DANVILLE — In his first year as director of Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, Steven A. Hoffman has noticed what’s around him in the student body.
It’s the iPod generation, as New Yorker magazine music critic Alex Ross once dubbed it: young adults who load wide varieties of music into their MP3 players from rock to classical to hip-hop to county to jazz and traditional music, and they let it all mix together.
The kind of audience that appreciates that variety is reflected in the Norton Center’s 2011-12 season, the first one programmed entirely by Hoffman, who came to Danville in July 2010.
Highlighting the lineup are hip violin virtuoso Hahn-Bin, bluegrass stars Dailey and Vincent, a ballet version of Moulin Rouge from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, jazz star Stanley Jordan and his trio, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw singing a brand-new work by Maria Schneider.
Hoffman points out that 20 of the 21 acts playing the center’s 1,400-seat Newlin Hall and 350-seat Weisiger Theatre are Norton Center debuts. (A touring version of Fiddler on the Roof will return, and Hoffman says Upshaw has played the center before, but not with that program.)
“I may not have intentionally programmed that many debuts,” Hoffman says. “But I think I was trying to make a statement.
“People were really asking for new shows because the No. 1 piece of feedback I was getting was, ‘We want fresh and new programming.’
“From a college element, it can be like a Performing Arts 101 because you have a lot of different elements.”
The new lineup is geared toward performing arts connoisseurs.
The most notable departure from previous Norton Center seasons is the absence of blockbuster classical music talent like the New York Philharmonic or conductor Gustavo Dudamel.
Gone along with them are three-figure ticket prices, which used to come with those shows. The top ticket this year is $75.
“We’ve scaled back on some of the star power so we can charge prices that will allow people to see more shows,” Hoffman says. “Instead of just one, maybe you can come see two or three. If you used to go to five shows, maybe you can afford seven or eight.”
The season is also structured into just two series: the Newlin Hall Series and “Club Weisiger.” From those, patrons can build series in any number and combination of six or more shows they want. The benefit to people who buy more will be better prices and seat selection.
“We realize people have soccer games and trips and don’t necessarily want to see everything,” Hoffman says. “And people may be interested in seeing combinations we may have never thought of putting in a prepackaged series.”
The “reimagined” season, as publicity materials call it, is a departure and risk for the center.
A positive sign Hoffman has already seen is that though the Norton Center did not release its lineup until Thursday, Dailey and Vincent posted the Danville date on their website a couple months ago. The center has been receiving a steady stream of calls about it.
Hoffman is also optimistic that the reimagined Weisiger Theatre programming, which used to lean on small classical ensembles, might yield some big response with artists such as Jordan, Hahn-Bin and former Mavericks frontman Raul Malo and his band.
“I didn’t budget to sell out every show,” Hoffman says. “But I’m thinking that when people see that they can see some of these stars in a 350-seat theater, they’ll say, ‘I’ve got to go.”
Here’s the season:
All shows Mon.-Thurs. will be at 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m.; and Sunday shows at 4 p.m.
Newlin Hall series
Sept. 9: Robert Cray Band and Shemekia Copland Band, blues
Sept. 23: The Hills Are Alive by the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orchestra, music from The Sound of Music mashed with rock, hip-hop, gospel and country
Oct. 5: Viva Brazil with the Luciana Souza Trio, Brazilian music
Oct. 22: Actress Cloris Leachman, one-woman show about her life and career
Nov. 1: Yamato: The Drummers of Japan
Nov. 4: Dailey and Vincent, bluegrass
Nov. 18: Ballroom With a Twist, featuring performers from Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance?
Dec. 2: Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie, folk
Jan. 13: “Tschaikowski” St. Petersburg State Orchestra
Feb. 10: L.A. Theatre Works presents The Rivalry, a dramatization of the Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debates
March 4: Fiddler on the Roof, musical
March 10: Diavolo Dance Theatre
March 27: Moulin Rouge: The Ballet by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet
April 5: Brentano String Quartet
April 13: Australian Chamber Orchestra featuring Dawn Upshaw, soprano
April 17: We Are What We Eat, lecture by author-researchers Marion Nestle and Dr. Daphne Miller
Sept. 30: Hahn-Bin, violin
Nov. 30: Raul Malo Band
Jan. 28: Stanley Jordan Trio, jazz
March 15: Geri Allen and Timeline, jazz, featuring tap dancer Maurice Chestnut
May 7: Portland Cello Project, eclectic string music