There’s a special mix of passion and optimism that drives someone in St. Joseph to book shows on a consistent basis for two decades.
The late Jerry Anderson, who died on March 16, had that special blend and you always knew he would have an interesting group or musician for the “Downtown Noontime Concert Series” at First Presbyterian Church.
More than that, Anderson was a staple of St. Joseph, directing music at First Presbyterian and teaching it at Missouri Western State University.
My relationship with Anderson was mostly through the Noontime Concert Series, something he had no qualms about publicizing every chance he got.
For several months every year, he’d bring world-class musicians, from singers to flute players to violinists, to showcase both their talent and the astonishing sound of the church.
Anderson’s devotion to the Noontime Concert Series was one that came out of a need to fill a space that was being neglected, specifically that there were few concerts that happened before the sun went down in St. Joseph. To invite people into the space for free was Anderson’s joy.
“It’s a beautiful church and the acoustics are really great for this type of performance. Hopefully, some people could come out who wouldn’t come out otherwise,” He told St. Joe Live in 2008.
Anderson was patient and humble. Not every concert packed people in, but when they did, he’d have a huge smile on his face.
As a musician who performed at thousands of church services, funerals and weddings, he’d joke that he was only getting started.
“I’ll be learning my trade in a few more years,” he said.
In talking about the concerts, Anderson would always be giddy with how people would react. As I went through old emails with him, words like “astonishing,” “excellent” and “extraordinary” about the upcoming artists were featured in every message.
As health problems for Anderson became more apparent, he decided to quietly end the Noontime Concert Series in 2019, its 20th anniversary year. He gave a fitting bookend to the show, featuring two Missouri Western students, Aung Moe Kyaw and Seoyeon Hong, which he talked up for months, like he would so many of his students.
While news of Anderson’s death broke my heart, it’s also encouraging to know that he lived a full life. He got to lead and teach. He had a fulfilling career that culminated a brilliant, emotional send-off. He started a concert series in Downtown St. Joseph when it was void of those kind of shows and got to end it on his terms.
We need more Jerry Andersons in the world, and we’re thankful we had at least one in St. Joseph.