Adrian Mann and Lilian Embick (top center) with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic string quartet in 1974.

At the beginning of what can only be described as a long and illustrious career, Adrian Mann, principal bassist for The Fort Wayne Philharmonic, never dreamed he would celebrate such a long tenure performing for diverse audiences in Northeast Indiana, including those with limited access to the arts through Audiences Unlimited.

In fact, Mann recently received a lifetime achievement award through Arts United in recognition of his extraordinary musical talents. Mann was one of two-lifetime achievement award winners and one of eight people recognized as part of Arts United’s celebration of the outstanding people, organizations, and projects making significant contributions to communities in Northeast Indiana through arts and culture.

Born and raised in New York State, Mann had already played with such high-profile orchestras as the Richmond Symphony and the Orchestra International Iuventus of Salerno, Italy. Performing in Fort Wayne, Indiana, simply wasn’t on his radar.

It was while he was playing with “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band in Washington, D.C., however, that he learned of an opening at The Fort Wayne Philharmonic. “A friend in Washington who had graduated from Ball State University let me know that the Philharmonic had an opening for my instrument,” he said.

The position was of interest to Mann, in part because of its full-time capacity. “There were four or five Philharmonic ensembles at the time that provided daytime services to the community in the form of school concerts and performances in senior living facilities,” he said. “This was right around the time that Lillian Embick was launching Audiences Unlimited,” Mann said.

As an organization dedicated to creating cultural experiences that enrich the lives of people with limited access to the arts, Audiences Unlimited played a central role in providing opportunities for artists such as Mann to hold full-time contracts.

“I can’t imagine what Lillian went through to get Audiences Unlimited going,” he continued. “She was full of energy and enthusiasm. She brought live concerts to many who otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity. She was quite an inspiration.”

Many seniors in the audiences could no longer attend concerts in person and greatly enjoyed the live performances made possible through grant-funded performances through Audiences Unlimited. Embick’s work, however, enhanced more lives than just the seniors, since the full-time contracts allowed The Phil to recruit and retain high-caliber musicians such as Mann, benefitting ticket holders and the greater community as a result.

“This ensemble program we have through The Philharmonic,” said Mann, “that’s at the core of what allows our full-time positions to be full-time, because it utilizes our daytime hours. We wouldn’t have full-time employment if we didn’t have those performances. Those opportunities are central to 45 of us at The Phil.”

What began with four or five such ensembles has blossomed into 10 groups. This past year, Mann’s ensemble also performed for L.I.F.E. Adult Day Academy for adults with disabilities through its Audiences Unlimited connections. “The staff saw people responding who hadn’t responded to anything else,” he said. “They went right up to the staff and asked them when the musicians could come back.”

It’s that kind of feedback that makes Mann’s work so rewarding. “We can tell right away that there’s a strong response at senior living communities. We tailor our music to highlight ragtime, music from the 20s and 30s that they’ll identify. They often get animated and sing along.” Mann feels blessed to spend his days sharing that love with others. “Music is everything,” he said.

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