The history of the FIM began in 1917 with the founding of the Flint Community Music Association (FCMA) through the vision and generosity of automotive pioneer and philanthropist, J Dallas Dort. Influenced by Dort, FCMA was an early adopter of the concept of music as an integral aspect of community well-being. FIM remains the oldest example of community-planned music in the United States.
The FCMA sponsored the Flint Choral Union, an organization that sought to support social relationships based on the enjoyment of singing. Anyone who was interested, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, financial status or even ability was welcome and invited to participate. The Choral Union served as the roots of the CMA, growing into a strong trunk that would support many branches of musical activity in Flint. In 1921, Flint CMA Musical Director William W. Norton stated, “The Community Music Association is a civic agency through which better citizenship is promoted by the varied use of music as a medium. It is for everybody and not simply for musicians. Music, being the universal language, includes all nationalities, all races, all ages, all creeds, all lines of pursuit. It minimizes our differences and emphasizes our common ground for unity.”
As early as 1920, the Flint Symphony Orchestra was performing stand-alone classical concerts. The Orchestra also performed alongside The Community Chorus in seasonal festivals and the annual production of the Messiah. The FCMA deepened its community engagement with the formation of the Flint Youth Symphony Orchestra in 1946. In 1965, the orchestra professionalized as the Musical Performing Arts Association (MPAA). Seizing the opportunity to circumnavigate their respective financial challenges, the organizations merged, becoming The Flint Institute of Music in 1971.
With the support of the community, this move led to significant programmatic growth, including the formation of the FIM Community Music School, later renamed the Flint School of Performing Arts (1986). Once a member of the Flint Cultural Center Corporation, The Flint Youth Theatre (founded 1957) joined the FIM in 2009 and is now part of the FSPA. The Flint Repertory Theatre, founded in 2018, is dedicated to providing innovative professional theatre to the city and surrounding region.
FIM operates Elgood Theatre, Bower Theatre and MacArthur Recital Hall, and since January of 2020, managed the 2000 seat Whiting Auditorium and the recently renovated historic Capitol Theatre (1500 seat). On July 1, 2021, after a 20-month extensive due diligence process, FIM accepted permanent transfer of the venues from the Flint Cultural Center Corporation. FIM formed a new consolidated organization with the continued mission of delivering performing arts access and excellence to students and audiences throughout Flint and Genesee County.
FIMs dedication to improving the community through the arts has only strengthened over the last hundred years. Today, the FIM continues to reach more than 300,000 people annually through lessons, classes, outreach programs, performances and concerts.