Classical Music World: Finding LACA Concert Artists

Cellist Joahua Roman will perform in Los Alamos Jan. 24. Photo by Tina Su.
Classical Music World: Finding LACA Concert Artists
By ANN McLaughlin

There are two questions I’m often asked as artistic director of the Los Alamos Concert Association (LACA). How do you find the artists that appear on LACA’s concert series and how do you entice them to come to this little dot on the map? 

The answers are pretty simple. They find us and we pay them.

Of course it is a little more complicated than that, but those short answers are for real. We hear regularly from 60 or 70 agents, hoping that we will book the artists they represent. If we can negotiate a mutually agreeable fee, they will come.

Few classical artists today (with the exception of big-name orchestral conductors and opera stars) can make a living performing exclusively in famous big-city venues. To make a living as a performer, an artist must be willing to travel the country and, frequently, the world, playing venues large and small. It is demanding work. One must love it to endure.

Pianist Jeremy Denk (recent recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” who performed here last season) told me that he has earned platinum miles on three airlines. That represents a lot of time in security lines with his shoes off!

Aware of our artists’ grueling lives on the road, we work hard to make them comfortable while they are in town. Kind attention to detail makes artists happy. They convey that happiness to their agents who then remember us.

When our back-stage “mom,” Winnie Larmartine, was settling the women of Apollo’s Fire (the baroque orchestra from Cleveland) in their dressing room, she overheard one of the women say, “Wow! Real towels!” 

Small comforts are much appreciated, but one big item must be delivered in order to maintain good relationships with artists and their agentsthe paycheck.

Chuck Daelenberg, tuba player and founder of the Canadian Brass, told me that one of the two places where they were not paid was in Newport, enclave of old money, yachts, and mansions. They were chauffeured in a limo, but were never paid. Little LACA in Los Alamos (no mansions, no yachts, no limos) has a proud 67-year history of never having stiffed an artist.

The challenge for us in putting together a season is to narrow down the hundreds of available artists to a list of five that we think will excite our audience while staying within our budget. That means reading a lot of reviews, listening to a lot of CDs and watching a lot of YouTube clips.

There are occasions when an artist comes to my attention through the back door, or in one recent case, through the garage door. My husband arrived home one day and asked if I knew of a cellist named Joshua Roman. He’d heard him on the car radio. The name wasn’t familiar, but after a few Googles, I wondered how I’d managed to miss him. He had a high-powered New York agent (good sign!) and was the object of lavish praise from Yo Yo Ma. A couple of YouTube clips later, I was sold.

Roman will perform at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Duane Smith Auditorium. Visit to see the short video clip that won me over and I’ll see you at the concert!