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Green Summer

Weill Hall opens the wall for the season

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NIGHT ON THE LAWN The Green Center goes full Hollywood Bowl for its summer concert series.
  • NIGHT ON THE LAWN The Green Center goes full Hollywood Bowl for its summer concert series.

Since opening three years ago, the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University has hosted many compelling concerts in its acoustically immaculate Weill Hall. This weekend, the center kicks of its ambitious Summer Performance Series, with international headliners and legendary performers.

The center's new director of programming is Peter Williams. The former artistic director at Yoshi's jazz clubs in San Francisco and Oakland, Williams joined the Green Music Center last February. He likens Weill Hall, with its retractable back wall that opens out onto a massive lawn, to the famous Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

"I love the set-up for the summer shows," says Williams. "Sitting outside seeing a show, I think, is a great way to spend a summer evening."

Weill Hall opens July 4 for the first concert in the series, and it's a doozy. Broadway star Megan Hilty, best known for her work in the hit musical Wicked and for roles on television shows like Smash, is backed by the Santa Rosa Symphony for an all-American program followed by fireworks, to end the night with a bang.

Other highlights of the season include country star Martina McBride, actor-turned-crooner Kevin Spacey, Natalie Cole, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, Chris Isaak, Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers, Dwight Yoakam, Kristin Chenoweth and Smokey Robinson.

The show that Williams is most looking forward to is the center's inaugural Dawg Day Afternoon Bluegrass Festival on Sunday, July 12, featuring the David Grisman Sextet, the Del McCoury Band and Jerry Douglas presenting the Earls of Leicester. Named after Grisman's nickname "Dawg," the festival is soon to become a staple of the center's concert series, and Del McCoury couldn't be more pleased.

"I like it there, it's such a unique part of the country, a lot of great musicians there," says McCoury in an interview from his home in Nashville. McCoury's connection to the Bay Area goes back to his earliest days, when he played in Berkeley with Bill Monroe and briefly appeared in the Golden State Boys in the 1960s.

A veteran of festivals like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco, McCoury is enthusiastic to share the stage with old friends.

"Jerry [Douglas] produced several albums for me," says McCoury, "and I got to know David Grisman when he was just a teenager. I've known those guys forever. I'm looking forward to coming."

See the full lineup at gmc.sonoma.edu/Summer2015. To read the extended interview with Del McCoury, continue on to the next page.

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