BY: BILL KIRBY JR.
A behind-the-scenes look at bringing well-known artists to the Community Concerts stage. And the oldest arts organization in Fayetteville, circa 1935, would not have it any other way and continues, despite COVID-19, working toward its 85th consecutive season.
You may be wondering how Community Concerts for the past 13 years has been attracting these rather noted artists to the Crown Complex Theatre stage.
Blame Michael Fleishman.
“Would you ever consider,” he wanted to know in 2007, when we were having a cocktail or two at a local pub, “being president of the board of directors?”
As the oldest arts organization in the community, the nonprofit had come a long way from its origins, circa 1935, when Fannie Berman Stein, whose family owned the Capitol Department Store downtown, founded what was then known as the Civic Music Association.
“It became Community Concerts when we started buying shows from the Community Concerts division of Columbia Artists,” Fleishman says.
You are doing something right with folks like Tony Bennett, Olivia Newton-John and the late Glen Campbell under the leadership of the late Gerry Jenkins, Richard Guy and Donna Dawkins, and never to forget Fleishman, our longtime attractions director who is tasked with negotiating the contracts you just would not believe.
But back to the pub, the unofficial executive headquarters for Community Concerts.
“Tell you what, Michael, I’ve always thought we need more famous acts on a consistent basis, and concert after concert, and season after season,” I was saying. “We need another really big star for this season. If you can bring Kenny Rogers to kick off the season, I’ll run for president.”
I knew it was a good strategy.
Michael would never get Kenny Rogers to come to the Community Concerts stage.
But he did.
Community Concerts never has looked back.
Since then, we’ve had well-known acts one after another – Michael Bolton, Wayne Newton, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Bill Medley, Frankie Valli, the late Natalie Cole, The Doobie Brothers, Darius Rucker, Boys 2 Men, Martina McBride, Earth, Wind & Fire, LeAnne Rimes, Smokey Robinson, Hall & Oates, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Jay Leno and, of course, that evening in 2018 when Foreigner filled the 2,250-seat to standing-room only.
And never forget our Honor Flight tribute to WWII veterans on that cold winter Sunday in December of 2013 in the arena.
Concert stars and personalities are one thing.
Honor Flight was something else. “Our goal is to make Fayetteville better one concert at a time,” Fleishman said. “But we are so much more than that with our education scholarships for Cumberland County Schools students, our ticket
benevolence to schools, senior citizens and our Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame.”
Our Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame, circa 2008, is a Who’s Who of talent, beginning with our first inductee, Joy Cogswell.
We’ve had our moments – the artist who demanded blue M&Ms as part of the contract; Fuji bottled water, Michael Bolton insisted, and nothing else will do; wines we’ve never heard of; that evening when our private transport had Daryl Hall lost somewhere near Gray’s Creek prior to the concert.
And that heartwarming evening in 2016, when then-16-year-old Aidan Colvin wanted to meet comedian Jay Leno of “Tonight Show” fame, so the youngster could talk to Leno about dyslexia – an issue that Leno, like Aidan, knew well.
“He is a nice young man,” I told Jay Leno. “He and his mother are from Durham, and came just for you. Will you give him a few minutes before your performance?”
Jay Leno could not have been kinder. The moment was beautiful.
Aidan Colvin wrote in his book, “Looking for Heroes,” about dyslexia, and that evening he met Jay Leno.
COVID-19 has put us in limbo for now.
But we’re wearing our face masks and crossing our fingers.
The Oak Ridge Boys are booked, and Michael Fleishman has Earth, Wind & Fire booked, too. And an encore concert performance with Foreigner just may be in sight.
“Our goal is to make Fayetteville better one concert at a time,” Michael Fleishman says. “But we are so much more than concerts.”