An ever-evolving mix of arts and educational programs are ready to ramp up at Santa Monica’s premier entertainment venue.
The BroadStage, located on the campus of Santa Monica College, has returned to programming for the 2023-24 season, hosting celebrated acts in music and theater. On Saturday, a performance by frequent collaborators and Grammy Award winners Stanley Clarke and Hiromi will act as an introduction to Clarke’s three-year residency at BroadStage, which also includes a mentorship with SMC and Santa Monica High School jazz band students.
Clarke is a jazz music icon, one of the world’s most decorated acoustic and electric bass players. Along with his four Grammys, he has composed 70 different film and television scores, winning a BMI Award for his work on the film “Boyz n the Hood.” Joining Clarke at the BroadStage Saturday is piano virtuoso Hiromi, who excels in a blending of musical genres. The two have played around the world and recorded the 2009 album “Jazz in the Garden” along with drummer Lenny White as the Stanley Clarke Trio.
The musical performance kicks off a schedule that features a bevy of jazz and blues concerts, something BroadStage Artistic and Executive Director Rob Ballis says “has been in the DNA of BroadStage from day one.”
“Stanley’s natural charisma, his vision for the future of jazz, and his career-long commitment to nurturing emerging talent, makes him the perfect partner for this ambition,” Ballis said of Clarke’s residency.
Along with the top-notch musical mastery seen on stage, Clarke’s mentorship of SMC and Samohi students is part of the BroadStage’s commitment to education outside of the venue’s hallowed halls.
“A big part of our mission is to bring world-renowned artists to the stage and to present those performances,” said BroadStage Director of Programs and Activations Ilaan Mazzini. “But for some of those artists, there’s a lot of engagement that we kind of build around (performances), so that you really get to know the work of the artist … we have really invested as an organization in having those conversations … (including) opportunities for them to expand their reach out into the community, out with our public.”
Jazz and blues will also be represented at the venue through the “Blackbox” series, performances by artists curated by Reverend Shawn Amos. Amos is a blues singer, author and record producer who will bring his harmonica-focused blues roots revival to BroadStage on Oct. 7. He also aided in bringing artists Mando Dorame and Queen Esther to the stage on Sept. 30 and May 11, 2024, respectively.
Another music-focused venture at BroadStage is the “Sunday Morning Music” chamber music series. The endeavor brings together distinguished artists with a curious audience, including post-show speaking sessions. Curated by Antonio Lysy, the musical director of Tuscany, Italy’s Incontri in Terra di Siena Chamber Music Festival, the first performance is a narration of Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” by Hershey Felder on Oct. 15.
Supporting a wide range of musical acts, BroadStage will also be a part of the California Festival A Celebration of New Music in November, featuring long-time audience favorite, The Takács Quartet. One of the world’s top string quartets, the Nov. 17 program will feature a newly-commissioned work from Nokuthula Ngwenyama, an alum of Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica. The piece she composed for the quartet is entitled “flow” and focuses on the theme of climate change.
One of the highlights of the BroadStage’s new season will be in the world of dance and theater, as the venue will play host to the United States premiere of Akram Khan Dance Company’s “Jungle Book Reimagined” from Oct. 26-28. The multimedia affair puts a twist on the classic story, told through the eyes of the character Mowgli imagined as a refugee “caught in a world devastated by the impact of climate change.” Khan and his dance company have been lauded for innovation, performing around the world, including at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. The “Jungle Book Reimagined” show combines animation, video and sound design to enhance the company’s legendary choreography.
“Akram is a storyteller of the highest order and that is what makes his approach to ‘Jungle Book’ so exceptional,” Ballis said. “The choreography is jaw-droppingly exciting, and that would be enough on its own – but this production embeds the dancing in a visual world of projected animation that fills the stage with magic.”
The world of theater production also comes alive at the BroadStage through the opera. Along with a “Celebrity Opera Series” that continues Nov. 11 with a performance by Joseph Calleja, the venue plays host to yet another premiere: “Book of Mountain and Seas” from April 10-14, 2024. The co-presentation from LA Opera highlights new work by composer Huang Ruo and director Basil Twist, and combines vocal theater work with live percussion and striking imagery.
“Working together on this project allows each of our organizations the opportunity to offer something to our communities that it would be exponentially harder, if not nearly impossible, to achieve otherwise,” Ballis said of the partnership with LA Opera. “Our organizations share a passion for advancing the art form of opera, and we share a love for contemporary work that illuminates or expands what we think is possible.”
For more information on BroadStage events and to purchase tickets, visit the venue’s website at broadstage.org.