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The BlackRock Center for the Arts is an “undiscovered jewel” that some people may not yet know about, said Executive Director Krista Bradley, who has plenty of ideas about how to change that.
“Upcounty is definitely growing by leaps and bounds …. but BlackRock is not necessarily seen as a social and cultural destination,” she said. “We want to encourage people to do more of that.”
The center is located in a complex of restaurants, stores and a library in the Germantown Town Center.
“Arts play a role in bringing people together,” said Bradley.
BlackRock kicks off the 2013-14 season on Saturday with a visit by the New Jersey pop-rock group Southside Johnny & the Poor Fools.
The band is one of 39 performing groups that not only represent an increase in number over last year, but also an increase in the range of genres and cultural backgrounds, offering visitors many different choices.
“National research shows that people don’t like to be pigeon-holed,” said Bradley.
“We’re proud of the diversity of the music of different types of arts and cultures, given the diversity of the area we’re serving,” she said.
There will also be more opportunities for audience members “to get up close and personal with the artists,” she said.
More than a dozen groups will meet with audiences for free workshops, master classes and talks.
“We’re trying to get a rich experience beyond just the performance,” she said.
The first songwriters workshop is with Red Molly, an Americana/folk trio, which will meet with audience members before its performance on Oct. 4. The workshop is free but reservations are required.
Also in the works are special events, such as a Scotch tasting (for an additional fee) to accompany the Oct. 25 performance by Scottish singer Julie Fowlis.
Fowlis sang several songs in the Disney/Pixar animated movie “Brave” about a Highland princess. She will also host a workshop before her second performance on Oct. 26.
Post-performance talks are also scheduled for well-known local swing and jazz vocalist Catharine Russell, as well as singer, songwriter and saxophonist Grace Kelly.
“We wanted to bring a lot of debut artists who haven’t been to BlackRock before,” Bradley said.
Kelly was a semi-finalist at the Thelonius Monk International jazz Vocalists Competition at the Kennedy Center.
“She’s a prodigy,” Bradley said.
“We’re looking for artists who are young or changing the form … who are probably pushing the boundaries a little bit,” she said.
Scheduled for Feb. 1 is Chelsea Green and the Green Project. Classically trained, Green plays jazz, R&B, funk, rock and soul, plus original tunes, on an acoustic violin.
“She breathes new life into classical music as well as popular music,” Bradley said.
Also on the schedule is an Americana group, The Stray Birds, performing on May 2.
“They have fabulous tight harmonies and beautiful voices,” Bradley said.
Meanwhile, tickets remain affordable, ranging from $14 to $45.
“It’s really great to have music at a reasonable price,” said Bradley.
New this year is a maximum ticket price of $14 for any event for anyone who is 17 and younger.
“We’re trying to break down barriers to attendance,” she said.
Finishing the season on May 11 are “The Hit Men,” whose members sang with the likes of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Tommy James and The Shondells, Jim Croce and Carly Simon.
“They’re a fun group, it’s a fun way to end the season,” said Bradley.
For a full calendar of performances, with ticket prices and photos and videos of the performers, visit www.blackrockcenter.org.