Mission Statement:

To promote the appreciation and enjoyment of music, particularly classical music, for all residents of and visitors to Monroe County and the city of Key West by providing opportunities to experience concerts of outstanding quality performed by the very best ensembles and artists at the most affordable prices possible;

To increase the awareness and importance of music in our community through educational outreach programs, projects and services;

To operate exclusively for such purposes that will qualify the organization as exempt under 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 as Key West Council of the Arts, and as may be needed, including the making of contributions to such organizations.

2017 Board of Directors:

left to right: George Korn, Prudence Churchill, Lillian VanHest, David Eyer, Walter Schmida, Ed Asvazadourian, Constance Miller, Kathy Hooper, Vincent Zito (not pictured: Rita Couch, Sandra Guy, Lisa McCarthy, Susan Winshall)

Some Historical Notes About the Impromptu Classical Concerts of Key West

Music-lover Richard Lischer happened to be the owner of a popular restaurant in the heart of Key West - “The Buttery”. And in January of 1972 Richard happened to have a professional musician friend, a notable concert pianist, visiting with him at his Casa Gato home. His guest, the renowned Alicia de Larrocha, in return for Richard’s hospitality, offered to give a concert as a “thank you to Key West” - a splendid idea, thought Richard.
The result: a special impromptu dinner and concert evening at The Buttery on January 6th, 1972, with some fifty dinner-buying attendees, and no foreknowledge that this was to be the birth of the Impromptu Concerts series.

Among the impressed attendees was Raymond Weiss, then and current owner of a concert-artist management agency in New York City (Raymond Weiss Artist Management Inc.), Raymond also owned a home in Key West.. An informal partnership, Raymond and Richard, was born, offering concerts not only when Richard’s musical friends were visiting, but also whenever a Weiss client chanced to be playing in South Florida and could be induced to spend a few days in sunny Key West.

In due course, as audiences grew and the music appeared to be clearly the prime attraction, performances were moved to Richard’s living room at the historic Casa Gato building in Key West’s mid-town. The room offered not only a fine grand piano but also opened onto comfortable adjacent rooms for additional seating, with easy access to the opulently planted tropical Casa Gato atrium.

It turned out to be an ideal setting for what was now named “Impromptu Concerts” - classical music pure and simple-and for casual after-concert receptions in the atrium gardens, where concert-goers could sip champagne, enjoy Richard’s home-made chocolate cake, and meet the performers..

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In 1979 Impromptu Concerts took on the legal name “Key West Council on the Arts” as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. But the concerts remained the “Impromptu Concerts” to its appreciative audiences.

Richard hosted the concerts for almost twenty years. But when Richard moved from the Casa Gato in 1992, the Impromptu Concerts needed a new venue. The living room of the Key West Womens Club was tried, but proved to be too small. A more ample living room at the historic Little White House in Truman Annex was used for a year but was ultimately unable to cope with ever-increasing audiences. And in 1994, Impromptu Concerts moved to its present location, the significantly larger and eminently beautiful St Paul’s Church on Duval Street.

The church provided plenty of room for future growth but it had a major drawback: no piano. Whenever programming called for a piano, it was rented and moved in and out of the church, an expensive procedure that taxed our tight budgets. But could the Impromptu Concerts possibly raise the money for a new, high-quality grand piano? And where could we store it? The church cooperated from the start, agreeing to accommodate a new Impromptu Concerts piano at no cost between concerts, provided it could be used for the church’s own music program.

Now all we needed was a funding to buy the instrument.

Fundraising moved slowly for months, until Vera Schiff- a Key Wester with a great philanthropic interest in the performing arts- hosted two lavish and well-attended fundraisers at her home. Her efforts brought us $15,000 - whereupon the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys stepped forward with an interest-free loan for a further $15,000. Our superb Yamaha grand was finally installed in St. Paul’s in June of 1999. Interestingly, the savings over rental piano expenses enabled us to pay back the loan in just five years.

Also, at this time, the much-admired Key West advertising agency of Willis & Company joined our Donors’ efforts, not only designing an elegant new Impromptu Concerts logo and program-style but also preparing our ads and promotional material at no cost to us.

The Impromptu Concerts enterprise entered a Golden Age of popularity, offering world-class musical artists, provocative programming and a consistent level of performance quality never before available in Key West. Audiences continued to grow.

A further reason for ever-larger attendance is our longtime policy of keeping admission prices as low as possible; for 2017, just $20 per person, with students entirely free. Such modest prices reflect, in great measure, the continuing financial support of our esteemed “Concert Masters,” whose sponsorship of individual concerts does much to meet their costs - and also by important gifts and legacies which have funded our entire “Rising Star”, “Gail Williams Munder” and “From Florence With Love” Concert Series. We are also extremely grateful for the many individual Donors from our audience for their additional financial support.

The time-honored “Impromptu Concerts” name has become “Impromptu Classical Concerts,” adding a useful clarification. Our concerts have long been far from impromptu, of course, with most of our programming now actually requiring a two-year booking lead time for the acclaimed performers we continue to present.

But “Impromptu” lives on in the minds of Key West music lovers as a word meaning classical music of uncommon quality and accessibility. That, we promise, will never change.