Celebrating 60 Years

Six decades strong, Arts & Lectures keeps education at the core of its mission

Ma’s visit to Santa Barbara — which includes a free, open-to-the-public, master class with UC Santa Barbara students, and the above-mentioned lecture, “Culture, Understanding and Survival” — marks a high point for the program.

“Our relationship with Yo-Yo is very special,” said Celesta M. Billeci, A&L’s Miller McCune Executive Director. “I think it’s unique to any program in the country, and I can say with confidence he has a very special relationship with us.” That relationship, she added, extends to Chancellor Henry T. Yang and his wife, Dilling.

This season, A&L has also co-commissioned a project with the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble, founded by Ma in 1998. The genre-defying global musicians will perform the world premiere of “Take Their Stands” Friday, April 26, at the Granada.

“This is really research in action in the arts,” Billeci said. “We gave the money to this ensemble to create new work. They’ve created five new pieces they will premiere and will tour all over the world. And we did this here at UCSB. So that’s a real testament to the quality of this program and to being a leader in the arts.”

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Yannick Lebrun and Sarah Daley. Photo Credit: ANDREW ECCLES.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Yannick Lebrun and Sarah Daley. Photo Credit: ANDREW ECCLES.

During the week prior to their performance, the musicians will be on campus working with students in the music, dance and religious studies departments and in the Givertz School of Education.

For example, Silkroad members Haruka Fuji and Sandeep Das will conduct a lecture/demonstration and Kayhan Kalhor will conduct a Dastgah practicum in world music; Kojiro Umezaki and Cristina Pato will hold a workshop with Gevirtz School of Education student teachers; Ahmad Sadri and Wu Tong will lead a meet-the-artist conversation on Asian religious traditions; and Aparna Ramaswamy will share Bharatnatyam dance traditions with students in the theater and dance department.

Education, Billeci stressed, is at the heart of A&L’s programming. “Its purpose is to really be intertwined with the academic program and be a supplement for the academic experience of students on this campus,” she said. “It’s not peripheral; it’s definitely to the core of the academic mission.”

To that end, Billeci, Associate Director Roman Baratiak and their team, particularly program manager Heather Silva, work closely with academic departments and individual faculty members to set priorities for the types of lectures and performances they bring to campus. “The speakers and artists we bring are not just coming here and doing their public presentation,” explained Caitlin O’Hara, A&L writer and publicist. “They’re going to campus for class events or master classes. They’re very heavily enmeshed in the campus as part of their stay.”

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s recent visit is a prime example. Prior to her public lecture she met with honors students from the College of Letters and Science. “Frankly, I think some of our speakers are shocked at how much we expect them to do,” Baratiak quipped.

“We also present a lot of free events for students,” added Billeci, noting the recent concert with ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro in Storke Plaza. “This is the second time we’ve had him do that. He did it before and the students went nuts for him. They just love him. And he just loves them. He’s a great ambassador for our program and for music overall.”

Plans to bring performers to A&L are often in the works years ahead of time. With the dance series, for instance, Billeci meets with faculty members several times throughout the year to understand who they are interested in having come to campus. Professors and lecturers often build class visits into their curricula, and when these companies perform, hundreds of students are in the audience.

“On our lecture side, our education coordinator will reach out to academic departments and individual faculty members and say, ‘Here’s an opportunity,’” explained Baratiak. They can elect to send their students to an event or, if time can be spared in the performer’s or presenter’s schedule, he or she might meet with students. “We have collaborations with the College of Creative Studies, the writing program, pretty much most departments,” he added.

“I think we’ve got one of the most exciting and interesting public lecture programs in the country,” said Baratiak, whose 40-year tenure with the program began when he was a student at UC Santa Barbara. “So it’s obviously something that I think all of us are proud of here at A&L.”

Baratiak is particularly enthusiastic, he added, about the annual free summer film series presented at the Santa Barbara Courthouse in collaboration with the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture.

The truth is, over the last 60 years, A&L has enabled Santa Barbara audiences to spend time with some incredible individuals and performers: Upton Sinclair, Robert Oppenheimer, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Allen Ginsberg and The Dalai Lama (on three separate occasions), to name a few.

In addition to Yo-Yo Ma, A&L has more recently brought to the local stage Joan Baez, Trevor Noah, Laurie Anderson, Gloria Steinem, Bill T. Jones, the NYC Ballet, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Sonny Rollins and Twyla Tharp.

A&L also presented talks by Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai (“We were the only university in the country that got that date,” Billeci pointed out) and comedian Jon Stewart (“We presented him to 5,000 students in the Thunderdome”), and a concert by alumnus Jack Johnson, who performed at Harder Stadium.

The talk by former vice president Joe Biden at the Arlington Theater also stands out. “We were doing a free simulcast for students on the campus, and as soon as it ended he jumped in the car and came to campus to meet with the students who’d watched the simulcast,” recalled O’Hara. “He sat and talked with them. I’ve had so many students talk to me and say how impactful that was.”

Similarly, a recent — and free — lecture by Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement, also was a high point for students, according to O’Hara. So many students wanted to hear her talk that simulcasts to overflow rooms were required to accommodate them.

“If you go back 60 years,” Billeci remarked, “this program is really really amazing.”

On the community outreach side, the A&L initiative dearest to Billeci’s heart is ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! The program offers free performances and educational activities to students, at-risk youth and families in Santa Barbara County. “We have made the long-term commitment to bring high quality arts — not average or mediocre — the very best in music and dance to these communities and to the folks who live there,” Billeci said.

Putting on more than 100 events every year is a team effort, and Billeci is quick to credit the contributions of A&L staff, which includes roughly 75 work-study students. “Often Roman and I get a lot of credit, but this does not work without the amazing group of people that make this machine move,” she said. “For the size of this program — a nationally respected, top-five program in the country — this group of people is so dedicated and so hard working and it’s my privilege and my pleasure to work with them every day.”

More information about A&L, including and a schedule of events, is available at www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.

Originally published in the UCSB Current on April 19, 2019.

Joffrey Ballet

Joffrey Ballet, "Mammatus, photo by Cheryl Mann.

Joffrey Ballet, “Mammatus, photo by Cheryl Mann.

The world-renowned Joffrey Ballet comes to the Granada Theatre for two nights of incredible dance performances of works by George Balanchine and other acclaimed choreographers, presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures on Tuesday, March 5 and Wednesday, March 6 at 8 p.m.

“The Joffrey dancers, costumed and lit and shockingly talented, are like a rock concert for the eyes,” reports Huffington Post.  

Among the repertoire included in on the Santa Barbara stage is one of Balanchine’s earliest experimental works, two pieces by modern ballet master Nicolas Blanc, the unique cinematic vision of Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman, contemporary ballet darling Justin Peck with a work set to a score by Philip Glass and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa‘s stunning depiction of a turbulent cloud formation. These wide-ranging programs display the inestimable skill of the Joffrey Ballet’s dancers, classically trained to the highest standards, and the company’s unique, inclusive perspective on dance. 

Tue, Mar 5 (Program A)

George Balanchine: The Four Temperaments
Nicolas Blanc: Beyond the Shore
Alexander Ekman: Joy

Wed, Mar 6 (Program B)

Justin Peck: In Creases
Nicolas Blanc: Encounter
Alexander Ekman: Joy
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa: Mammatus 

The Joffrey is a world-class, Chicago-based ballet company and dance education organization committed to artistic excellence and innovation. Classically trained to the highest standards, the Joffrey Ballet expresses a unique, inclusive perspective on dance, proudly reflecting the diversity of America with its company, audiences and repertoire, which includes major story ballets, reconstructions of masterpieces and contemporary works.

Founded by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey in 1956, guided by celebrated choreographer Gerald Arpino from 1988 until 2007, The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under internationally renowned Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron.

Joffrey Ballet, Beyond the Shore, photo by Cheryl Mann.

Joffrey Ballet, Beyond the Shore, photo by Cheryl Mann.

RELATED EVENT

Community Dance Class with The Joffrey Ballet 

Mon., Mar. 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Gustafson Dance, 2285 Las Positas Rd., Santa Barbara

Reservations: 805/563-3262 ext. 1

Co-presented by Gustafson Dance

For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.eduTickets are also available through The Granada Theatre at  805/899-2222 or granadasb.org.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 2, 2019.

Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz, courtesy photo.

Annie Leibovitz, courtesy photo.

Legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz is coming to Santa Barbara on February 28, in what’s sure to be a fascinating evening presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Annie Leibovitz delivers an hour-long illustrated lecture followed by a Q&A with Pico Iyer. A “Library of Congress Living Legend,” Leibovitz’s body of work encompasses some of the most well-known portraits of our time, with subjects including actors, directors, writers, musicians, athletes and political and business figures, as well as fashion photographs and more.

Brooke Shields "Got Milk" campaign photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Brooke Shields “Got Milk” campaign photo by Annie Leibovitz.

“Whether she’s photographing the famous and powerful—or simply the woman next door—Annie always captures something unexpected and deeply personal,” says Oprah Winfrey.  

This event takes place on Thurs., Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre, 1317 State St. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on February 26, 2019.

New York Polyphony

New York Polyphony, photo by Chris Owyoung.

New York Polyphony, photo by Chris Owyoung.

The New Yorker calls them, “Singers of superb musicianship and vocal allure.” National Public Radio praises New York Polyphony for a “rich, natural sound that’s larger and more complex than the sum of its parts.”

Hear them for yourself when UCSB Arts & Lectures presents the two-time Grammy Award-nominated vocal chamber ensemble New York Polyphony in its Santa Barbara debut on Wednesday, February 20 at 7 p.m. at Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall (1070 Fairway Rd., Santa Barbara).

The provocative program Faith and Reason includes Thomas Tallis’ Mass for Four Voices and Gregory Brown’s Missa Charles Darwin—the inspiration behind his brother Dan Brown’s latest Da Vinci Code novel—which honors the conventions of its musical antecedents but replaces sacred texts with excerpts from Darwin’s writings. Of special note, this performance marks the return of Music Academy of the West alumnus Christopher Dylan Herbert, the group’s baritone, to his alma mater.

For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on February 19, 2019.

Danish String Quartet

Danish String Quartet, photo by Caroline Bittencourt.

Danish String Quartet, photo by Caroline Bittencourt.

The Danish String Quartet returns to Santa Barbara this week for two beautiful nights of music presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

First up, a salon-style program of Nordic folk on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at Rockwood. Then on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. they will perform a classical program of Haydn, Abrahamsen and Nielsen at UCSB Campbell Hall.

Nominated for a 2019 Grammy Award, the Danish String Quartet—Frederik Øland (Violin); Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen (Violin); Asbjørn Nørgaard (Viola); Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin (Cello)—is an internationally acclaimed chamber music group. As the Boston Globe reports, “Do not lose track of this group. Even by today’s high standards, it offers something very special.” 

Danish String Quartet, photo by Caroline Bittencourt.

Danish String Quartet, photo by Caroline Bittencourt.

“The quartet’s crystalline sound conjures a magical atmosphere and nods to the strident tone of Nordic fiddle playing,” writes The Strad (U.K.).  

These four Nordic lads have played together since childhood and possess “warmth, wit, a beautiful tone and technical prowess second to none” (NPR).

Violinists Frederik Øland and Rune Tonsgaard Sørenson and Viola player Asbjorn Norgaard met as children at a music summer camp where they played soccer and made music together. As teenagers, they began the study of classical chamber music and were mentored by Tim Frederiksen of Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Academy of Music. In 2008, the three Danes were joined by Norwegian cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin.

For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on February 11, 2019.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Dancing the very fine line between high art and high camp, the internationally-beloved Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo bring their brilliant pointe work and vibrant drag costumes to the Granada Theatre (1214 State St., Santa Barbara) on Sunday, January 27 at 7 p.m.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Presented by UCSB Arts & LecturesLes Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo was founded in 1974 in New York City on the heels of the Stonewall riots, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (also affectionately called “The Trocks”)  is a company of professional male dancers performing the full range of the ballet and modern dance repertoire, including classical and original works in faithful renditions of the manners and conceits of those dance styles. The comedy is achieved by incorporating and exaggerating the foibles, accidents and underlying incongruities of serious dance. The fact that men dance all the parts—heavy bodies delicately balancing on toes as swans, sylphs, water sprites, romantic princesses, or angst-ridden Victorian ladies—enhances, rather than mocks, the spirit of dance as an art form, delighting and amusing the most knowledgeable, as well as novices, in the audiences.

“The funniest night you will ever have at the ballet,” writes The Sunday Times (U.K). 

The Trocks’ numerous tours have been both popular and critical successes—the company’s annual schedules have included six tours to Australia and New Zealand, 25 to Japan (where annual visits have created a nation-wide cult following and a fan club), 10 to South America, three to South Africa and 55 tours of Europe. In the United States, the company has become a regular part of the college and university circuit, in addition to frequent presentations in all of the 50 states. The company has appeared in more than 35 countries and more than 500 cities worldwide since its founding.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, photo by Zoran Jelen.

For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.eduTickets are also available through The Granada Theatre at 805/899-2222 or granadasb.org.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 24, 2019.

Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste, photo by Ambo Elliot.

Jon Batiste, photo by Ambo Elliot.

Jazz musician Jon Batiste, bandleader on The Late Show with Steven Colbert, makes his Santa Barbara debut on Friday, January 11 at 8 p.m. at UCSB Campbell Hall, in a UCSB Arts & Lectures presentation.

Wynton Marsalis describes him as “an elegant and electric performer with an unbelievably rich palette of techniques and styles rooted in New Orleans soul.”

Batiste is seen by millions on television five nights a week on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “The energy and the excitement, the love of the audience, the humanism that he brings to his music is everything that I want,” says Colbert.

With his soulful brand of high-energy pop mixed with New Orleans funk and American jazz standards, his 2013 album Social Music with his band Stay Human topped the charts as the No. 1 jazz album in the world. His new album was recorded in a church in native city of New Orleans and produced by T Bone Burnett. Batiste’s major label debut, Hollywood Africans, is a stunning showcase of the brilliant pianist and vocalist. Primarily just Batiste and his piano, it includes standards, unexpected covers and original songs. This release displays Batiste’s dynamic talents and highlights his musicality and virtuosity on his instrument.

The Forbes 30 under 30 honoree balances a demanding performance schedule—which often includes his signature, impromptu ‘love riot’ street parades—with his role as bandleader on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Artistic Director At Large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, public speaking engagements, master classes and occasional acting gigs. He played himself on the HBO series Treme and most recently appeared in director Spike Lee‘s Red Hook Summer.

Batiste is also a coveted artist brand ambassador– currently featured in ad campaigns for Chase Bank, the Apple Watch, Lincoln Continental and numerous fashion brands including Polo Ralph Lauren Black Label, Frye, Kate Spade, Jack Spade Barneys, Nordstrom and H&M.

For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 9, 2019.

Jeff Goldblum and The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra

Jeff Goldblum, photo by Universal Music Paridukovic, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Jeff Goldblum, photo by Universal Music Paridukovic, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Jeff Goldblum is a man of many talents. The Academy Award-nominated actor reveals his jazz piano skills with his longtime jazz quintet The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures  on Sat., Nov. 3,  at 8 p.m. at UCSB Campbell Hall.

“The bass, sax and drums complement Goldblum’s piano prowess and electric personality for a high-energy traditional jazz music performance that brings the audience to its feet, while Goldblum’s quirky, intelligent and suave humor makes for a hilarious and captivating evening. Goldblum’s fans will delight in his banter, games and selfies as he works the room,” according to A&L.

“You haven’t truly heard your name until you’ve heard Jeff Goldblum say it,” Los Angeles Magazine says. “The 65-year-old actor loves savoring–and sometimes butchering–names when he works the room at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz. Goldblum’s signature, oft-imitated speaking style has a bebop quality: a swingin’ rhythm and distinct musicality, punctuated with those jazzy ‘uh’s and ‘um’s.”

While Goldblum and his jazz band have been making weekly appearances at Rockwell for years, only recently has he decided share this insiders’ club experience with those of us a bit father afoot. On his first-ever formal tour with The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, Jeff Goldblum will bring that intimate jazz club experience to Santa Barbara. The music is first-rate jazz, but if part of the appeal is to get some of that Jeff Goldblum charm, we suggest that you don’t stray too far during intermission.

For Tickets/Info call 805/893-3535,  or visit ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on November 1, 2018.

Legacies: The Lasting Impact of Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain addresses UCSB Arts & Lectures supporters at the sold out benefit event at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. Photo by Kathryn Grace.

Anthony Bourdain addresses UCSB Arts & Lectures supporters at the sold out benefit event at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. Photo by Kathryn Grace.

The tragic death of Anthony Bourdain hit fans around the world like a shockwave, and particularly those in Santa Barbara, where just one month earlier he made one of his last public appearances at a sold-out benefit for UCSB Arts & Lectures to raise funds for core programs and educational outreach.

Without an inkling of how special the night would become in retrospect, I was honored to enjoy Bourdain’s raw and unfiltered presentation offering entertaining life lessons and anecdotes from the kitchen and on the road. The renowned food personality, award-winning journalist and internationally-acclaimed raconteur delighted all of us with a colorful discussion of his unlikely rise from being “42 years old, completely broke-ass, standing in a kitchen dunking French fries,” to doing what he considers the greatest job in the world, where “life does not suck.” 

 

Anthony Bourdain, photos by Kathryn Grace.

Anthony Bourdain, photos by Kathryn Grace.

The irony of his suicide was not lost on those who attended, but the legacy of his generosity, way with words and openness to new experiences also lives on. He inspired us to travel with passion, eat with gusto, drink with strangers and connect with our fellow human beings. In death, as in life, Anthony Bourdain brought us closer together.

 

Event Planner Tamara Jensen, Anthony Bourdain and A&L Ambassador Sherry Villanueva. Photo by David Bazemore, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Event Planner Tamara Jensen, Anthony Bourdain and A&L Ambassador Sherry Villanueva. Photo by David Bazemore, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s OK. The journey changes you; it should change you … You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” —Anthony Bourdain

 

A&L supporters Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin and Sara Miller McCune with Anthony Bourdain. Photo by David Bazemore, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

A&L supporters Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin and Sara Miller McCune with Anthony Bourdain. Photo by David Bazemore, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

“Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.” —Anthony Bourdain

Participating local chefs with Anthony Bourdain. Photo by David Bazemore, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Participating local chefs with Anthony Bourdain. Photo by David Bazemore, courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom … is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” —Anthony Bourdain

 

Leslie Dinaberg

This story was originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott, photo by Sam Lamott.

Anne Lamott, photo by Sam Lamott.

Beloved author Anne Lamott is known for addressing complex subjects like addiction, motherhood, and faith with humor and uncompromising honesty. Her wise perspective has turned her books like Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird into well-worn handbooks for millions of readers who revel in her joyously messy take on life.

As the New York Times described Lamott, she is, “a writer who has perfected the art of saying the unsayable.” She doesn’t try to sugarcoat the sadness, frustration and disappointment, but tells her stories with honesty, compassion and a pureness of voice.

UCSB Arts & Lectures presents an evening with Anne Lamott on Tuesday, April 24, at 7:30 p.m. at The Granada Theatre, 1214 State St., Santa Barbara.

An inductee of the California Hall of Fame, a Guggenheim Fellow and the subject of a documentary by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, Lamott ventures to explore where to find meaning in life. Her latest book Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, will be available (with others) for purchase and signing.

For tickets and information, call 805/893-3535, www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu or The Granada Theatre at 805/ 899-2222 or granadasb.org.

 —Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on April 20, 2018.