Georges DeMeester, 1955-1973
Georges DeMeester, after whom the Performance Center is named, founded the Tucson Pops in 1955. A musician, composer and conductor of note, his story is nothing short of remarkable.
Born in Belgium, Georges was raised in a musical family. His father was a leader of a band. By 1913 DeMeester was playing in an orchestra. When World War I broke out, he tried to flee the invading Germans. Georges told a chilling account of how the German Army had obtained his name from a list of members of the musicians union and demanded that he play for them or go to a prison camp. He chose to play. By 1927 DeMeester was playing violin in orchestras on ships traveling between Belgium and New York. After attaining his citizenship, he won an audition in 1930 to accompany an orchestra in Tucson for the opening of a new business called the Pioneer Hotel.
Georges fell in love with Tucson and young Enriqueta with whom he was married forever. After his contract with the Pioneer Hotel was completed, he earned his way by playing in dance halls and by giving music lessons in private schools.
He founded the Tucson Pops Orchestra in 1955. The concerts were held in a variety of places, including the Veterans Administration Hospital, the Ramada Inn on Miracle Mile, and at a variety of radio stations. Georges conducted the Orchestra, playing on the back on a flatbed truck from Himmel Park to Reid Park, where the Orchestra is heard still to this day. Georges retired as conductor in 1973. He remained in touch with the Orchestra throughout his retirement. Dance being one of his other favorite passions, he performed on stage with the Pops after his 99th birthday to the delight of the Reid Park audience. Georges passed away with music in his heart on December 22, 1995. On the day of his passing, Enriquita said that “he got up singing, sang all day, not words, but notes. He was a very happy man.” Indeed, he continues to make us all very happy. The Pops Orchestra played at his services conducted at the St. Augustine Cathedral.