One of the first artists kicking off a series of events at Centrum will be fiddler Belen Escobedo, who will bring the Tejano fiddling genre to Port Townsend’s Fort Worden Park.
Starting July 4, and through Aug. 4, Centrum has a healthy stock of events, 11 of the 30 being free to the public. With the 240 artists coming through Fort Worden State park, it may be difficult which one to choose, but the staff at Centrum gives an inside scoop about who to not miss.
For those looking to satisfy their curiosity about flatfoot buck dancing, Thomas Maupin, who travels from Tennessee and whom the National Endowment for the Arts named a National Heritage Fellow, will dance during the Fiddles on the Fourth concert on July 4 at the McCurdy Pavilion at 1:30 p.m.
Tickets are $16, $26 and $32. Centrum provides free youth tickets for all its concerts for students aged 18 and younger.
In addition, there is a rare chance to see musicians from the Tejano fiddling genre. Tejanos are Mexican-Americans who live in southern Texas. Fiddler Belen Escobedo is a master of the disappearing artform and she will be boarding her first plane in order to reach Port Townsend. She and two of her fellow Tejano musicians will play during the Fiddle Tunes Finale at 1:30 p.m. July 7. General admission: $16, $26 and $32.
Following Fiddle Tunes is the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference. Each night of the conference from July 15-21 features a free reading session from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Wheeler Theater. For people who cannot make them all are advised to carve out time Tuesday and Saturday evenings. Tuesday features Melissa Febos, a former New York dominatrix and author of “Whip Smart” and the essay collection, “Abandon Me,” which The New Yorker called “mesmerizing.”
Saturday features Ilya Kaminsky. Kaminsky was born in Odessa, in Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived in the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the U.S. government.
The following week welcomes Jazz Port Townsend with artist faculty Jazzmeia Horn and George Cables. Horn, of New York, is a rising star who won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition in 2015. She is staying at Fort Worden State park with her children during the week. You may see her perform at the McCurdy Pavilion 1:30 p.m. July 28 or later that same evening during the Jazz in the Clubs concert series in the Fort Worden Chapel. The McCurdy performance tickets cost $32, $43, and $56. Clubs wristbands are $25 per night.
Cables, meanwhile, will be returning as a Jazz Port Townsend faculty member for the 35th time. Cables, 73, also of New York City, said Port Townsend “feels like home.” He has inspired and mentored many workshop participants who later became established musicians. He remembered seeing vocalist and pianist Diana Krall pass through the workshop in the late ‘80s. Following her time at Centrum, Krall wrote a letter to former Port Townsend mayor Barney McClure, who managed Jazz Port Townsend at the time.
“I wish to thank you for all your help and encouragement in P.Town,” he wrote. “The clinic was absolutely wonderful and I was very fortunate to be able to spend a week with such incredible players … To think a couple of months ago, I was ready to consider doing something else.”
Cables recently recovered from a surgery to amputate his left leg, but he does not seem to be letting it slow him down.
“I feel young,” Cables said.
Cables will perform during Jazz in the Clubs in the Chapel building at 10 p.m. on Friday and then 7:30 July 28 at the McCurdy Pavilion. That Pavilion concert tickets cost $28, $38 and $48.
The following week, will be Jontavious Willis, and Jimmy “Duck” Homes.
Willis grew up singing gospel music at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church with his grandfather. At the age of 14, he came across a YouTube video of Muddy Waters playing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and was hooked. He set his course on the blues and four years later he was playing on Taj Mahal’s stage. Willis will perform at 8 p.m. Aug. 3 in Fort Worden’s JFK building during the Blues in the Clubs concert series. (Wristband $25) He will then play at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 4 in the McCurdy Pavilion ($27, $40, $48) and then back in the “clubs” 9:15 p.m. Aug. 4 in the Wheeler Theater.
Holmes is a deep-roots folk blues musician who plays in the blues tradition described as American-primitivism. He was Influenced by Jack Owens and Skip James who were part of the Bentonia School of blues musicians influenced by Henry Stuckey. He is one of the oldest active purveyors of the Bentonia country blues tradition. Holmes’ first performance is during the “clubs” series at 8 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Wheeler Theater (wristband $25). He will then play at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 4 in the McCurdy Pavilion ($27, $40, $48) and then back in the “clubs” on at 9:15 p.m. Aug. 4. Rainshadow Recording studio within the Fort. Tickets and info at centrum.org.