Walter Pierce (impresario)

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For other people named Walter Pierce, see Walter Pierce (disambiguation).

Walter Pierce (born November 1, 1930, Cambridge, Massachusetts) is a performing arts impresario who, from 1965 until 1996, presented, managed, and promoted over 1500 music, dance, and theater events in Boston under the auspices of the Celebrity Series of Boston. Pierce also served as president of the International Society for the Performing Arts in 1976 and 1977.[1]

Walter Pierce
Born (1930-11-11)November 11, 1930
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Nationality American
Education Boston University
Known for impresario, promoter, arts administrator

Education and early employment[edit]

Walter Pierce graduated from Rindge Technical High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1947 and from Boston University in 1952. He was drafted into the US Army in September 1952, served two years, eighteen months in Germany.[2][3]

Following his discharge, Pierce moved to New York City, working for the advertising firm of Ruthrauff and Ryan before joining the theatrical publicity firm of Max Eisen.[4] While with Max Eisen, Pierce promoted Broadway and off-Broadway shows, including Yiddish Theatre productions, and the summer tent productions of St. John Terrell who conceived ‘Broadway under the big top,’ the presentation of musical theatre in the round under a circus tent, also known as Music Circus.[5]

Pierce returned to Boston to pursue a master’s degree in Public Relations at Boston University, following which Pierce joined the South Shore Music Circus, a summer tent theater in Cohasset, MA, as publicity director.[6] During Cohasset’s off-season, he free-lanced as a publicist promoting the Boston premiere of Federico Fellini’s film La Strada, writing for the exhibitors’ trade magazine Motion Picture Herald and managing the opening of a foreign films theater in Milton, Massachusetts,[7] before returning the following summer to the South Shore Music Circus.[8]

Celebrity Series of Boston[edit]

During his second season at the South Shore Music Circus, Pierce was introduced to Boston impresario Aaron Richmond, who offered him a position with the Boston University Celebrity Series that Pierce accepted, working summers at the Music Circus and at the Celebrity Series the balance of the year. Pierce left the Music Circus in 1960 to work for the Celebrity Series on a full-time basis.[9][10][11]

Following Aaron Richmond’s death in 1965, Pierce briefly shared co-managing directorship of the Boston University Celebrity Series with Mrs. Richmond until her retirement a few years later.[12]

Following Mrs. Richmond’s retirement, Pierce assumed the sole managing directorship of the Celebrity Series and continued in that capacity until his retirement in 1996.[13] During that period, Pierce expanded the number of presentations from twenty-five to over forty each season.[14]

Creation of Project Discovery[edit]

In 1984, Pierce began the Celebrity Series of Boston outreach program, Project Discovery, which provided students and senior citizens an opportunity to attend Celebrity Series performances at greatly reduced prices.[15] Pierce also developed the Emerging Artists Series which provided worthy Boston-based performers the opportunity to perform in a major Boston concert venue sponsored by the Celebrity Series. Soprano Lorraine Hunt, soprano Dominique Labelle, and baritone Christopheren Nomura; pianists Christopher Taylor and Max Levinson, the Boston Composers String Quartet and the Atlantic Brass Quintet all performed on the Series.[1]

In addition to presenting as head of the Celebrity Series, Pierce served as artistic advisor to several New England based concert series, among them the Gile Community Concert Trust Fund concerts in Concord, New Hampshire, the Greater New Bedford Concert Association, the Portland Concert Association in Portland, Maine, the Temple Beth-El Series in Providence, Rhode Island, the Castle Hill summer concert series in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the Phillips Academy Celebrity Series in Andover, Massachusetts, the Boston Morning Musicales, the annual Gratwick concert at Milton Academy, and the Harvard Musical Association.[16][17]

In 1971, the Celebrity Series merged offices with the Boston Opera Association. During this time, Pierce worked closely with Harriet O’Brien, managing director of the Boston Opera Association, sponsors of the annual one-week Boston engagement of the Metropolitan Opera. Following O’Brien’s death, he managed the Metropolitan Opera week in Boston until the company ceased touring.[18][19]

Wang Center for the Performing Arts[edit]

In 1984, Pierce was appointed managing director of the Wang Center for the Performing Arts.[20] The Celebrity Series, which had been affiliated with Boston University since 1954, became known as the Wang Celebrity Series.[21] In 1989, the Celebrity Series ended its affiliation with the Wang Center; was incorporated as an independent, non-profit organization, Celebrity Series of Boston, and with Bank of Boston as its primary corporate sponsor, became the Bank of Boston Celebrity Series.[22] A series of bank mergers resulted in a variety of name changes for the Series: Bank Boston Celebrity Series, Fleet Boston Celebrity Series, Bank of America Celebrity Series. In June 2007, the Celebrity Series began operating under its incorporated name Celebrity Series of Boston.[23]

When Pierce retired in 1996, Martha H. Jones was appointed Executive Director of the Celebrity Series of Boston.[24]

Tribute concert[edit]

Pierce was honored at a tribute concert in Symphony Hall on April 26, 1998. A distinguished array of performing artists participated in the tribute concert including Emanuel Ax, William Bolcom and Joan Morris, Natasha Thomas-Schmitt of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Juilliard String Quartet, Robert Mann, Yo-Yo Ma, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Isaac Stern, and Dubravka Tomsic. Among those in attendance at Symphony Hall and the gala dinner following the performance were famed soprano Leontyne Price and Judith Jamison, Executive Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It was announced at the tribute that seat P1 in Symphony Hall was endowed in Pierce’s name, and that the Celebrity Series inaugurated the Walter Pierce Annual Performance Fund to support main stage programming as well as activities in the community.[25][26][27][28]

Pierce was married for over thirty years to the former Betty Ann Brown, who died in 1994.[29] Pierce resides in Cambridge, MA with his companion Margaret Ulmer. His daughters, Melinda Pierce and her family reside in Washington, D.C., Susannah (Pierce) Keefe and her family in Arlington, VA. He has four grandchildren.

Pierce has been a member of ISPA, the International Society for the Performing Arts, for over forty years.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gorfinkle, Constance (1976-05-06). "It's a Risky Business Being Boston's Impresario, But Walter Pierce Loves the Job ... Even the Headaches". The Patriot Ledger. p. 26. 
  2. ^ Banks, Harold (1974-05-26). "'Murphy's Law' Rules Impresario". Boston Herald American. p. 28. 
  3. ^ Sonzski, William (1978-09-07). "Is This Man a Crowd Pleaser? Impresario Walter Pierce has celebrities on his mind". Boston Globe Calendar. 
  4. ^ Sonzski, William (1978-09-07). "Is This Man a Crowd Pleaser? Impresario Walter Pierce has celebrities on his mind". Boston Globe Calendar. 
  5. ^ Dyer, Richard (1980-12-10). "A Classical Gentleman". Boston Globe. 
  6. ^ Sonzski, William (1978-09-07). "Is This Man a Crowd Pleaser? Impresario Walter Pierce has celebrities on his mind". Boston Globe Calendar. 
  7. ^ Buell, Richard (1975-07-29). "Walter Pierces Through It All, In a Manner of Speaking". The Boston Phoenix. pp. 24 & 30. 
  8. ^ Peter, Knapp (1996-05-11). "Boston's impresario steps back after 31 years at the top". Patriot Ledger. 
  9. ^ Dyer, Richard (1980-12-10). "A Classical Gentleman". Boston Globe. 
  10. ^ Peter, Knapp (1996-05-11). "Boston's impresario steps back after 31 years at the top". Patriot Ledger. 
  11. ^ Steinberg, Michael (1971-04-25). "Walter Pierce/he imports Boston's music". Boston Sunday Globe. pp. A–35. 
  12. ^ Sonzski, William (1978-09-07). "Is This Man a Crowd Pleaser? Impresario Walter Pierce has celebrities on his mind". Boston Globe Calendar. 
  13. ^ McManus, Otile (1974-05-19). "Walter Pierce's million-dollar gamble". Boston Sunday Globe. p. 66. 
  14. ^ "B.U. Celeb Series Expands". The Evening Bulletin. 1974-06-14. pp. A–9. 
  15. ^ Jeff, McLaughlin (1984-02-17). "Marquee; Schools to get Cut-Price Tickets for Ailey Visit". Boston Globe. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  16. ^ Sonzski, William (1978-09-07). "Is This Man a Crowd Pleaser? Impresario Walter Pierce has celebrities on his mind". Boston Globe Calendar. 
  17. ^ Steinberg, Michael (1971-04-25). "Walter Pierce/he imports Boston's music". Boston Sunday Globe. pp. A–35. 
  18. ^ Driscoll, Edgar J. (1987-11-27). "Harriet O'Brien, Longtime Backer of the Boston Opera Scene; at 88". Boston Globe. 
  19. ^ Knapp, Peter (1996-05-11). "Boston's impresario steps back after 31 years at the top". Patriot Ledger. 
  20. ^ Temin, Christine (1984-05-03). "Pierce Takes Helm at Wang Center". Boston Globe. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  21. ^ Jeff, McLaughlin (1984-05-03). "Wang Series Bows In". Boston Globe. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  22. ^ Dyer, Richard (1989-04-27). "Celebrity Series gets new sponsor". Boston Globe. p. 78. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  23. ^ Eichler, Jeremy (2007-04-23). "Celebrity Series reverts to old name". Boston Globe. pp. E 7. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  24. ^ Dyer, Richard (1996-05-08). "Pierce retires as Celebrity Series head". Boston Globe. 
  25. ^ Dyer, Richard (1998-04-27). "Celebrities fete series impresario". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  26. ^ Knapp, Peter (1998-04-28). "Tomsic's performance highlight of tribute Music - Walter Pierce Tribute Concert, Sunday afternoon at Symphony Hall, Boston". Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  27. ^ Pfeifer, Ellen (1998-04-28). "Music review; Musicians pay tribute to impresario". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  28. ^ Hatfield, Julie (28 April 1998), "A movable, musical feast for Walter Pierce", Boston Globe (Boston, MA): C.2 
  29. ^ "Betty Ann Pierce, 53 Was concert series organizer". The Boston Globe. 1994-01-06. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 

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