Hart Community Performing Arts Series announces season lineup

September 15, 2023

Hart Community Performing Arts Series announces season lineup

HART — The Hart Community Performing Arts Series has announced the lineup of artists for the 2023–2024 season. 

The Series begins its 25th year of operation and once again will bring fine artists from across the country to the stage of the Hart Public Schools Auditorium. The Hart Community Performing Arts Series is a presentation of the Hart Community Performing Arts Association, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, community-based organization directed by a volunteer board of directors and Series Artistic Director Tom Kirk.

Since its inception in 1999, the series has presented classical music, jazz, voice, and dance to the citizens of Oceana and surrounding counties and to the students in Oceana County schools. In recent seasons, the series broadened its offerings to include folk music, bluegrass, and the blues. Each of the artists who have appeared in the series over the past 24 years have presented daytime performances and educational opportunities for students at no cost to them or their families. The series offers these opportunities in cooperation with the Hart Public Schools.

Western Michigan University Symphony Orchestra

The 2023-24 season will begin Monday, Oct. 2, with a concert by the Western Michigan University Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra has been praised as one of the finest university ensembles in the State of Michigan and the region and is comprised of undergraduate and graduate music majors. Under the direction of Professor of Cello, Bruce Uchimura, the WMU Symphony Orchestra performs masterworks of the orchestral repertoire; features internationally recognized instrumental soloists and WMU faculty members; and collaborates with the WMU Grand Chorus and the WMU Department of Dance. The orchestra prepares a five to six concert season presented in both Miller Auditorium and the Dalton Center Recital Hall. Additionally, the orchestra members perform with WMU Opera and Musical Theater productions on a regular basis. The orchestra has toured and performed at high schools, colleges and various performance venues throughout Michigan and abroad.

 Empire Wild will appear in concert Oct. 27. Empire Wild is a genre-bending crossover trio featuring Juilliard-trained classical musicians

Empire Wild

embodying the group’s shared love of musical exploration, fusing the sounds of pop, folk, Broadway, and more into its songwriting and composition. Empire Wild was selected as an Ambassador Prize winner in the 2020 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition. The group’s debut EP Paper Seasons features all original songs, highlighting the trio’s unique sound and instrumentation. Based in New York City, Empire Wild has brought its signature mix of original music, inventive covers, and twists on the classical canon to audiences across the country. Recently, the trio delighted audiences with its famous original songwriting and unique arrangements at venues across the country, including a stop at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, a concert on the Harriman-Jewell Series in Kansas City, and a day at the Kaufman Music Center’s Musical Storefronts in Lincoln Center. In fall 2023, the trio embarked on a tour of the Midwest with over 20 performances across 10 states along with educational workshops in Iowa and Ohio.

Mile Twelve

Boston’s award-winning string band Mile Twelve is scheduled to perform Nov. 17. These musicians are clearly working through some hard questions posed by the last few years. You’ll hear the same warmth and innovation that earned the band IBMA’s 2019 Album of the Year nomination and 2020 New Artist of the Year Award, which gained them an international reputation as one of the most dynamic groups in contemporary acoustic music. You’ll notice the presence of two new members: fiddler and vocalist Ella Jordan and mandolinist Korey Brodsky. Take note of the new dimension they add to the band, and their ability to lock in with founding members Evan Murphy (guitar, vocals), Catherine Bowness (banjo), and Nate Sabat (bass, vocals). These aren’t session players — this is a new coherent unit. This is a band looking forward — simultaneously shoring up their bluegrass foundations while also pushing their musical boundaries and driving into new territory. Their latest album, Close Enough to Hear,

Clarice and Sergio Assad

displays the vast potential of acoustic string band music in the hands of capable players.

 A Jan. 28 Sunday afternoon concert will present two members of the “Brazil’s First Family of Music,” Clarice and Sergio Assad. The musical history of the Assad Family began in the 1950s with Seu Jorge, a self-taught mandolinist, and his wife Dona Ica, praised by the LA Times as “The Billie Holiday of Brazil.Together they passed on to their children, Sérgio, Odair and Badi, their passion for music, but they never imagined that it would blossom into the phenomenon that would make “Assad” musicians known all over the world. The family may be best-known to American listeners via the astonishing guitar duo of Sérgio and Odair Assad. By way of standout recordings for Nonesuch and Sony Classical—including collaborations with violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and cellist Yo-Yo Ma—the Assad Brothers have become one of the preeminent guitar duos of our time.

A powerful communicator renowned for her musical scope and versatility, Clarice Assad is a significant artistic voice in the classical, world music, pop and jazz genres. A Grammy-nominated composer, celebrated pianist, inventive vocalist, and educator, she is renowned for her evocative colors, rich textures, and diverse stylistic range. With her talent sought-after by artists and organizations worldwide, the multi-talented musician continues to attract new audiences both onstage and off. The idea for the collaborative venture came from Sérgio Assad, who dreamed of introducing multiple generations of the family on stage together, performing a century of Brazilian music of disparate styles. Whether the songs flow from a shared formative experience of musical tradition or a shared genetic makeup may be impossible to know — but when the end result is emotionally moving to the listener, that question is probably irrelevant. 

The series will continue its Sunday afternoon concerts on Feb. 18 with the Tom Knific Quintet. The Tom Knific Quintet is a joyful and exhilarating jazz ensemble that draws on a world of influences. The TKQ delivers highly interactive performances ranging from intimate moments of stirring melodic beauty, to deep groove and spectacular contemporary virtuoso turns. The ensemble features his violinist wife, Renata Artman Knific, pianist composer Lisa Sung, percussionist Kevin Dalton-Jones and drummer David Alvarez III.

Mark Lincoln Braun of the Mr. B Trio

The final Sunday afternoon concert of the 2023-24 season will occur March 10 with an appearance by the Mr. B Trio. Blues and boogie-woogie pianist Mark Lincoln Braun has become one of the premiere purveyors of a vanishing art. Having learned his craft first-hand from the early masters, he is a rare living link to the first generation of blues and boogie pianists. Steeped in the rich legacy of this tremendously exciting music, Mr. B learned directly from blues and boogie legends like Little Brother Montgomery, Boogie Woogie Red, and Blind John Davis. In demand for both educational programs and concert performances, he has performed coast to coast and throughout Europe, Canada, Mexico, and South America. In 2002 and 2016, he was a guest artist at the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. He is also the organizer of the annual Mr. Bʼs Blues and Boogie Piano Celebration that attracts major figures in the blues and jazz piano world to Ann Arbor for collaborative performances with Mr. B.

 On Friday, April 12, Eisenhower Dance Detroit will return to the Hart stage. Moving into its 33rd season as a professional contemporary dance repertory company, Eisenhower Dance Detroit gives life to the work of nationally and internationally known choreographers along with that of its founding artistic director, Laurie Eisenhower, and current artistic director, Stephanie Pizzo. This year, Ms. Pizzo leads EDD into its seventh season under her artistic guidance following Ms. Eisenhower’s retirement in 2017. The company

Eisenhower Dance Detroit

continues its artistic mission through collaborations with artists across genres including film directors, composers, visual designers, and musicians. Since its inception, Eisenhower Dance Detroit has grown from a small pick-up company into an 11 dancer roster employing

Alexis Cole

seven professional company dancers and four apprentices. These artists have joined the EDD family from regions across the country. As the company’s mission states, Eisenhower Dance Detroit strives “to be a professional repertory company that, through outstanding performances and educational services, strives to deepen the understanding and appreciation of contemporary dance regionally, nationally, and internationally and to reflect on and explore issues of social significance.” Ms. Pizzo continues to expand the company’s innovative style and artistic vision while still honoring the legacy of Eisenhower Dance Detroit’s founder.

The series will present its final concert of the season May 10 with a special appearance by the Alexis Cole Quartet, featuring Pasquale Grasso. Both are major figures on the New York City jazz scene. A dozen albums into her career, vocalist Alexis Cole is hitting her stride. As a sought after international performer, she’s appeared with her group, with whom she both plays piano and sings, and is a frequent guest with big bands and pops orchestras. She is the founder and director of the online educational community JazzVoice.com, and the cofounder and artistic director of the Virginia Beach Vocal Jazz Summit. Formerly a professor of jazz voice at SUNY Purchase and William Paterson Universities, her student Samara Joy won the 2023 Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album. Alexis’ latest endeavor is MusicAuditions.com, a website to connect musicians to employers. 

In his interview for Vintage Guitar magazine’s February 2016 cover story, Pat Metheny was asked to name some younger musicians who’d

impressed him. “The best guitar player I’ve heard in maybe my entire life is floating around now, Pasquale Grasso,” said the jazz-guitar icon and NEA jazz master. “This guy is

Pasquale Grasso of the Alexis Cole Quartet

doing something so amazingly musical and so difficult. As he’s done with many rising jazz stars, Metheny later invited Grasso over to his New York pad to jam and share some wisdom. He’s since become a generous presence in Grasso’s life, and his assessment of Grasso’s playing is — no surprise — spot-on. Born in Italy and now based in New York City, the 30-year-old guitarist has developed an astounding technique and concept informed not by jazz guitarists so much as by bebop pioneers like Powell, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and the classical-guitar tradition. In 2015, he won the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition in New York City, taking home a $5,000 prize and performing with guitar legend Pat Martino’s organ trio. Last year at D.C.’s Kennedy Center, as part of the NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert, Grasso participated in a special performance to honor Pat Metheny. 

 Season tickets for the 2023-2024 Hart Community Performing Arts Series are now on sale. For full information on how to purchase season tickets and their cost, visit hartseries.org or contact Artistic Director Tom Kirk at tomkirk@hartseries.org.




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