Volunteers ready for Mt. Lebanon concert series

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When Dave Christopher of Scott tried to buy season tickets for the nonprofit Music for Mt. Lebanon concert series in 1960, he was placed on a three-year waiting list.

In the 1970s, Rose Liptak of Mt. Lebanon could not obtain a subscription because 1,500 season ticket holders had them. 

During those decades, the series attracted world-renown artists such as opera stars Roberta Peters and Robert Merrill, pianists Van Cliburn and Arthur Rubinstein, and violinists Isacc Stern and Yehudi Menuhin.

Today, there are 250 ticket holders and the shows are less classical.

What has remained the same is the quality of the series, and the efforts of its support group, the 87-member Keynotes of Music for Mt. Lebanon.

''You just don't want it to go away,'' Keynotes' historian Lillian Tate of Mt. Lebanon said of the concerts, which she helped to start in 1948 as a high school student.

Earlier this month, to spread the word about the series' upcoming 69th season, the Keynotes held a summer social at the LeMont Restaurant on Mount Washington that drew more than four dozen supporters. 

The shows will be: Renee Knapp on Sept. 20; “Legends of Motown,” Oct. 18; “South American Getaway,” Nov. 8; Metales M5, Feb. 28 and Elisabeth von Trapp, April 18. There also will be an fundraising performance by the Vienna Boys Choir on March 19.

''Although TV has cut into it, and two people working in a family means less free time together, society still needs entertainment like this,'' said Mr. Christopher, president of Music for Mt. Lebanon.

Mrs. Liptak, the Keynotes' first vice-president, said she enjoys helping to enhance the quality of life in the community by attracting outstanding performers.

Other Keystones members cited a love of music, the camaraderie and the  joy of working to sustain the series through their volunteer efforts, which include publicizing shows, staging fundraisers, helping with ticket sales, recruiting ushers, and more.

''We are one of the few community organizations of this type left in the country. While Music for Mt. Lebanon provides the concerts, we provide scholarships,'' past president Paula Bongiorno of Mt. Lebanon said.

As part of its mission, the Keynotes administer the Fay S. Olmstead Memorial Scholarship for local, full-time music majors that began in 1970 to honor the founder of Music for Mt. Lebanon.

In May, eleven student singers and instrumentalists competed for scholarships, with the top three winners receiving $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000. 

Over the past 44 years, $346,400 has been awarded in 220 scholarships. Past winners  have included violinist Jennifer Wion, who soloed with the Berlin and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras, and Claudia Benack, who is a professor of voice at Carnegie Mellon University.

Music for Mt. Lebanon began in 1945 and two years later, Keynotes' predecessor, the Women's Committee of Music for Mt. Lebanon, was formed.

Mr. Christopher said thousands of such community musical organizations formed shortly after World War II, including one in his hometown of Beaver Falls.

Today, there are only a handful nationwide, with ''getting people and money'' the biggest challenge,’’ Mr. Christopher said.

All shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. in either the Upper St. Clair High School theater, Mellon Middle School, or Southminster Church. The traditional venue, Mt. Lebanon High School, is undergoing construction and renovations.

For ticket information, or to join the Keynotes, call 412-258-4814 or visit www.musicformtlebanon.org . Season tickets for the series range from $65 to $90. Tickets for single shows also are available for $25 and under.

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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