For 80 years, Celebrity Series has been a tastemaker and curator of artistry, bringing some of the world’s greatest performing artists to Boston. When you dive into the robust history of the Series and its humble beginnings in 1938, you begin to understand the threads of continuity that run throughout the organization, connecting founder Aaron Richmond to the programming that happens to this day.
When Richmond founded the Celebrity Series in the late 1930s, he was a one-man shop. He programmed the season, booked the artists, rented the venues, and sold all of the tickets. He would gather his wife and young daughter around the kitchen table to process the mailed-in subscriptions, overwhelming their home with hundreds of paper orders.
The first-ever Celebrity Series concert offered, which took place on October 9, 1938, was the Don Cossack Choir of Serge Jaroff, a men’s chorus of exiled Cossacks who found a new home in America as the threat of WWII loomed ahead. That same season, on December 4, 1938, Richmond presented famed African-American contralto Marian Anderson in recital. This concert took place just four months before her widely acclaimed performance at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1939. She would go on to sing with the Celebrity Series a staggering 16 more times, including her Farewell Tour in 1964.
Ever since its very first season, the Series has provided the people of Greater Boston with innumerable opportunities to experience both present and future stars of the stage – artists who energize and transform entire genres.
Amy Lam, Celebrity Series of Boston Artistic Programmer. Photo by Robert Torres.
After Aaron Richmond’s death in 1965, Executive Director Walter Pierce led the organization from 1965-1996 and hired a young arts administrator as his assistant, Amy Lam. Lam took over all concert programming in 1996, and over the past 22 years has emerged as an influential and respected programmer. Her carefully planned seasons earn praise from the Boston arts community, critics, and audiences alike.
Times have changed since 1938. Lam doesn’t program a season from her kitchen table, and the Series engages a full-time staff to manage marketing and ticketing logistics. But one key thing ties her to founder Aaron Richmond—the ability to build trust with an audience.
“Many audience members tell me that every year they look through the season offerings and do some research online to check out a few new things that sound interesting before making their selections,” Lam says. “They tell me they trust the Celebrity Series to offer them something new and remarkable, which honestly to me, is incredibly gratifying and humbling.”