1995 – Mercer at the Helm

Dr. Kirby Godsey was named Mercer University’s 17th president midway through 1979, and he very quickly became involved with The Grand as a Macon Arts Council board member. As The Grand’s operation reached what many saw as a final crisis in 1994, Dr. Godsey saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Mercer University had been considering the addition of a performing arts center on its campus, but after several productive conversations between the principals, an agreement was worked out between Mercer and Bibb County that resulted in Mercer’s taking over management of The Grand Opera House in 1995.

With Mercer at the helm of The Grand Opera House, it steadily found its groove and built a sustainable profile of bringing outstanding live events to Macon. The Grand developed GrandKids, which has become Middle Georgia’s signature arts education series, featuring national touring companies performing stage versions of children’s literary classics as well as other curriculum-driven subjects. Thanks to its large and deep stage, which is one of only four in Georgia outside of Atlanta capable of handling complex technical needs, the Broadway Series quickly became The Grand’s unique territory, bringing full-stage touring versions of contemporary and classic American musicals to Macon and Middle Georgia five to six times a year.

And in a town with music roots as deep as Macon’s, of course The Grand’s concert profile became a crucial part of the mix. From Tony Bennett and Ray Charles visiting in the mid-1980s to sold-out houses for hometown heroes like Jason Aldean and Gregg Allman in the 2010s, The Grand has served as Middle Georgia’s most elegant hall for rock, pop, country, and everything in between. Georgia natives Travis Tritt and John Berry have stopped by many times, and Macon’s own Robert McDuffie is a regular, whether as part of a formal evening with his Center for Strings students, or just dropping by to lend a hand to the Macon Civic Club’s February show. Jason Mraz, Postmodern Jukebox, and comedian Brian Regan are three recent full houses that help show the diversity of The Grand’s concert draw. And the concert attractions will keep getting better, as the old hall gets an important facelift once again.