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The Kennedy Center Open House Art Festival in DC this Saturday

September 9, 2008

Its that time of the year again: the family oriented Open House Art Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, presenting a program of free performances by great artists!

Photo Dclivemusic

Saturday, September 13 from 12:00 noon to 11:00 PM

“The Kennedy Center is kicking off its 37th birthday with a celebration of American innovators and artists carrying on and developing traditions. Continuing the theme of Prelude 2008: Arts Across America, which highlights the diversity of the United States, Open House features artists from across the country and the D.C. area in more than 30 performances, demonstrations, and events” presented in 11 venues withing the Kennedy Center facilities.

This year seems like the Kennedy Center has dedicated a bit of extra effort organizing this festival. There is so much to see, listen, watch and enjoy. Unfortunately I will miss some of the performances because I’m attending the Walk for Change, supporting Barack Obama candidacy. But since the walk is only few blocks away (Lincoln Memorial) then I will be going to both events.

Obviously DC is changing. When I first came to this city about 12 years ago, there was no way for its own Go-Go music to be played at venues like the Kennedy Center – most of its audience are white rich people who sometimes don’t see that the cultures of poor people are usually the richest and most creative ones. But not anymore. I’m more than happy to see Chuck Brown as the main performer of the ending party of the festival, along with my favorites Lila Downs, Step Afrika, Raul Midon and Ashe.

Here is the complete program and I highlighted the performances that I have seeing or heard of previously, and that I truly recommend:

    Performance Schedule

    (See the complete program here)

    Atrium Storytelling Stage

    12:30-12:50 p.m. & 3-3:20 p.m.
    Mary Louise Defender Wilson (North Dakota) NEA Heritage Award-winning Dakotah/ Hidatsa storyteller, elder, and traditionalist, Wilson effortlessly relates stories involving mythical heroes, animals, birds, plants, and the heavens.
    1-1:20 p.m. & 3:30-3:50 p.m.
    Glenn Ohrlin (Arkansas) Cowboy and rodeo veteran Ohrlin has spent a lifetime absorbing cowboy lore and traditions, performing cowboy songs, range ballads, stories, and poems.
    2:30-2:50 p.m. & 5-5:20 p.m.
    Valerie Tutson (Rhode Island) Tutson tells stories and songs she learned in her travels to South Africa, her experiences in West Africa, stories from African American history, and more.
    1: 30-1:50 p.m. & 4-4:20 p.m.
    Rosalie Sorrels (Idaho) This master storyteller and singer began her career as a folklorist in the 1950s and has an encyclopedic knowledge, ranging from the English ballads to Mormon songs to the work of contemporary songwriters.
    2-2:20 p.m. & 4:30-4:50 p.m.
    John Walker (Nebraska) A country and blues guitarist, Walker performs songs that reflect his upbringing with foot-stomping rhythms, smooth melodies, and expressive lyrics accompanied by a unique finger-picking style.

    Concert Hall

    12:15-1 p.m.
    National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.) Conducted by Emil de Cou, the NSO performs popular favorites including Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday, “Seventy-six Trombones” from The Music Man, Korngold’s Overture to The Seahawk, and excerpts from Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark by John Williams.
    1:45-2:45 p.m.
    Raul Midón (New Mexico) Writer, vocalist, and guitarist, Midón combines the soulfulness of Stevie Wonder, the world music exploration of Paul Simon, and the individuality of Bill Withers.
    6-7:30 p.m.
    Step Show featuring Step Afrika! Highlighting the best of the African-American fraternity and sorority tradition of “stepping,” and led by internationally acclaimed ensemble Step Afrika!, this show features nationally recognized step teams from across the U.S.

    Eisenhower Theater

    12:30-1:30 p.m.
    Nevada Ballet Theatre (Nevada A classically based thirty-six member company, Nevada Ballet Theatre’s repertoire includes works from classic choreographers as well as contemporary ones. For Open House, the company performs James Canfield’s Equinoxe and George Balanchine’s Who Cares?.
    2:15-3:15 p.m.
    Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (Colorado/New Mexico With its fusion of classical good sense and western ingenuity, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet blends the best of both worlds to create a dance company that is truly unique. For Open House, ASFB performs Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite, the pas de deux from Gerald Arpino’s Light Rain, and Jorma Elo’s 1st Flash.
    4-5 p.m.
    The Suzanne Farrell Ballet (Washington, D.C. The Kennedy Center’s own ballet company, founded by legendary ballerina and Balanchine protégé Suzanne Farrell, performs Balanchine’s Apollo, “Contrapuntal Blues” pas de deux from Clarinade, and Tzigane.
    6-7:30 p.m.
    Ballet Triple Bill. In an unprecedented Open House event, three ballet companies perform together. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet presents Jorma Elo’s 1st Flash, Nevada Ballet Theatre performs James Canfield’s Equinoxe, and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet performs George Balanchine’s Apollo.

    Family Theater

    (Tickets are required for performances in the Family Theater. Tickets will be passed out in front of the Family Theater 30 minutes prior to the start of each performance.)

    12:15-1 p.m. & 3:45-4:30 p.m.
    Jamie Adkins (California) A former member of Pickle Family Circus and Cirque Éloize, this comedian and circus artist brings his newest creation, Circus INcognitus, showcasing his talents as an eccentric clown, juggler, balancing artist, and poet.
    1:45-2:30 p.m. & 5:15-6 p.m.
    Donald Knaack’s Junk Jams (Vermont) With wildly inventive instruments made from recycled materials, percussionist Donald Knaack performs his own compositions dubbed Junk MusicTM. Impossible to categorize, the eye-opening, provocative and entirely new sounds of Junk Music delight audiences worldwide.

    Main Plaza

    12:30-1 p.m.
    Step Team. Check out nationally recognized step teams who will be performing later at 6 p.m. in the Concert Hall.
    2-2:30 p.m. & 3:30-4 p.m.
    PROJECT (Washington) Get up close and personal with beatbox flutist Greg Pattillo, bassist Peter Seymour, and cellist Eric Stephenson and see how they create their unique sound.
    2:45-3:15 p.m. & 5-5:30 p.m.
    Jamie Adkins (California) A former member of Pickle Family Circus and Cirque Éloize, this comedian and circus artist showcases his talents as an eccentric clown, juggler, balancing artist, and poet.
    4:15-4:45 p.m.
    Hungry March Band (New York) New York City’s legendary street brass marching band comes roaring out of Brooklyn in the anarchic style that has become their trademark.

    Millennium Stage North

    12-6 p.m.
    Washington Arts Exchange. Check out local organizations that contribute to D.C.’s vibrant cultural scene.

    Millennium Stage South

    1-1:45 p.m.
    Dragon Art Studio (Oregon) NEA Heritage Award-winners Yuquin Wang and Zhengli Xu present the mastery of rod puppetry – a tradition from China featuring dramatic and acrobatic staging of folktales, legends, and opera.
    2:45-3:30 p.m.
    Richmond Boys Choir (Virginia) Now in its 12th season, the choir began as a collaborative project of Theatre IV and the Boys and Girls Club of Richmond. As “Ambassadors of Song,” they represent Richmond’s diverse cultures through music.
    4-4:45 p.m.
    Washington National Opera Young Artists (Washington, D.C.) Rising opera singers perform selections from Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, Verdi’s La Traviata, Menotti’s The Telephone, and Bizet’s Carmen and The Pearl Fishers.
    5:15-6 p.m.
    PROJECT (Washington) Featuring beatbox flutist Greg Pattillo, bassist Peter Seymour, and cellist Eric Stephenson, PROJECT combines hip hop, jazz, classical and world music in exciting new ways, as heard on their debut album Winter in June.

    North Plaza

    1-1:45 p.m. & 3:30-4:15 p.m.
    Donald Knaack’s Junk Jams (Vermont) Monkey around with Junk Music play stations, sound sculptures made from recycled materials where visitors can have a Junk Jam.
    2:15-3 p.m. & 4:45-5:30 p.m.
    Dragon Art Studio (Oregon) NEA Heritage Award-winners Yuquin Wang and Zhengli Xu present the mastery of rod puppetry—a tradition from China featuring dramatic and acrobatic staging of folktales, legends, and opera.
    12:15-6 p.m.
    Edwin Fontánez’s Washington Chalk Festival (Puerto Rico) Now in its 12th year! Watch local artists at work and create your own colorful sidewalk masterpiece in chalk. This year, the festival welcomes the participation of Rick Aleman, Scott Buga, Pat Goslee, Seemeen Hashem, Judit Ilie, and Gina Robles-Villalba.
    12:15-6 p.m.
    NSO Instrument “Petting Zoo”. Spotlighting instruments featured in the orchestra, this popular activity gives children the opportunity to strike, blow, and bow their way to fun. A project of the Women’s Committee for the National Symphony Orchestra.
    12:15-6 p.m.
    Backstage at the Opera. Get a close-up look at props and equipment that make the opera so spectacular! Show your opera spirit with a Washington National Opera temporary tattoo!

    South Plaza

    12-12:15 p.m.
    Opening Kick-Off. Featuring members of the Hungry March Band, Greg Pattillo, and Step Afrika!
    12:15-1 p.m.
    Hungry March Band (New York) New York City’s legendary street brass marching band comes roaring out of Brooklyn in the anarchic style that has become their trademark. Put on your dancing shoes for European brass traditions, Gypsy and Roma classics, jazz, Latin, punk rock, hip hop, and music of the streets.
    1:45-2:45 p.m.
    Dan Zanes and Friends (New York) Dan Zanes and his merry band make music for families and people of all ages in a way that is changing the face of America. His albums Catch That Train! and ¡Nueva York! have won awards and praise from audiences everywhere.
    3:30-4:15 p.m.
    Algebra (Georgia) Atlanta, Georgia-based R&B songstress Algebra, who has worked on projects with Monica, Bilal, India.Arie, and more, moves easily between pop, rock, rap, funk or crunk, as heard on her debut CD Purpose.
    5-6 p.m.
    Lila Downs (Minnesota) Mexican born folk singer Lila Downs, nominated for an Academy Award for her song “Burn it Blue” in the film Frida, brings her unique style of music combining her Mexican roots with jazz and North American sounds.
    7-8:30 p.m.
    DJ Rahsaan (Maryland) Get down as DJ Rahsaan spins hip hop, Go-Go, and Deep House.
    8:30-9 p.m.
    Hip Hop Dance Lessons with goLo LLC (Washington, D.C.) Learn some fresh new moves with the Hip Hop Dance Experience from goLo LLC.
    9-11 p.m.
    Go-Go Dance Party with Chuck Brown (Washington, D.C.) D.C. legend and Godfather of Go-Go Chuck Brown gets your groove on with this hypnotically danceable music rooted in funk and soul.

    Terrace Theater

    (Tickets are required for performances in the Terrace Theater. Tickets will be passed out in front of the Terrace Theater 30 minutes prior to the start of each performance.)

    12:15-1 p.m. & 1:30-2:15 p.m.
    Jake Shimabukuro (Hawaii) Recognized as one of the world’s top ukulele musicians, Jake Shimabukuro plays jazz, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, folk, flamenco, and rock. In his hands, that little four-stringed instrument has never sounded so big!
    3:45-4:30 p.m. & 5:15-6 p.m.
    Joshua Nelson (New Jersey) The “Prince of Kosher Gospel,” whose voice bears a remarkable resemblance to that of the late Mahalia Jackson, has performed with artists as diverse as Cab Calloway, Wynton Marsalis, Aretha Franklin, Albertina Walker, Bobby Jones & New Life, and The Klezmatics.

    Theater Lab Dance Hall

    12:15-1 p.m. & 1:30-2:15 p.m.
    Oklahoma Stomp (Oklahoma) This Western Swing band made up of nine talented boys ranging in age from 12 to 16 carries on the tradition of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, with dance instruction from Flying Feet.
    3:45-4:30 p.m. & 5-5:45 p.m.
    Aramis y su Orquesta Ashe (Washington, D.C.) This 12-piece ensemble will have audiences on their feet with their interpretation of timba, or modern Cuban Salsa, fusing native African and Cuban rhythms. With singers, musicians, as well as dancers, the band interacts with the audience, bringing the full effect of Cuban flavor.

Read a brief biography of each artist, click here. If you’d like to volunteer, click here.


Chuch Brown
Block Party feat. DJ Kool
Washington’s own Chuck Brown is affectionately called “The Godfather of Go-Go.” Go-Go is a subgenre of funk music developed by Brown in and around Washington, D.C. in the mid- and late 1970s. Brown’s musical career began in the 1960s playing guitar with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm, joining Los Latinos in 1965. Brown’s early hits include “I Need Some Money” and “Bustin’ Loose,” which has been adopted by the Washington Nationals baseball team as its home run celebration song.

Raul Midon
State of Mind
The New Mexico-born, New York-based writer, vocalist, and guitarist Raul Midón, who has been blind from birth, combines the soulfulness of Stevie Wonder, the inventive appropriation of non-indigenous musical elements pioneered by Paul Simon, and the trend-defying individuality of Bill Withers. He had the sold-out Concert Hall audience on their feet when he performed as part of The Movie Music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard in December 2007. A World Within a World, the title of his new album (Manhattan Records, Sept. 25), might refer to the status of music within the culture as a whole; it could also describe the expansive interior realm that this single-minded artist, blind from birth, has created with his imagination.

National Symphony Orchestra

Lila Downs
Paloma Negra
Born in Oaxaca, Mexico, Minnesota’s Lila Downs possess a musical vision that is anthropological in nature, as varied as the ancient and earthy cultures that nurtured her and continue to inspire. With a powerful persona, positive aura, and a voice that ranges from dusky to penetrating, she caught Hollywood’s attention, which resulted in a role in the Salma Hayek film about Mexican artist (and Downs doppelganger) Frida Kahlo. She sang the Oscar®-nominated soundtrack song “Burn It Blue” and became the first Latina to perform at the Academy Awards® telecast. She also captured a Latin Grammy® in the Best Folk Album category for 2004’s One Blood/ Una Sangre. To bring her vision and songs to fruition, along with her seven-man band and producers Paul Cohen (her husband), Aneiro Tano, and Brian Lynch, Downs plays guitar and percussion. The band utilizes traditional instruments including accordion, harp and clarinet. The trumpet, trombone and tuba appear in several arrangements, bringing the sound somewhere between Mexico and New Orleans.


Without doubt this is an incredible list of amazing performances, one of the best presented by the Kennedy Center Open House. And they are all free and open to the public!


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