Beginning in 1999, Seven Days of Opening Nights have been a staple of Florida State arts education. With the initial goal to provide important and professional experiences through master classes, question and answer sessions and lectures, Opening Nights has evolved into an annual series of performances from October through April featuring an eclectic mix of musical acts, dance, theater, creative writing, film and visual arts.
Most recently changed to the Opening Nights Performing Arts Series, this year’s lineup promises to be one of the most exciting yet.
“We are pleased to present a spectacular lineup that includes top artists, many of whom will make Opening Nights their only stop in Florida or the Southeast,” executive director of Opening Nights, Christopher Heacox said. “In addition to the outstanding performances, education and community engagement are vital to our mission as arts presenters in the Big Bend community, and we are excited to introduce new programs this year.”
While Opening Nights now spans seven months, the two-week festival in February with which the annual event first spawned, remains its primary attraction. This iteration highlights banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, violinist Joshua Bell and Orange is the New Black author and activist Piper Kerman.
Oct. 27 – Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge, 9 p.m., Club Downunder: $25; free for FSU students.
The collaboration of these two guitarists was founded in the roots of acoustic music, improvisation and spontaneous composition of music on their 1939 Martin guitars. Lage was the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary, Jules at Eight, while Eldridge, a member of the Punch Brothers, has worked with musical greats such as Fiona Apple, Paul Simon, Marcus Mumford and Justin Timberlake.
Nov. 1 – The Best of Christopher Guest Film Festival, 2 p.m. “A Mighty Wind,” 4 p.m. “Best in Show,” 7:30 p.m. “Waiting for Guffman,” Challenger IMAX Theatre: $30 for All-Access Pass that includes admission to all three films and free popcorn refill (offer valid until Nov. 1); $10 each for first two films, $15 for the “Waiting for Guffman” showing that includes discussion panel. Known for pioneering the “mockumentary,” Christopher Guest is one of the greatest comedy directors of our time. With a dynamic writing team and stellar cast, these three films are his biggest hits on the big screen.
Nov. 6 – Sierra Hull, 7:30 p.m., The Carriage House at Goodwood Museum: $35.
Hull is a 22-year-old bluegrass instrumentalist/singer/songwriter who creates a new sound by incorporating country, western swing and popular music. She has performed at the White House, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall, to name a few.
Nov. 10 – Jake Shimabukuro, 7:30 p.m., Opperman Music Hall: $45.
Shimmabukuro had more than 13 million views on YouTube for his song “Ukulele Weeps,” a cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” He has appeared on “Today,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Conan” playing covers such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Nov. 19 – The Hot Sardines, 7:30 p.m., Opperman Music Hall: $40 or $15.
Inspired by the sound of wartime Paris, The Hot Sardines’ roots run deep into jazz and songs of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. The group has a Parisian front woman, “Miz Elizabeth” Bourgol, alongside a tap dancer, brass lineup and rhythm section led by a stride piano.
Nov. 25 – David Sedaris, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $60, $45, $30 or $15.
Sedaris is a New York Times best-selling author who has mastered the art of satire and humor. His most recent bestseller, “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” was nominated for Best Spoken Word Album at the Grammy Awards. Sedaris has seven million copies of his books in print and has work regularly appear in The New Yorker.
Dec. 3, 4 – Song of the Jasmine: Ragamala Dance and Rudresh Mahanthappa, 8 p.m., Nancy Smith Fichter Dance Theatre: $35 or $15.
Deeply rooted in South Indian tradition, “Song of the Jasmine” adds to the discussion of American identity through music and dance. With poetry, South Indian classical dance and a hybrid orchestra, Ragamala Dance and Rudresh Mahanthappa take the audience on a spiritual and emotional journey into the Indian psyche.
Dec. 13 – Big Band Holidays: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Special Guest Cécile McLorin Salvant, 8 p.m., Lee Hall: $65 or $15.
Now in it’s fourth year, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra captures the spirit of the winter holiday season with “Big Band Holidays.” Under the direction of Marsalis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer/trumpeter, the concert will feature classic Yuletide favorites with hints of swing, New Orleans flavored nuances, soulful church sounds, and more. Salvant is the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition winner and one of the most commanding new voices in jazz.
Feb. 4 – Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!, 8 p.m., Turner Auditorium: $45, $30 or $15.
Written by Gerald Alessandrini and co-directed with Phillip George, this award-winning satire has run off-Broadway for more than 25 years. In 2006, Alessandrini and the show were awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theater. With numerous versions, parodies and editions, “Alive and Kicking” features old favorites and new hits.
Feb. 5 – Gregory Porter with special guest Avery*Sunshine, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $55, $40, $25 or $15.
Fusing jazz, R&B and pop, Grammy Award-winning baritone Gregory Porter is renowned for his relatable and emotional songwriting and melodious hooks. Avery*Sunshine’s gospel-bred vocals help her connect with the audience through her soulful and therapeutic songs.
Feb. 6 – Vijay Iyer Trio, 7:30 p.m., Opperman Music Hall: $45 or $15.
Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer wants to reimagine what music can do in the world. With a degree in mathematics and physics from Yale and an interdisciplinary doctorate in music cognition from Berkeley, Iyer “crosses intellectual and artistic boundaries.” The Los Angeles Times hailed his latest album, “Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project,” as the No. 1 Jazz Album of the Year.
Feb. 7 – Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $55, $40, $25 or $15.
Also known as The Trocks, this unique ballet parodies the clichés of romantic and classical ballet while enhancing the spirit of dance as an art form. Men dance all the parts and prove that they can dance en pointe. The company has performed on ABC News and for the Prince of Wales on the “Royal Variety Show.”
Feb. 8 – The Knights with Béla Fleck, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $65, $50, $35 or $15.
Béla Fleck is a Grammy Award-winning banjo virtuoso who has reinvented the sound of the banjo in a career that has taken him all over the musical map. The Knights are an orchestral collective that have a passion for musical discovery. Together, they are planning a thrilling cross-genre program that will captivate audiences, including the Florida premiere of Fleck’s banjo concerto “The Impostor.”
Feb. 9 – The Time Jumpers featuring Dawn Sears, Vince Gill, Kenny Sears, and Ranger Doug Green, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $65, $50, $35 or $15.
The Time Jumpers are a country music ensemble that was established in Nashville in 1998. With a start at the Station Inn on slow Monday nights, soon their talents were bringing in larger crowds that included the ears of big stars like Bonnie Raitt, Reba McEntire, Norah Jones, The White Stripes, Kings of Leon, Jimmy Buffet and Kelly Clarkson.
Feb. 10 – Piper Kerman, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $35 or $15.
Most known for the Netflix spinoff of her memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison, Kerman travels across the country talking to people about the 15 months she spent in prison for her role in drug trafficking 10 years earlier. The memoir tells the stories of the women she met and the issues she faced while in prison and after prison.
Feb. 11 – Cameron Carpenter, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $45, $35, $25 or $15.
Carpenter is the first organist ever nominated for a Grammy Award for a solo album. From classical works, original compositions and collaborations with jazz and pop artists, Carpenter is determined to break the stereotype of organists and organ music. This will be the Florida premiere of Carpenter’s International Touring Organ.
Feb. 12 – The King’s Singers, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $50, $40, $25 or $15.
Spot-on intonation, impeccable vocal blend, flawless articulation and incisive timing make this ensemble a global sensation. With more than 150 recordings, the group joined the Gramophone Hall of Fame in 2013 and are two-time Grammy Award-winning artists.
Feb 13 – Bhangra ‘n’ Brass: Dirty Dozen Brass Band & Red Baraat, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $50, $40, $25 or $15.
Dirty Dozen is constantly touring in the U.S. and in more than 30 other countries on five continents sharing New Orleans brass and funk with the masses. Red Baraat’s genre-bending sound incorporates North Indian Bhangra rhythms with elements of jazz, go-go, brass funk and hip-hop. The two come together for Bhangra ‘n’ Brass.
Feb. 13 – Mar. 29 – Museum of Fine Arts, Opening Ceremony Feb. 13, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.; regular hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. (M-F) and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Sat-Sun), Museum of Fine Arts at Florida State University: free.
Kurt Piehler’s WWII Institute Exhibition “The Human Experience” will feature photographs, images, artwork and letters that document the war. Special events include the World War II Writer’s Weekend, as well as a reading of the unpublished love letters of the World War II generation by Florida State student-veterans. Patrick Rowe will showcase his collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bill Mauldin editorial cartoons and WWII propaganda posters and flags. The collection includes historical flags, unusual memorabilia, paintings, drawings and prints.
Feb. 13 – Mar. 1 – Ragtime, Richard G. Fallon Theatre: $20, $18 or $10.
This four-time Tony Award-winning musical presented by the School of Theatre at Florida State is set in New York City and follows three American families whose lives are influenced by the social issues of the era. An African-American family, a Jewish immigrant family, and a wealthy, suburban family are united through love, loss, courage and hope for the future.
Feb. 14 – Saturday Matinee of the Arts: For the Love of the Arts, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tallahassee Museum: free.
This event has a lineup of visual and performing arts, including live music on the outdoor stage. Dance performances range from ballet to flamenco, while artists showcase paintings, pottery and jewelry. The whole family can partake in a Valentine’s Day-themed event with crafts and treats.
Feb. 14 – PRISM, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $35 or $15.
Featuring music students from Florida State’s top-ranked College of Music, PRISM is a “gem among music lovers” that offers a unique experience to the audience. Covering the spectrum of Florida State’s band activities – Chamber Winds, Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensembles and the Marching Chiefs, to name a few – PRISM also performed at the 2013 BCS National Championship game.
Feb. 15 – A Movie You Haven’t Seen, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $35 or $15.
This annual film presentation will be a cinema experience selected from the film festival circuit that is appropriate for all audiences. In an effort to inspire, entertain and educate, a panel discussion with industry professionals will follow the featured film.
Feb. 15, 16 – Nellie McKay, Feb. 15, 2 p.m., Pebble Hill Plantation: $100; Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m., The Carriage House at Goodwood Museum: $35.
McKay, a musical mixture of cabaret and pop, has a melodious charm with socially conscious lyrics. Her music has been featured on hit TV shows like “Weeds,”“Grey’s Anatomy,” “NCIS,”“Privileged,” “Nurse Jackie,” and “Mad Men.” McKay, a woman of many talents, is also an actor, writer and Broadway star with a Theatre World Award for her performance as Polly in “The Threepenny Opera.”
Feb. 28 – Joshua Bell, with the University Symphony Orchestra and Musical Director and Conductor Alexander Jiménez, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $85, $70, $55 or $15.
Bell’s stage presence and beautiful tone on the violin have brought him universal acclaim. A recipient of an Avery Fisher Prize and the New York Recording Academy Honors, Bell was the first person appointed as music director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra. Under Bell’s leadership, the orchestra’s first CD debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Classical chart.
March 2 – Danú, 7:30 p.m., Opperman Music Hall: $45 or $15.
Danú is one of the leading traditional Irish ensembles of today. Recognized worldwide for its standing room only appearances, it has performed around the globe and recorded nine critically acclaimed albums. The ensemble of eight features group members on flute, tin whistle, fiddle, button accordion, bouzouki and vocals. It has won numerous awards from the BBC and Irish Music Magazine.
March 16 – Miloš Karadaglić, 7:30 p.m., The Carriage House at Goodwood Museum: $35.
Karadaglic began playing the guitar at 8 years old and has grown into one of today’s most gifted classical guitar players. Whether it’s a non-traditional venue or large concert hall performance, Karadaglic’s passion for the guitar makes every performance an intimate experience.
March 19- Itzhak Perlman, violinist, with Rohan De Silva, pianist, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $95, $85 or $70.
The reigning virtuoso of the violin, Perlman is beloved for his charm, humanity and talent. He elevated to international fame with an appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” He has won four Emmy Awards, 15 Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Kennedy Center Honoree, Medal of Liberty, National Medal of Arts and numerous honorary degrees.
March 26 – Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey starring Jasmine Guy & The Avery Sharpe Trio, 8 p.m., Richard G. Fallon Theatre: $50 or $15.
Raisin’ Crane is in celebration and honor of the 1920’s Harlem Renaissance that featured Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois and others as the voice of a new generation of African-Americans. These voices and thoughts come together on stage with award winning actress, singer and dancer Jasmine Guy and the acclaimed Avery Sharpe Trio.
April 6 – Steep Canyon Rangers & Della Mae, 7:30 p.m., Ruby Diamond Concert Hall: $50, $35, $25 or $15.
Drawn together by their love of acoustic music, the Grammy Award-winning Steep Canyon Rangers adapt traditional bluegrass music that fits in today’s music. They have been featured on “Austin City Limits,” “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Today.” Della Mae is an all-female bluegrass group that has become a sensation in the music world for combining vocal, instrumental and songwriting talent.
Schedule and descriptions of events courtesy of Opening Nights Performing Arts Series.
Depending on your Opening Nights membership level, tickets go on sale Tuesday, Aug 12 and continue through Monday, Sept 15. Tickets for the general public go on sale Tuesday, Sept 16 at 11 a.m. This year introduces a new feature for students-RUSH tickets. $10 RUSH tickets will be available to students 24 hours before each event pending availability and limited to two RUSH tickets per student ID. For additional information and ticket purchasing, visit openingnights.fsu.edu.