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Director’s Chair column: Watching artists, musicians evolve

Kris Sabel
Director’s Chair
The Wailin' Jennys arrive at the Juno Awards in 2012. These rising stars are among the musicians that Vail Valley audiences will have a chance to see this month at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.
AP photo | FR170577 AP

One of the things I love about my job as executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center is watching artists grow, develop and evolve. Whether it’s musicians, comedians or actors — it’s fascinating to me.

I was reminded of this recently when I finally had the chance to watch the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Live.” (Thank goodness for DVR.) There’s no question that we, as viewers and patrons, feel a part of the “in” crowd when we discover an artist and stay with them as they explore different avenues of their career.

Think about it. It’s very cool to go back and laugh at one of the famed Coneheads sketches and then realize that one of the geniuses behind it, Dan Aykroyd, was nominated for an Oscar in 1989 for his touching performance in the film “Driving Miss Daisy.” Or watch in amazement at Jane Curtin sharing the Weekend Update anchor desk with the dynamic duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Ms. Curtin paved the way for so many comediennes and actresses. Many may not recall that she went on to win back-to-back Emmy Awards for her work in “Kate & Allie.” And then there’s Eddie Murphy, Jim Belushi, Chevy Chase and the list goes on and on.

The point is, we were there when they started. In a way, we shared in the discovery of each of them and their tremendous talent. Watching them evolve into blockbuster movie stars, record-breaking stand-up comedians and award-winning actors is pure joy. Who knows where Leslie Jones and Peter Davidson (current SNLers) will be in 10 years? We can’t say. But as fans and discoverers, we look forward to watching them and joining them along for the ride.

Yes, artists are constantly evolving. If they don’t, they quickly become irrelevant. Which is why it’s my pleasure to talk about two events coming to the VPAC in the next few weeks that feature artists who keep growing and finding new ways to entertain us.

Ever-growing and experimenting, this next duo has been pushing the boundaries of their musical collaborations for over two decades now. When you see Mike Marshall (a master of mandolin) and Edgar Meyer (a virtuoso of the bass) play on March 7, you recognize you are witnessing genius. Mike and Edgar are truly progressive in their artistry and are constantly changing the way audiences perceive their music. They weave a variety of music types into their play — classical, bluegrass, jazz and country — resulting in their very own unique creations.

If you’ve ever picked up a guitar, you already know that collaborating and having a “jam-session” can stir up your own solo creativity. Well that’s exactly the genesis of The Wailin’ Jennys, who play March 12. This singer-songwriter trio started as a happy accident when they got together for a one-time-only gig at a tiny guitar shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Ten years, four albums, numerous appearances on Garrison Keillor’s NPR show “A Prairie Home Companion” and sold-out concert venues later. … I know I wish I could’ve been there the moment the sparks flew to ignite and fuse this harmonious trio.

We hope you will join us at the VPAC for these events and more coming this spring. Experience the evolution of these artists in our intimate theatre where there’s not a bad seat in the house!

Kris Sabel is executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center.


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