Words by: Bob Copes Photos by: David Satterwhite
Hear it. Feel it. Live it.
With the opening performance of its 81st season only weeks away, Corpus Christi Live! Board President, Nick Colosi, reflected on the legacy he inherited and the work that still lies ahead. Plans were in place for the upcoming six-concert series – a breathtaking range of musical styles and the first-ever inclusion of a ventriloquist. Scheduling for the 2016/2017 season had already begun, and there is much to do.
“I’m most proud that we bring world-class entertainment at a low cost with a volunteer staff,” he said. But the board’s focus was on spreading the word and filling the seats. They are amateurs in the best sense of the word, doing the work for the love of it – not for fame or fortune. And if history is any indication, get tickets now while they are still available!
Corpus Christi Live! has roots dating back to 1934, five years into the Great Depression. In the midst of hard times, a group of local music lovers came up with an idea – “Let’s put on a show!” It began as part of the Civic Music Association, a national organization that helped small communities bring classical artists to local venues at a reasonable cost. Concerts were held in school auditoriums or movie theaters and later in the Selena Auditorium and the Richardson Performance Hall at Del Mar College.
As time went on, the organization’s name changed to Corpus Christi Community Concerts, and its offerings expanded to include a wider variety of musical styles allowing the number of concerts to increase. More recently, it became Corpus Christi Live!, and in 2009, the concerts moved to the Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi Performing Arts Center. Ticket prices remain low compared to other live musical entertainment in the region because all the work – booking shows, arranging for staging, marketing the shows, selling tickets, keeping the books, and even bringing snacks to the performers – is done by volunteers to the 501(C)(3) organization.
Corpus Christi Live! strives to educate as well as entertain, seeking artists who offer master classes or educational outreach programs to music students from area public and private schools. Last season featured saxophone virtuoso Rob Verdi, a long-time performer in Disneyland’s Main Street Strutters. While here, he taught and then performed with students from Flour Bluff High School’s Jazz Band and Wind Ensemble. The 2014-2015 season closed with an homage to Frank Sinatra that featured Las Vegas regular Steve Lippia, who also met with high school students to introduce them to the man and his music. These artists, and others who visit, see this education component as a way to give back for the career that music has offered them and, as Verdi puts it, “…inspire talent along the way.”
In striving to craft a season offering something for everyone, Corpus Christi Live! stresses variety.“What makes CCL distinctive?” asks Marketing Vice-President Craig Walley. “In a word – diversity. Corpus Christi Live! brings wonderfully diverse [live] shows to the people in South Texas and the Corpus Christi area.”Last spring, Corpus Christi Live! surveyed season ticket holders and other concert-goers about the musical styles they’d like to see in future concerts. The top preferences were country western music, big band music, Broadway show tunes, and classic rock. Many respondents expressed an interest in humor, which led to the ventriloquist’s booking, and many said that the thing they liked best about Corpus Christi Live! was that they could enjoy so many different types of performers in one season.
The 2015-2016 season begins on Sunday, November 8, when multi-platinum recording artists The Diamonds perform classic hits like “Chantilly Lace,” “The Wanderer” and “Unchained Melody.” Five more concerts follow from November to March of 2016. This season features a bonus concert, courtesy of the city of Corpus Christi. The city’s Arts and Cultural Commission awarded a grant funded by the Hotel Occupancy Tax to Corpus Christi Live!, so this year’s season ticket holders will see six concerts for the same subscription price they paid for five last season.