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History

The Aiken Performing Arts Group (APAG) is a presenting organization that seeks out the finest nationally and internationally recognized performing artists and brings their shows to Aiken. The underlying philosophy is simple: by expanding the cultural options available to local citizens, APAG is contributing to the overall quality of life of the entire community and surrounding area.

The organization is very aware that in these challenging economic times the opportunity to go to a first class show or concert is very often a much needed respite from the cares of the day.

Beginning with APAG’s founding in 2005, the review and selection of performances was in the capable hands of Thomas C. Hofstetter, APAG President, and several members of the Executive Committee. With Mr. Hofstetter’s retirement in 2013, this responsibility fell to Ms. Jody Duggan. Volunteers from the Executive Committee attend several Performing Arts Exhibitions each year to preview shows and meet personally with the artists. These experiences are invaluable in selecting the most appropriate shows to present in Aiken.

Each year APAG surveys its audience and uses the audience responses as an important tool in shaping APAG’s presentation schedule. To a large extent, APAG’s show selection is based on what the Aiken audience tells us they want to see and experience in future theater seasons.

The performances held in the URS Center for the Performing Arts have provided citizens with the wonderful experience of affordable, professional, live entertainment on their doorstep and the community has responded by demanding a second night of performances. Most of the performers play to sold-out houses. APAG is thrilled by the enthusiastic response that the shows have received from the Aiken community.

APAG’s community involvement has certainly enhanced the quality of life for Aiken County residents and students, as well as many living outside Aiken County.

EDUCATIONAL & COMMUNITY OUTREACH

The public school educational outreach program is an equally important part of APAG’s mission. APAG negotiates with its visiting professional artists to participate in on-site master classes and presentations in Aiken County public schools. The underwriting funds come from what APAG earns from its shows, from donations by interested community sources, and from grants. Funds for this very valuable school out-reach are increasingly hard to secure, but without our efforts to bring professional entertainers into the public schools, many students would not have the opportunity to experience these types of programs. The students are thrilled to have this educational and “just fun” experience. Since 2005, APAG’s Educational Outreach has impacted more than 10,000 students in Aiken County.

APAG is reaching out to many segments of the population of Aiken and beyond to enhance the quality of life of many individuals. The outreach programs also include the military and residents of senior living centers. Special discounted tickets for the performances are made available to senior residents and APAG has provided the seniors with performances at their own living centers.

In the Spring of 2009, APAG initiated a new type of Educational Outreach Program by sponsoring an exciting drive known as “Instruments In Your Attic” (IYA). The purpose was to collect unused musical instruments from individuals in the community, to repair the instruments, if necessary, and to donate them to county public schools and to USC-Aiken. With schools’ budgets for the arts greatly reduced or non-existent, the need for instruments is critical.

APAG staged a huge publicity campaign to spread the word about their latest school outreach project. IYA was enthusiastically received by the people of Aiken County. In the first year of the campaign more than 150 instruments, 3 pianos, and a xylophone were donated (well over the number expected).

Needed repairs which were made to many of the instruments, and they were given to area public schools and USC-Aiken. Some of the instruments from the IYA drive have been loaned to band and orchestra students. Other instruments will stay in the schools to be used in their music programs. Even a single piano in a school can give the students exposure that they may never have and instill an appreciation and love of music in their lives.

MILITARY OUTREACH

On a number of occasions, APAG has entertained wounded soldiers and their families.

APAG’s first military outreach was in 2008, when the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble went to the Augusta VA Medical Center for a morning performance. The ensemble played for 90 minutes with about 100 patients and staff coming and going during this time.

Soldiers, veterans, and staff were delighted with this special performance that gave them the freedom to spend a few minutes or listen to the entire selection of music depending upon their schedules. At the end of the performance APAG was presented with a lovely thank you plaque for funding and arranging this special performance of one of our nation’s most celebrated musical schools.

In ensuing seasons Dave Bennett’s “Tribute to Benny Goodman” Orchestra serenaded active duty soldiers recovering from wounds received in Iraq and Afghanistan. A total of 40 soldiers, family, and staff dined in Aiken and then were taken to the concert at the URS theater. The soldiers were delighted with the Christmas concert, and the appreciative audience gave the soldiers and their families a standing ovation.

A New Orleans Jazz group, “Hot 8 Brass Band” performed for soldiers recovering from wounds received in Iraq or Afghanistan at the Augusta VA Medical Center who were brought to Aiken for BBQ dinner and the jazz concert.

This tradition has now become an annual event. Most recently, the John Brown Jazz Orchestra performed for a special group of soldiers from Fort Gordon at their November 2011 concert which they dedicated to these soldiers and all veterans, and a group of wounded warriors were treated to a concert by the Steve Lippia band in 2013.

SPECIAL PERFORMANCES

APAG is well aware of its patrons’ wide range of musical tastes, so it constantly tries to vary and add to the possible choices. In addition to the regular series, APAG has presented a number of very special performances.

In 2005, the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble accepted an APAG invitation to perform in Aiken. The following year, at the request of the Juilliard School, New York, APAG brought the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra to Aiken in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the famous New York Conservatory. Juilliard groups continued their one week annual visits to Aiken, sponsored by APAG for four seasons along with a very successful educational out-reach into the local schools. Julliard’s visits to Aiken were so successful that it has now spun off into an independent “Juilliard in Aiken” annual event.

APAG, in partnership with USC-Aiken brought the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) to perform in Aiken in 2008. APAG is proud of its role in making this wonderful musical experience available to area residents. The NSO visits a different state each year. Aiken was one of five venues where the NSO performed during their visit to South Carolina. For many, it was a once in a lifetime chance to experience this national treasure. At the performance Emil de Cou, Associate Conductor, observed that the Aiken audience that night was the largest for their entire state-wide tour.

The 2010-2011 season Portfolio Series included two very special performances.

The first concert was held November 18, 2010, as a part of Aiken’s 175th Anniversary Celebration. Dr. Donald Portnoy, long time conductor of the Augusta Symphony, and current conductor of the USC Symphony Orchestra, brought his university orchestra to Aiken. The concert featured both classical and popular music. The Saint Saens Organ Symphony was performed by the USC Symphony with guest organist Ken Courtney. Additionally, the Symphony performed music known to have been popular in Aiken in the early years, but still recognized today. Well-known local historian Owen Clary introduced this music and gave a history of the works. With the mix of popular and classical music, APAG drew not only the regular patrons, but also people who may not have previously attended the concerts.

The second special concert, “Ah, Spring!,” featured Frederica von Stade performing in concert on April 28, 2011. Miss von Stade is recognized as one of the most beloved musical figures of our time. She has enriched the world of classical music with her performances in opera, concerts, and recitals, on stage and in numerous television performances. The mezzo soprano has more than sixty recordings of opera, arias, symphonic works, solo recital programs, and crossover albums. Her awards are extensive. Miss von Stade also conducted several educational outreach programs with music teachers and university voice majors.

As part of the 2011-2012 season APAG presented for the first time a special family program in January. The Orchestra of the Midlands under the direction of Dr. Donald Portnoy performed Prokefiev’s classic “Peter and the Wolf.” Dr. Fred Andrea, pastor of Aiken’s First Baptist Church was the Narrator and Carrie Power, art teacher at East Aiken School of the Arts, drew the characters from the story on a large white easel. The orchestra also performed “Toy Symphony” with a number of area students participating with toy instruments. The performance was a huge success with both adults and children going up to the stage afterwards to see the instruments at close range.

By bringing Miss von Stade, to Aiken, bringing the Juilliard School of Music to Aiken for the first time, working with USC-Aiken to bring the National Symphony Orchestra to Aiken, and presenting the special family concert of “Peter and the Wolf,” APAG has confirmed its position as a first class presenting organization.

The following is a history of performances presented by Aiken Performing Arts Group from 2005 to the present:

Juilliard’s First Visit to Aiken

APAG’s inaugural show in Spring of 2005 featured the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble for a single performance

2005-2006
The first Subscriber Series featured:
Mac Frampton (Piano)
Daphne Alderson, (Vocalist)
The Second City (Comedy)
Juilliard Jazz Orchestra
 
2006-2007
 
The Subscriber Series was joined by the Portfolio Series and the Salon Series :
Subscriber Series:
The Celtic Tenors
Red, Hot & Blue (Musical Comedy)
Frank Ferrante—“A Salute to Groucho”
Quartetto Gelato (Vocal/Instrumental)
Portfolio Series:
Juilliard’s “Volando String Quartet”
Salon Series:
Arthur Tollefson “Pictures at an Exhibition”
Juilliard’s Volando String Quartet
 
2007-2008
 
Subscriber Series
Synergy Brass Quintet
Paul Taylor 2 Dance Company
Barrage (Vocal/Instrumental/Dance)
Dave Bennett’s “Tribute to Benny Goodman”
Portfolio Series
The National Symphony Orchestra
Juilliard Jazz Orchestra—“Great American Songbook”
Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain (Bluegrass)
Salon Series NSO Chamber Music Group
 
2008-2009
 
The Subscriber Series begins with two performances for each show:
Celtic Crossroads (Vocal/Instrumental/Dance)
Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play (Jazz)
Stig Rossen (Vocalist)
New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players— “The Wandr’ing Minstrels”
Portfolio Series
Quartetto Gelato
“Christmas Around the World”—Juilliard Jazz Orchestra
 
2009-2010
 
Subscriber Series
Steve Lippia “Simply Sinatra”
Paragon Ragtime Orchestra
Hot 8 Brass Band (Jazz)
Route 66 Musical Comedy Revue
Portfolio Series
Dave Bennett’s “A Benny Goodman Holiday Tribute”
USC Symphony Orchestra with Arthur Tollefson
 
2010-2011
 
Subscriber Series
The Best of Broadway—“A Gershwin Celebration”
Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company
Equinox Jazz Orchestra—“Mercer Mostly”
The Passing Zone (Comedy)
Portfolio Series
Aiken’s 175th Anniversary and the USC Symphony
“Ah, Spring!” with Frederica von Stade
 
2011-2012
 
Subscriber Series
Michael Londra’s Celtic Fire
John Brown Jazz Orchestra
Stig Rossen (Vocalist)
Il Voce (Popera/ Classical Crossover Vocalists)
Portfolio Series
USC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Donald Portnoy
The Grascals (Bluegrass music)
Special Family Concert
Peter and the Wolf , Orchestra of the Midlands, Donald Portnoy
 
2012-2013
Subscriber Series
Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Company
Spencer’s Theater of Illusion
All Hands on Deck
Broadway’s Next Hit Musical
Portfolio Series
Carolina Brass Christmas
Spring Fling at Banksia—The Orchestra of the Midlands
 
2013-2014
 
The Subscriber Series & Portfolio Series were replaced by the Gold & Platinum Series
Gold Series
Steve Lippia’s “Simply Swinging”
Galway to Broadway
VIDA Guitar Quartet
The Water Coolers
Platinum Series
Jeanne Robertson
David Osborne
 
2014-2015
 
Gold Series
Annie Moses Band
The Bronx Wanderers
Swingle Singers
Forbidden Broadway
Platinum Series
Continuo Collective of the South Christmas Concert
Jaimee Paul
 
2015-2016
 
The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra
Vivace
Kit & the Kats
Jim Witter "Time in a Bottle"
 
2016-2017
 
The Wonder Bread Years
VoicePlay
Ken Lavigne
The Jive Aces
3 Redneck Tenors
 
2017-2018
 
The British Invasion Years
O Sole Trio "Bravissimo Broadway"
Shana Tucker "ChamberSoul"
The Young Irelanders
The Drifters