Celebrity Series of Boston

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The Celebrity Series of Boston is a non-profit performing arts presenter established in Boston, Massachusetts by Boston impresario Aaron Richmond in 1938 as Aaron Richmond's Celebrity Series.[1] Since its founding the Celebrity Series has evolved into one of New England's major presenting organizations with over 100 performance and outreach activities annually.


From its inception the Celebrity Series became a mainstay of Boston's cultural life with performances by a wide variety of noted performers. Below is a partial list of performers by genre presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston since its founding:

Music performances[edit]

Pianists in Recital[edit]

Violinists in Recital[edit]

Cellists in Recital[edit]

Classical vocalists in Recital[edit]

Guitarists in Recital[edit]



Chamber Ensembles[edit]

Jazz Performers[edit]

Miscellaneous Musical Performers[edit]

Dance Performances[edit]

Theatre/Spoken Word Performances[edit]

Boston debuts[edit]

Many nationally and internationally recognized artists have made their Boston debuts with the Celebrity Series. They include:

Each season from early fall to late spring, the Celebrity Series presents more than 50 multi-cultural and international artists and performing ensembles to audiences in the greater Boston area. By utilizing a number of different performance venues throughout the Boston area, each year the Celebrity Series presents programs of classical music, modern and classical dance, jazz, folk, world music, family music and multi-media performances.

Original 1938 logo of Aaron Richmond's Celebrity Series

The Celebrity Series has operated under a number of organizational umbrellas. In 1938, Aaron Richmond founded Aaron Richmond's Celebrity Series. [2] In 1953, it affiliated with Boston University and took the name, the Boston University Celebrity Series.[3] In 1984, the Celebrity Series changed affiliations and moved its operations under the auspices of the Wang Center for the Performing Arts a not-for-profit institution.[4] Then, in 1989, the Celebrity Series incorporated as an independent, non-profit institution with its own Board of Directors[5] and an annual budget of over $3 million (now between $6 million and $7 million). After 18 years of operating with the title sponsorship support of Bank of Boston, BankBoston, FleetBoston Financial, and Bank of America, the Celebrity Series began operating under its incorporated name, Celebrity Series of Boston, in June 2007.[6]


Aaron Richmond: performing arts manager, pianist, impresario, and educator

Leadership of the Celebrity Series has remained consistent over its lifetime. In 1958, Aaron Richmond hired Walter Pierce as a Programming Associate. Pierce later became Executive Director and guided the Series from an impresario-style presenter to a fully staffed, not-for-profit organization. In 1986, Mr. Pierce hired Martha H. Jones as the Series' Director of Marketing. Jones later became General Manager, and, in 1996, when Mr. Pierce retired his full-time post, Martha Jones was appointed Executive Director.[7][8][9][10] Ms. Jones retired in 2011. She was succeeded by Gary Dunning.[11]

In 1971, the Celebrity Series merged with the Boston Opera Association. During this time, Walter 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 Ms. O’Brien’s death, Mr. Pierce managed the Metropolitan Opera week in Boston until the company ceased touring.

In 1998, a gala concert in honor of Walter Pierce was staged at Boston's Symphony Hall. It was announced during the festivities that seat P-1 in Symphony Hall had been endowed in Pierce's name and that the Celebrity Series had formed the Walter Pierce Annual Performance Fund. Among the performers were pianist Dubravka Tomsic, who played Liszt's Mephisto Waltz; flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal with pianist John Steel Ritter, who played Beethoven's Three National Airs with Variations, Opus 107; William Bolcom and Joan Morris, who performed Billy Desmond and Walter Dore's song, "When Are You Going to Lead Me to the Altar, Walter?"; the Juilliard String Quartet, a trio of pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Isaac Stern, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and Nasha Thomas-Schmitt of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who danced Alvin Ailey's solo piece "Cry.".[12][13][14] At the dinner following the performance, soprano Leontyne Price sang an impromptu version of "This Little Light of Mine" for Pierce.[15]


Arts for All![edit]

The Celebrity Series operates one of the most extensive education and community service programs in New England. Launched in the mid-1980s, Arts for All! has grown from a small, school-based ticket giveaway program reaching 200 people a year to an innovative outreach program reaching thousands of individuals each year with a series of residency programs, master classes, workshops and interactive concerts for students, families, seniors, and special needs groups. The Celebrity Series works with hundreds of community-based organizations who each month receive mailings detailing upcoming Arts for All! activities and ticket programs in which they are able to participate.[16] The programs major components are the Take Your Seat discount ticketing program, the Neighborhood Arts free community concerts and workshops, Artist Connections master classes, and Public Performance Projects.

Between 90,000 and 100,000 individuals attend Celebrity Series concerts each year. While audiences come from as far north as Maine and as far south as New Jersey, the majority come from the greater Boston metropolitan area. The Celebrity Series – through the Arts for All! program – attempts to ensure that its audience is ethnically diverse and includes people from all age groups and socio-economic backgrounds.

The Debut Series[edit]

Launched in 2012, The Debut Series presents classical musicians in the early stages of their careers in the intimate setting of Pickman Hall at Longy School of Music of Bard College.

A Partial List of Performers on the Debut Series

Public Performance Projects[edit]

Celebrity Series’ free outdoor participatory public art projects were launched in 2013 in celebration of the organization’s 75th anniversary season. In 2013, international conceptual artist Luke Jerram was engaged to bring Play Me I’m Yours, Street Pianos to Boston, which placed 75 playable, visually redesigned pianos in outdoor and publicly accessible locations throughout the city over an 18-day festival. In 2014, Montreal-based choreographer Sylvain Emard led 110 local volunteer amateur dancers and 5,000+ audience members for three nights of live performances of Le Grand Continental in Boston’s Copley Square. In 2015, 5,000+ residents and visitors came together for Let’s Dance Boston, five nights of social dancing and live music on Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Stave Sessions[edit]

Stave Sessions is a five-night music festival of new and genre expanding performers started by Celebrity Series in 2015. The series takes place at 160 Massachusetts Avenue on the Berklee College of Music campus.

Partial List of Stave Sessions Performers

Past Programs[edit]

AileyCamp Boston[edit]

AileyCamp Boston is a six-week, summer day camp that combines dance instruction with personal development workshops, creative communication classes and field trips. Founded in 2000 and based on a structural model provided by the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation as a template for camps across the country, the AileyCamp program is designed to help low-income students develop self-respect, confidence, discipline and imagination while fostering an appreciation for the joy of dance. The goal is not to train students to be professional dancers, but to challenge the participants and to strengthen their self-esteem.[17] The camp celebrated its tenth anniversary at its closing performance on Thursday, August 6, 2009.

Boston Marquee[edit]

The Celebrity Series Boston Marquee series, which grew out of the Celebrity Series' Emerging Artists series,[18] was inaugurated in the 2000-01 season.[19] Boston Marquee sought to provide new creative opportunities for Boston artists and to offer new experiences for Boston audiences by commissioning new works, encouraging artistic collaborations and making resources available to artists. Among the artists who appeared on Boston Marquee are pianists Judith Gordon, Craig Smith, and Robert D. Levin, soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano Jan Curtis, dancer Julie Ince Thompson, the Boston Trio, Sol y Canto, the Nicola Hawkins Dance Company, Rebecca Rice Dance, violinist Stefan Jackiw and Emmanuel Music. Though Boston artists remain an important part of Celebrity Series presentations, the Boston Marquee series was suspended prior to the 2008-09 season.


The Celebrity Series regularly collaborates with other Boston-area arts organizations to enrich Boston's cultural offerings. Most often these collaborations take the form of co-presentations. Past and present collaborative partners include The Wang Center for the Performing Arts, World Music [1], Broadway in Boston, Dance Umbrella, the Boston Early Music Festival, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Handel and Haydn Society.


The Celebrity Series of Boston is a member of ArtsBoston [2], the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP)[3], Boston Dance Alliance [4], Chamber Music America [5], Dance USA [6], Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau [7], the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) [8], New England Presenters [9].


  1. ^ "Tickets Still Available for Lehman, Melchoir". Daily Boston Globe. October 17, 1938. This morning the single ticket sale for the first concert of the Aaron Richmond Celebrity Series I, the recital by Lotte Lehman and Lauritz Melchoir at Symphony Hall ... will go on sale at the box office.
  2. ^ "Tickets Still Available for Lehman, Melchoir". Daily Boston Globe. October 17, 1938.
  3. ^ "Aaron Richmond Directs BU Celebrity Series", Daily Boston Globe, Boston, MA, p. 10, March 30, 1953
  4. ^ "Pierce Takes Helm at Wang Center". Daily Boston Globe. May 3, 1984. p. 1. the Boston University Celebrity Series, which Pierce has directed since 1965, will be the Wang Celebrity Series beginning with the 1984-85 season.
  5. ^ Dyer, Richard (April 27, 1989). "Celebrity Series gets new sponsor". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  6. ^ Eichler, Jeremy (April 23, 2007). "Celebrity Series reverts to old name". Boston Globe. pp. E 7. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  7. ^ Dyer, Richard (May 8, 1996). "Pierce retires as Celebrity Series head". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  8. ^ Knapp, Peter (May 11, 1996). "Boston's impresario steps back after 31 years at the top". Patriot Ledger. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  9. ^ Pfeifer, Ellen (May 8, 1996). "Celebrity Series chief steps out of spotlight into retirement". Boston Herald. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  10. ^ Dyer, Richard (October 20, 1996), "Jones is building a bridge to Celebrity Series' future", Boston Globe, Boston, MA, pp. M.2
  11. ^ "From the circus to the Celebrity Series, Gary Dunning draws on a diverse record in the arts for his new leadership post", Boston Globe, Boston, MA, pp. G.4, April 8, 2011
  12. ^ Dyer, Richard (April 27, 1998). "Celebrities fete series impresario". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  13. ^ Knapp, Peter (April 28, 1998). "Tomsic's performance highlight of tribute Music – Walter Pierce Tribute Concert, Sunday afternoon at Symphony Hall, Boston". Patriot Ledger. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  14. ^ Pfeifer, Ellen (April 28, 1998). "Music review; Musicians pay tribute to impresario". Boston Herald. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  15. ^ Hatfield, Julie (April 28, 1998), "A movable, musical feast for Walter Pierce", Boston Globe, Boston, MA, pp. C.2
  16. ^ McLaughlin, Jeff (February 17, 1984), "MARQUEE; Schools to get Cut-Price Tickets for Ailey Visit", Boston Globe, Boston, MA, p. 1
  17. ^ Dezell, Maureen (January 22, 2000), "Ailey Plans Dance Camp for Kids", Boston Globe, Boston, MA, pp. F.8
  18. ^ Dyer, Richard (January 8, 1993), "Ying launches series for rising stars", Boston Globe, Boston, MA, p. 35
  19. ^ Dyer, Richard (January 15, 2001), "Gordon Opens Series Adeptly", Boston Globe, Boston, MA, pp. B.6

External links[edit]