It’s funny you should ask that because 2017 marks some significant anniversaries for the series and the Library’s relationship to it but before we get into that, I need to emphasize that the concerts are free. No tickets needed!
The concerts, held on Sundays at 3 p.m., have been hosted by the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library since the building opened in 1982, which means the series will celebrate its 35th year at the Library in 2017. Prior to 1982, the concerts were hosted by the Dallas Museum of Art, then known as the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts; that earlier phase of its life began in 1937, so that puts the series at 80—yes, eighty—years old in ’17. And they’ve been presented free of charge the entire time.
The concert schedule runs from September through late November and January through April, a schedule that corresponds roughly to the fall and spring semesters of most schools and colleges. The whole operation has always and primarily been the work of the Dallas Alumni Chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon, a professional music fraternity. Members of that organization recruit and schedule the performances with a little assistance from the Library’s Fine Arts Division.
Throughout its exceptionally long lifespan, the series has retained many features: the concerts have always been free; they feature mostly classical music, although recent years have seen some jazz and world music acts; there has been a consistent effort to maintain the one-hour format, so the concerts are usually finished by 4 p.m.; and the concerts have been held in the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library’s first floor auditorium ever since the Library started hosting the concerts.
That auditorium houses a seven-foot Steinway Model B grand piano which the Library would not have were it not for Mu Phi Epsilon. John and Frances Stuart purchased and donated the piano to the Library in 1983 in memory of their daughter, Betty Lynne, with the intention of enhancing the concerts with a superior instrument. Frances Stuart was a member and officer of the Mu Phi Epsilon, and the Stuarts’ donation has played an important role in much of the music presented in the series—and it’s hard to believe that it has always been free.
Many of the concerts feature local musicians, but some are more local than others. Some of the year-to-year regulars, like the North Dallas Trombone Choir or the students from Jan Sloman’s violin studio, are from Dallas; but some of the musicians probably don’t think of themselves as local at all—I’m talking about the groups like the Abilene Chamber Players and Mount Vernon Music, here. But the concert schedule sometimes features musicians from outside the state.
After the winter break, the concerts start up again on January 29, 2017 at 3 p.m., with a performance by Dr. Leslie Spotz, Professor of Piano at Stephenville’s Tarleton State University. Her program will include a piece by a local composer celebrating the—depending on how you figure it—35- or 80-year history of the series, so Mu Phi Epsilon and the Central Library are hoping you’ll be able to make it.
And did I mention that it’s free?