The 2019-’20 season marks the 67th year of the Asheville Chamber Music Series (ACMS), which has sponsored over 280 concerts by some of the world’s finest classical musicians over the past six decades. One of the oldest chamber music organizations in the United States, ACMS continues to thrive and to bring world-class chamber music to its growing and appreciative subscriber base. Concerts are typically held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville.
Founded in 1952 by Joe Vandewart, a refugee from Nazi Germany and ten other music lovers, the Asheville Chamber Music Series began modestly. After setting up a table in the lobby of the Battery Park Hotel, the group quickly found 800 people willing to pay the $4 price for a season subscription for “an unspecified number of concerts.”
The Alberni Trio gave the first concert on October 16, 1952. Since then, chamber ensembles from around the world have performed for the Series. These include the Budapest, Emerson, Fine Arts, Juilliard, and Kodaly Quartets, along with trios, piano quartets, quintets and larger chamber ensembles as well as duos, such as the one featuring cellist Janos Starker and flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal.
The legendary Amadeus Quartet performed in the first season and returned seven times, partly due to the friendship and hospitality of Mr. Vandewart, who was a leading force in the organization until his death in 1985.
Each year, one concert is designated as the Joe Vandewart/Annie Westall Memorial Concert. (Ms. Westall, an Asheville native and tireless supporter, served on the board from its second season until her death in 1984.)
For more than 40 years, a special fund has allowed youth to attend concerts free of charge. Additionally, when possible the ACMS sponsors a school concert or master class with a visiting ensemble. See our Education Outreach page.
From 1952-1966, ACMS concerts were presented in the auditorium of the David Millard Junior High School. After successive moves to Lipinsky Auditorium at UNCA, the Asheville Community Theater and the Asheville School, concerts were moved to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, which provides a comfortable, intimate setting conducive to the enjoyment of chamber music.