Fredonia Opera House honors Boltzes and Gilmans

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House Board of Directors recently announced a lasting tribute to Jim and Carol Boltz, and Dick and Carmen Gilman, two couples who have contributed to the Opera House in many ways over the 20 years since its restoration.

At a small gathering of 50 close friends and family, Executive Director Rick Davis enumerated the contributions of each couple. He announced that in tribute to them, the board named the theatre’s artist dressing rooms the Jim and Carol Boltz East Dressing Room and the Dick and Carmen Gilman West Dressing Room.

“This way, all the future artists who perform at the Opera House and all those patrons who tour the theatre will know the names of these four individuals whose unwavering commitment and dedication have made the Opera House what it is today,” said Davis.

Both couples are founding members of the Opera House, meaning they have contributed annual membership revenue to the theatre’s operation since it reopened in 1994. Their annual membership donation has been at or has exceeded the organization’s highest donor level since the very first year.

Jim Boltz and Dick Gilman have both served as members of the Opera House Board of Directors for two complete six-year terms.

For all 12 of his years, Jim was an officer of the board. Before this, he had served as the first chair of the Theatre Management Committee, which was the governing group that preceded the official formation of the Opera House Board of Directors.

Dick succeeded him as chairman of the Theatre Management Committee and then was elected as the first president of the Opera House Board of Directors.

Jim also twice served as interim executive director for the Opera House, once in 2000 and again in late 2001.

Both couples have contributed to the musical vitality of the Opera House.

In 1995, Jim and Carol worked closely with Grant Cooper and Opera House staff to create the Bach & Beyond Baroque Music Festival. They have served as Festival sponsors for all of its 19 years. In Bach & Beyond’s earliest days, Carol even served as one of the performing musicians in concerts that were held at the First United Methodist Church just so she could play the marvelous organ there. In addition to their financial support, they have housed musicians and served as dinner hosts for all 19 festivals. They also have recruited other supporters for the Bach Festival, including concert sponsors that now come from Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

The Gilmans have sponsored the Folk in Fredonia Music Series for the past 19 years. Their annual sponsorship gift helps underwrite the presentation of three to four concerts each season by rising and renowned folk artists.

Accomplished musicians themselves, Dick and Carmen plan, coordinate and host the theatre’s annual Folk in Fredonia Free-For-All, which serves as the official kickoff to the Folk in Fredonia Music Series. The event features talented local and regional musicians who gather to provide a two-hour, free-admission concert, complete with door prizes and raffles. Dick and Carmen not only plan, coordinate and host this event, they also perform in it. They also provide a catered dinner for all the musicians and performers following the concert.

Both couples have served as members of the Opera House usher corps, working as house manager and usher for events of all types. Carol has ushered at 496 events and Jim 675, while Dick has volunteered at 404 events and Carmen at 393. Dick also has taken personal ownership of the theatre’s brass railings and sees to it that they are polished before nearly every live performance.

An admitted history enthusiast, Jim is forever on the lookout for artifacts and memorabilia pertaining to Fredonia and the Opera House. His online auction purchases not only have helped grow the collection at Fredonia’s Barker Museum, but also have contributed several historical artifacts to the Opera House archives. It’s also worth noting that Jim is a favorite Opera House tour guide among bus groups and visitors. His penchant for puns keeps the crowd on their toes.

The Opera House currently is in the midst of only the second capital campaign in its 20 years of operation. Jim and Dick both serve on the advisory committee for this campaign and both are among the campaign’s largest contributors.

Recently, in an effort to recruit supporters for the Folk in Fredonia Series, the Gilmans produced a number of traditional-style rocking horses made of pine, using a pattern that they happened upon nearly 50 years ago when purchasing a horse for their daughter, Janet. Using Dick’s woodworking skills and Carmen’s artistic hands, they crafted ten horses. In an effort called “The Opera House Rocks,” the horses were offered as incentive gifts to help secure donations to the Folk Series. Dick and Carmen charged nothing for the materials and their time. All ten horses found homes with donors and a new “herd” is currently being constructed.

This year, the Opera House’s annual fund-raising gala included the auction of 14 artist-designed fan-shaped corner tables. The Gilmans, through their network of friends, secured the services of a furniture engineer who not only helped design and fabricate the tables, he also acquired all the wood and hardware as an in-kind donation from his employer, Fancher Chair Co. Dick helped fabricate all 14 of the tables. And if that were not enough, Carmen served as the artist designing and embellishing two of the tables, while Dick designed and embellished a table of his own. At the auction event a bidding war broke out for one of Carmen’s tables; and it ended up selling for more than $1,000.

Davis said, “If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now the debt of gratitude this theatre and its patrons owe the Boltzes and the Gilmans. Someone told me once that these two couples were the best ambassadors the Opera House could ever employ and they weren’t exaggerating. They talk about the Opera House wherever they go and encourage people to visit it. They proudly brag about the theatre as if they themselves had created it and perhaps rightly so. For more than anyone else, the Boltzes and the Gilmans are responsible for the Opera House being what it is today.”