What is today known as the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota was conceived in 1996 by Co-Founders Jerold Ross and Lee Dougherty Ross. Jerold enjoyed a business career that included top management positions. His background in arts management includes service as a key member of the Board of an opera company and ownership of a classical music radio station.
Lee Dougherty debuted at age twelve as a piano soloist with the Norfolk, Virginia Symphony Orchestra and later performed the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto with the Eastman Rochester Symphony. She graduated from Eastman School of Music with a double major in both piano and voice. Her singing career included performances at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Broadway stage in New York, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and The Kennedy White House.
Lee’s years of performance in New York resulted in friendships with many musical artists who would visit the couple in their Milwaukee home. They began to host musical soirees in their home with principal players of the symphony, conductor, soloists, local artists, music teachers and friends who enjoyed the affairs.
After relocating to Sarasota the couple saw the possibility of transporting the soiree concept here by offering their musical artist friends transportation costs and small honorariums (along with the opportunity to enjoy the community’s fabulous weather and beaches) to perform intimate recital programs in Sarasota. The inaugural concerts were held in the lobby area of the Ross’s beach-front condo. After four years, the programs had grown in popularity to the point where need for additional seating dictated a move, and in 2001 the renamed ARTIST SERIES OF SARASOTA moved to the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center in Sarasota’s cultural district. In 2003 the Series moved to the larger Holley Hall within the Symphony Center and at the same time formalized its structure by seeking and attaining 501(c)(3) tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.
As part of that process, a Board of Trustees was created and long-term vision and goals were established as critical steps assuring future viability.
The Series continued to grow both artistically and in the number of people its programs reached. In August of 2005 a dialog began with the Ringling Museum which resulted in the Artist Series of Sarasota being chosen as the first-named performance partner at the Historic Asolo Theater which reopened to the public in October 2006 after a two-year restoration and re-installation in a newly constructed space in the museum’s Visitor’s Center.
Both programming and audiences expanded during the first two seasons in the Historic Asolo Theater and the Artist Series of Sarasota continued its quest toward ever-higher artistic goals and also in building the organizational support required to support the increased programming and to assure sustainability and financial stability.
Though fortunate to have support from loyal volunteers since its inception, the Artist Series began a more formalized organization for volunteers in 2006. Artist Series Concerts FRIENDS, which currently has a paid membership of over 150, provides amazing support to our activities – including an expanded community and school outreach program.
The 2011-12 Season marked a milestone with the name change to ARTIST SERIES CONCERTS OF SARASOTA and a new logo. This simple addition of “Concerts” to the long-held name added clarity to the identity of the organization and assisted in developing a wider audience. The logo which includes the easily recognizable treble clef is a strong link to our musical mission.
Our 2015-16 season will mark our 20th anniversary. A total of 45 performances are scheduled between September and June. On April 16th Artist Series Concerts will hold a National Competition for Voice providing an opportunity for young musicians, ages 18-28, to compete for cash awards of $22,500. Artist Series Concerts has awarded over $250,000 thus far for scholarships. The majority of the awards that given are funds raised by our volunteer organization, Artist Series Concerts FRIENDS. ASC FRIENDS host a gala every year to raise these funds. This year’s gala will be The Roaring 20’s and will be help February 11, 2016. Proceeds from the gala benefit the competition awards and other activities.
Over the past several years the Artist Series Board of Trustees worked diligently to update its bylaws, policies and financial reporting to assure that we were positioned as a leader among non-profits. At the same time we began a structured and ongoing strategic planning program to assure that the Artist Series is sustainable and can continue to grow in an orderly and healthy way. The Artist Series continues to reach out to granting organizations in order to provide broader-based organizational support that will compliment income from private donations and ticket sales. The enthusiasm of our volunteers, the loyalty of our audience and donors and the hundreds of new patrons we attract each year collectively reinforce our belief that the Artist Series of Sarasota is indeed a growing and viable cultural organization.
Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota has operated ‘in the black’ with more than fifty percent of its budget being provided by income earned through ticket sales. Like other non-profit organizations, Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota relies on corporate and organization underwriting, competitive grants and private donations to balance its budget.