History of SOPAA
The history of bringing professional performers to Scioto County dates back to the early 20th Century when a local auxiliary organization began presenting concerts. This practice grew to become an organization itself, known as Civic Music under whose auspices many renowned artists were heard by local audiences. Then, in the 1950’s, came the alliance with Columbia Artists Management, Inc. of New York (CAMI) and it was called “Southern Ohio Community Concerts Association.” This represented a more structured approach and a much broader ‘menu’ from which the local association could choose their program.
With the assistance of CAMI representatives, there were four concerts selected each year, three of which had to be from the CAMI catalogue and the fourth of the Association’s choice. During the life of the Association, many famous artists were presented in concert at Portsmouth High School, artists such as Mezzo Soprano Rise Stevens, Pianists Leonard Pennario, Loren Hollander and Misha Dichter and many others too numerous to list. All were very well established in their artistry and all were very much enjoyed by the subscribers. In addition, the Association was able to secure an agreement with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra through which it was able to increase the offerings to seven concerts annually. Not only did the Symphony appear each year, but two additional programs from their list of performers. The series became very popular and featured appearances by the Cincinnati Pops, Chamber Orchestra, jazz groups, opera vignettes and ballet.
When the Vern Riffe Center for The Arts opened in 1996, discussions were opened between SSU and Community Concerts with the intent of merging the two artist presenting efforts into one entity. As a result, the Southern Ohio Performing Arts Association was born and that non-profit organization now has responsibility of most aspects of concert appearances. The area now has a series of nine concerts from which to choose and the variety of presentations is truly amazing – from main-line Broadway musicals to classical musicians to ethnic musicians and dancers. The effort is managed by the Executive Director of the Riffe Center and a very active 25 member Board of Trustees.