What is today known as the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota was conceived in 1996 by co-founders Jerold Ross and Lee Dougherty Ross. Jerold’s background in arts management includes service as a key member of the board of an opera company and ownership of a classical music radio station

Lee Dougherty debuted at age 12 as a piano soloist with the Norfolk Virginia Symphony Orchestra and later performed the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto with the Eastman Rochester Symphony. She graduated from Eastman School of Music with a double major in both piano and voice. Lee’s singing career included performances at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Broadway stage in New York, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and The Kennedy White House. Lee’s years of performance in New York resulted in friendships with many musical artists who would visit the couple in their Milwaukee home. They began to host musical soirees in their home with principal players of the symphony, conductor, soloists, local artists, music teachers and friends who enjoyed the affairs.

After relocating to Sarasota, the couple saw the possibility of transporting the soiree concept here by offering their musical artist friends transportation costs and small honorariums (along with the opportunity to enjoy the community’s fabulous weather and beaches) to perform intimate recital programs in Sarasota. After four years, the programs had grown in popularity to the point where need for additional seating dictated a move, and in 2001, the renamed Artist Series of Sarasota moved to the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center in Sarasota’s downtown cultural district. In 2003, the Artist Series moved to the larger Holley Hall within the Symphony Center and, at the same time, formalized its structure by seeking and attaining 501(c)(3) tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. As part of that process, a board of trustees was created and long-term vision and goals were established as critical steps assuring future viability.

Performance Partner at the Historic Asolo Theater

The Series continued to grow both artistically and in the number of people its programs reached. In August 2005, a dialog began with The Ringling, which resulted in Artist Series of Sarasota being chosen as the first-named performance partner at the Historic Asolo Theater there. Both programming and audiences expanded during the first two seasons in the Historic Asolo Theater and Artist Series of Sarasota continued its quest toward ever-higher artistic goals and in building the organizational support required to support the increased programming and to assure sustainability and financial stability.

Artist Series Concerts Friends

Though fortunate to have support from loyal volunteers since its inception, the Artist Series Concerts began a more formalized organization for volunteers in 2006. Artist Series Concerts Friends, which currently has a paid membership of over 150, provides strong support to our activities, including an expanded community and school outreach program.

Community Leadership and Fiscal Responsibility

Over the past several years, Artist Series Concerts’ board of trustees worked diligently to update its bylaws, policies and financial reporting to assure that the organization was positioned as a leader among non-profits. At the same time, we began a structured and ongoing strategic planning program to assure that Artist Series Concerts is sustainable and can continue to grow in an orderly and healthy way. We continue to reach out to granting organizations to provide broader-based organizational support that will complement income from private donations and ticket sales. We also partner with other non-profit organizations in collaborative programs throughout each season. The enthusiasm of our volunteers, the loyalty of our audience and donors and the hundreds of new patrons we attract each year collectively reinforce our belief that the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota is a growing and viable cultural organization.