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The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.


Conductor Tito Muñoz leads the Symphony San Jose in “American Masters” concerts that honor Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. (Photo courtesy Symphony San Jose)
Duke Ellington is one of four iconic American composers whose works make up the Symphony San Jose’s program this weekend. (Photo courtesy Symphony San Jose)

Made in America: Symphony San Jose is waving the Stars and Stripes high and proud with this weekend’s concert programs at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Conductor Tito Muñoz leads a classical, jazz, blues and Broadway-infused program titled “American Masters,” with featured works by four of our most iconic composers. Aaron Copland’s famed “Appalachian Spring,” which he wrote as ballet music for Martha Graham and for which he snagged a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 tops the list, followed by George Gershwin’s jaunty “An American in Paris” from 1928, which wound up as a remarkable 17-minute dance segment in the Oscar-winning film with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in 1951. An amazingly young Leonard Bernstein rings in next with his “On the Town (Three Dance Episodes),” written in 1944 when he was 26. The incomparable Duke Ellington closes out the program with his 1943 work for his Carnegie Hall debut, the three-movement jazz symphony “Black, Brown and Beige,” which he considered one of his most important compositions. Performance times are at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday; find tickets, $55-$115, at (408) 286-2600 or https://www.symphonysanjose.org/.


Boyz II Men bring their soulful R&B act to Davies Hall for concerts with the San Francisco Symphony. (Photo courtesy Boyz II Men)

Boyz will be boyz: It’s hard to measure the impact that R&B, pop and soul kings Boyz II Men — Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman — have had on the industry. The group, formed in Philadelphia in 1988, has a string of awards and achievements that stretches around the block and then some: four Grammys, nine American Music Awards, nine Soul Train Awards, three Billboard Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and more. They are so beloved in the City of Brotherly Love that there is a two-block long “boulevard” named for them that passes the high school where they first started practicing together in its acoustically pristine boys bathrooms! The trio comes to Davies Hall this weekend for a pair of concerts with the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Edwin Outwater. Expect to hear some of their biggest hits, including “On Bended Knee,” “End of the Road” and “I’ll Make Love to You.” The guys currently have a bracket contest on their website for fans to winnow out their best song ever. Check it out at https://BoyzIIMen.com/. Tickets for their 7:30 p.m. performances on Friday and Saturday are $99-$300 at https://www.sfsymphony.org/.


The legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Cal Performances for the first time in two years now through April 3. (Photo courtesy Dario Calmese/Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

Ground zero for dance fans: The Bay Area dance scene is pretty darned impressive all year round (well, except when there’s a pandemic going on; don’t you hate it when that happens?). And then you run into a jam-packed weekend like this. Throughout the Bay Area, there is a wide variety of performances to be savored by talented and iconic local and touring companies. In Berkeley, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to stage a Cal Performances residency for the first time in two years. From Wednesday through Sunday, the renowned New York company, which is celebrating Robert Battle’s 10th year as artistic director, will perform five programs featuring more than 20 works during seven recitals (tickets range from $37-$150; go to https://calperformances.org/). Meanwhile, San Francisco’s ODC/Dance company, celebrating its remarkable 50th anniversary, kicks off its annual “Dance Downtown” series on Thursday, featuring performances this weekend and next at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. There are two programs blending a pair of world premieres and favorite works by company founder Brenda Way ($25-$150; https://odc.dance/). In San Jose, New Ballet presents “Fast Forward,” a program in which company dancers perform brand-new works by such choreographers as Amy Seiwert, Duncan Cooper, Marika Brussel, Mariana Sobral and Dalia Rawson (7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Hammer Theatre Center; $10-$250; https://newballet.com/). And for those who like dances with meaty ideas, Robert Moses presents his latest thought-provoking multimedia work, “The Soft Solace of a Slightly Descended Lost Life (Suck It).” Performances are Friday through Sunday at San Francisco’s Presidio Theatre ($15-$45; https://www.robertmoseskin.org/). It’s a good idea to check your event’s website for COVID precautions before you go.


Famed singer Dianne Reeves will host the NEA Jazz Masters tribute concert at SFJazz on Thursday and perform at the venue Friday and Saturday. (Photo courtesy Dianne Reeves)

Jazz royalty: Since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts has been awarding Jazz Masters fellowships to musicians considered to have reached an “exceptionally high standard of achievement.” Besides the monetary award, the designation is considered one of the highest honors a jazz musician can receive. The 2022 awards will be celebrated on Thursday with a tribute concert at the SFJazz Center in San Francisco honoring this year’s recipients — bassist Stanley Clarke, drummer Billy Hart, singer Cassandra Wilson and saxophonist/educator Donald Harrison Jr. — and featuring such stars as singer Dianne Reeves (who’s also hosting the show), Jeremiah Collier, Joe Dyson, Ethan Iverson, Dan Kaufman, Salar Nader and more, as well as the SFJazz Collective. The 7:30 p.m. show is sold out but a late batch of tickets will be sold at the SFJazz Center box office 6-7 p.m. You can also livestream the show on the venue’s website, https://www.sfjazz.org/. It’s free but registration is required. Meanwhile, the sensational Reeves, a 2018 Jazz Master, will perform at SFJazz Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $50-$115. Proof of vaccination is required, and masks must be worn in the theater. Go to https://www.sfjazz.org/.


Chelsea Bearce and Danielle O’Hare star in “Escape From the Asylum” with Central Works theater company in Berkeley. (Photo courtesy Robbie Sweeney/Central Works)

The ‘Ladies’ are back: In 2019, Central Works theater company in Berkeley debuted a feminist mystery/comedy by playwright-in-residence Patricia Milton titled “The Victorian Ladies Detective Collective,” which centered on three 19th century London women who unite to catch a serial killer. The show marked Milton’s well-loved stage wit along with plenty of observations about what it’s like when women enter an occupation mostly populated by men. Two years later, Central Works has reopened for live shows with a “Victorian Ladies” sequel. Titled “Escape From the Asylum,” the show finds the members of the Collective investigating why a world-famous woman explorer has been committed to a notorious psychiatric hospital by her husband. Feminist comedy again comes front and center, but the show also addreses how female psychiatric patients are often treated differently than male patients. Gary Graves directs a cast that includes Chelsea Bearce, Alan Coyne, Danielle O’Hare and Jan Zvaifler. The production runs through April 17 at the Berkeley City Club. Proof of vaccination is required, and masks must be worn in the theater. Tickets are $22-$40. Go to http://centralworks.org/.

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