Terell Stafford, seen during the 2019 Jazz Port Townsend workshop and festival, will appear again this year as Centrum brings its spring and summer programs online. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Terell Stafford, seen during the 2019 Jazz Port Townsend workshop and festival, will appear again this year as Centrum brings its spring and summer programs online. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Centrum plans virtual concerts, classes

Multiple cameras, live streaming add to unique events

PORT TOWNSEND — Centrum’s brave new world involves 20 cameras, 10 venues, the BoxCaster streaming system and hundreds of artists hungry to connect.

Executive Director Robert Birman announced open registration for the 2021 season of music, writing and youth workshops will go online this spring and summer. To register, go to Centrum.org.

After nearly five decades of live events at Fort Worden State Park, Centrum will present many kinds of traditional music, writers in several genres and a pair of youth workshops, all virtually.

Public concerts and readings are also on the horizon, with more to be announced in the coming weeks, Birman said.

Musicians across the continent “were just happy we’re still here,” said Gregg Miller, program manager of Jazz Port Townsend and the International Choro Workshop.

“We’re all learning how to do something worth doing,” he added.

“We still have the same level of faculty who are pretty remarkable,” and ready to teach master classes, special topics sessions and live-streamed performances.

Prices are considerably less than previous years. Participants won’t be paying for lodging and food, Birman noted, so tuition is as low as $100 for an under-21 student in the Acoustic Blues workshop.

Centrum, meantime, is looking to invest $364,000 in a technology system to broadcast classes and performances from multiple venues on the Fort Worden campus.

Half of that sum will come from an M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust grant, Birman hopes. He’ll find out Feb. 24 whether Centrum has won that award.

If it doesn’t come through, he said, Centrum has a number of other grants to pursue.

Birman noted, too, that BoxCaster, a system used by universities and live performance venues, is Centrum’s choice — not Zoom. The new system will not only broadcast workshops live, but also record classes for attending later. So this year’s participants won’t have to choose one over the other.

“You could actually attend every class for the first time ever,” he said.

Peter McCracken, veteran programmer for the Fiddle Tunes, Ukulele and Voice Works events, hopes to send camera crews to the homes of traditional musicians in North Carolina, Texas and New Mexico.

The whole idea is still cooking, he said, but McCracken envisions streaming visits to tradition bearers’ kitchens, say, to spend some quality time with people who won’t be traveling anywhere near Port Townsend this year.

As for the dances that are part of the Acoustic Blues and Fiddle Tunes gatherings at the fort, “we don’t know how we’re going to pull that off yet,” Birman said.

He added that Voice Works and the ukulele workshop are slated for the fall, when there’s a greater chance for safe in-person events.

Much of this relies on the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

At the advent of the pandemic a year ago, Centrum laid off 40 percent of its workforce, Birman said, and all of the teaching artists were deferred until 2021.

“Last summer, in July, when it would have been jazz week, I realized what I missed the most: People of all ages interacting with their musical heroes,” Miller said.

He believes it’s still possible online.

The 2021 season begins with youth programs and continues with music and writing workshops led by artistic directors Centrum has employed for many years.

The lineup follows. More information about scholarships, teaching artists and schedules can be found at Centrum.org.

Youth programs

• Explorations Online, March 1-5: A total learning environment with music, visual arts and writing for seventh- through ninth-graders, signup required by Feb. 24, tuition $65 with scholarships available.

• Water World Online, April 26-30: Fifth- and sixth-graders work in interactive science and art classes and labs, tuition $75, scholarships available.

Music and writing

• International Choro Workshop, April 17 and 24 and May 1: Dudu Maia is artistic director, tuition $250.

• Red Hot Strings, May 14-16: Matt Munisteri is artistic curator, $200 adults, $100 for participants younger than 21.

• Fiddle Tunes, July 2-5: Joel Savoy, artistic director, adult tuition $240, younger than 21 $120.

• Port Townsend Writers Conference, July 19-24: Sam Ligon is artistic director; full experience including morning intensives is $790; afternoon workshops, lectures and panels is $490. Every evening during the week, faculty members will give free public readings online.

• Jazz Port Townsend, July 26-30: John Clayton is artistic director of the 35-member faculty; open to musicians of high school age and older. Tuition $350.

• Port Townsend Acoustic Blues, Aug. 3-8: Jontavious Willis is artistic director; adult tuition $300, younger than 21 $100.


Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

Dancer and teacher Junious Brickhouse, seen in 2019, is among the dozens of nationally known artists who are part of Centrum’s workshops this spring and summer. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Dancer and teacher Junious Brickhouse, seen in 2019, is among the dozens of nationally known artists who are part of Centrum’s workshops this spring and summer. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

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