What is AIOFA?

The Ames International Orchestra Festival Association (AIOFA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and facilitate the live performances of orchestral music by outstanding ensembles and to foster awareness of the value of classical music.

AIOFA’s Grand Beginning in 1969

Dr. Alvin E. Edgar, head of the Iowa State University Music Department, was responsible for bringing musical events to the university and the Ames community. In anticipation of the September 1969 opening of C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, the first building of the Iowa State Center complex, Edgar approached Columbia Artists Management (CAMI) in New York for ideas.

Edgar’s first choice was the New York Metropolitan Opera. R. Douglas Sheldon, then a young CAMI vice-president, told him that the New York Philharmonic would be finishing their 1969 tour in Los Angeles in September, and Edgar immediately asked to engage this internationally acclaimed orchestra for the auditorium’s grand opening. On September 9, 1969, the New York Philharmonic presented the first of five performances in a “Festival of Concerts” at Stephens Auditorium. The Los Angeles Times called the 1969 concerts the “cultural coup of the year.”

Residents offered the visiting orchestra hospitality, including daily deliveries of the New York Times. This warm welcome planted the seed that grew into AIOFA.

Board Appointed to Support AIOFA

This group of visionary Ames music lovers was convinced that an annual festival of orchestra concerts should continue. In 1971, the AIOFA Board of Directors was established to assist in selecting orchestras for future festivals, organizing hospitality and leading a membership campaign to provide financial support.

AIOFA’s legacy grew with the establishment of scholarships for ISU music students, orchestra workshops and master classes. In AIOFA’s first decade, most of the world’s major orchestras performed in Ames.

Hospitality was a driving force of AIOFA, offering a local “concierge” service for the orchestra, including shopping trips, the use of sporting equipment, and invitations to the members’ homes. The orchestras loved this personal touch. AIOFA was also active in social fundraising events in homes and onstage at Stephens.

A successful docent program began in 1989. To enhance the future of orchestral music, members of AIOFA presented educational programs in area schools related to daytime performances for students.

Rising Cost of Presenting Orchestras

In the mid 1990s, AIOFA faced a number of challenges due to the rapidly increasing costs of presenting world-class orchestras. Even with ticket sales and generous contributions of time and money from AIOFA members, it was hard to balance the budget. In 1997, the board approved a new direction for AIOFA – as a partner with the Performing Arts Series at Stephens Auditorium. 

Today, as a volunteer support organization, AIOFA concentrates its efforts on enhancing orchestral and educational programming. Its partnership with the Iowa State Center ensures that orchestras from around the world will continue to play at Stephens Auditorium.