drove here with her harp and loaded and unloaded it six times to perform for awed and amazed young people, many of whom had never seen a harp in real life. One year, an exchange student from China who was a virtuoso on the Chinese stringed instrument known as the “pipa” performed at several schools, not only playing her instrument but speaking in Chinese to the students and teaching them a few Chinese words. Local music teacher and flautist Erin Southwick, who loved entertaining young people, performed a concert of lively and virtuosic music for several elementary schools. The professional musicians of the Sitka Festival almost always perform for the children, letting them hear the incredible sound of some of the greatest string players in the world, playing on Stradivari, Guarneri and other great instruments of the classic violinmakers.

Linda Rosenthal, performing on her Italian-made violin, in a school concert at Tustumena School, March 2010.

Linda Rosenthal, performing on her Italian-made violin, in a school concert at Tustumena School, March 2010.

Our Alaskan location often intrigues musicians who live elsewhere in the country and find our environs challenging and exciting. On occasion, musicians who have traveled here have had to perform in their cords and flannel shirts because they arrived late in a raging snowstorm. Fortunately they’ve always arrived with instruments intact. One of our guests was fascinated by the idea of playing his cello outdoors in below-zero temperatures and snow.

Paul Rosenthal assists Armen Ksajikian with his cello bow.

Paul Rosenthal assists Armen Ksajikian with his cello bow.

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In the immortal words of our beloved past member, Dave Forbes, “this document purports to be a history and this winter’s concerts are in the future which will all too soon become the past—savor the present.”