Founded as the Mendelssohn Club on October 4, 1884 by Mrs. Clara Blanch Ellis Starr, the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center (MPAC) is the oldest continuously operating music organization in the United States! Originally started to enhance music for women in the community, the Club gradually grew from in-home gatherings to public performances in various Rockford halls and auditoriums. Upon its incorporation in 1894, membership was made available to everyone in the Rockford area and an annual concert series featuring regional, national and internationally known musicians was established.
Throughout its long history, the Mendelssohn Club has been responsible for many outstanding musical events. For example: starting the Rockford Community Concert Association in 1936 with the rationale of providing an entertainment escape for people during the Great Depression; the purchase of Rockford’s first nine-foot Steinway grand piano on January 14, 1949 and its formal dedication concert in 1950 by renowned concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein; more recently, the internationally acclaimed all-male vocal ensemble Chanticleer performaned to a sold-out house at Court Street United Methodist Church. The organization has resided in various buildings through the years ranging from the first Mendelssohn Hall at 513 West State Street (1899) (currently the site of the Rockford Mass Transit District’s downtown terminal), to another building on North Main Street (1909), to Mendelssohn Hall at 415 North Church Street (1952). After a name change from Mendelssohn Club to Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center (2006), MPAC moved to 406 North Main Street (2012), and now has returned to the familiar red brick 1952 building, at 415 North Church Street (2020).
MPAC continues to adhere to its mission – to present exciting, personal, interactive music experiences thereby enriching our community. Our performance programs include: scholarship recitals; programs featuring young musicians; performance opportunities for adults (Art Song Project and Piano Performance Group); programs featuring area soloists and ensembles; Sunday afternoon jazz concerts; informal studio programs; Mendelssohn Presents! concerts on select Fridays. Also, our educational outreach provides guest lectures, demonstrations and performances for students in Rockford area schools, enriching programs for adults, pre-concert guest lectures and a special summer two-week music/arts enrichment camp program for students at our Community Centers. In an effort to continue to provide musical experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic, MPAC included live-streaming of selected performances for the 2020-21 concert season.
The 2022-2023 concert season has been an exciting success with increased attendance at our concerts and educational events. We look forward to another season of filled with a variety of music and educational experiences for 2023-2024.