Dance, Main Stage

Batsheva Dance Company Makes Its Long-Awaited Boston Debut with “Venezuela”

“One of the most fascinating dance makers on the planet.”
The New York Times

By: Alexandra Contreras

Considered one of the most fascinating dance makers on the planet by The New York Times, Ohad Naharin started as Artistic Director of the Israel-based Batsheva Dance Company in 1990 and has since created over 30 works for the company. Critically acclaimed and popularly embraced as one of the foremost contemporary dance companies in the world, Batsheva Dance Company maintains an extensive performance schedule locally and internationally with over 250 performances and approximately 100,000 spectators every year. And, despite the company having yet to perform in Boston, Celebrity Series audiences may recall Naharin’s astonishing choreography from our previous seasons: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed Naharin’s work, Minus 16, a collection of vignettes picked from his previous works, in both their 2013 and 2014 Boston engagements. This upcoming season, on April 5-6, we have the privilege of welcoming the 18 dancers of Batsheva Dance Company to the Boch Center Shubert Theatre stage with Naharin’s new evening-length work, Venezuela.

“The concepts, raw talent, and complex stories are all beautiful in their own one-of-a-kind ways – not even replicable from one act to the next.”

In Venezuela, Naharin and the dancers explore the dialogue and conflict between movement and the content it represents. Naharin created Venezuela in two 40-minute sections placed in juxtaposition; both acts have the same movement sequences, but other variables like music, lighting, energy, and performer intent may change. The Batsheva dancers, faithful to the Gaga movement language pioneered by Naharin, perform a dance that is essentially characterized by external movement covered in emotional passion. Venezuela also thrives on various cultural sources – Gregorian chants, coarse rap, ballroom aesthetics, innuendo and more – and ends with a perplexing pile of contextual issues.

As Timeout described it, “Venezuela, with its wonderful dancers, is a fascinating and multifaceted piece that contains a surprise that remains with the viewer long after leaving the theater.”

Join us for this long-awaited Boston debut next spring! Tickets are currently available as part of a subscription package. Learn more.

The Dance Series is sponsored by the Stephanie L. Brown Foundation, the Cynthia & John S. Reed Foundation and the Royal Little Family Foundation. Additional support for this engagement is provided by the Consulate General of Israel to New England


Arts for All

Thank you for Take Your Seat!


Conservatory Lab Charter School students backstage at Canadian Brass at NEC’s Jordan Hall in November 2017. Pictured at top in the hall before the performance.

Take Your Seat, one of Celebrity Series’ Arts for All! suite of community engagement programs, provides free and deeply discounted tickets to Celebrity Series performances to thousands of young people, their teachers, and families annually, partnering with school and community groups within the city of Boston. For many of these young people, Take Your Seat offers opportunities they might not otherwise have to experience high caliber performing artists in some of our city’s major performance halls. This season alone, over 4,300 participants have attended 63 performances, from orchestras to dance to chamber music, and more.

Celebrity Series receives support for Take Your Seat from First Republic Bank and many generous individual and institutional supporters. On behalf of the many young people we serve, all of us at Celebrity Series thank you. Your support makes extraordinary experiences possible!


“Thank you so very much for offering the tickets for this concert.
My students were truly blown away. After every piece they would
turn and look to me with pure joy and amazement.  It was an unforgettable
and transformative evening, without a question!”
-Chris Schroeder, Director of Community Engagement
Conservatory Lab Charter School, Dorchester


Big Sister and Little Sister at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, March, 2018


In the balcony at the Boch Center Wang Theatre for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, March, 2018


“I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity your donation of tickets offered our community. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance this past weekend was truly inspirational, and the effects are lingering within our dance studios. These performances will truly continue to resonate and I am a firm believer in how one performance can shape a young dancer’s career. Your support, and the support of Celebrity Series Boston, continues to inspire our dancers and I’m sure, after Friday’s performance, some are inspired to become future Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater members. Thank you!”

– William McLaughlin, Dance Department Chair
Boston Arts Academy




Celebrity Series of Boston’s strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency have earned it a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator. This is the third time that Celebrity Series of Boston has earned this top distinction in the last four years.

Since 2002, using objective analysis, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating. In 2011, Charity Navigator added 17 metrics, focused on governance and ethical practices as well as measures of openness, to its ratings methodology.  These Accountability & Transparency metrics, which account for 50 percent of a charity’s overall rating, reveal which charities operate in accordance with industry best practices and whether they are open with their donors and stakeholders. On June 1, 2016, Charity Navigator upgraded their methodology for rating each charity’s’ financial health with CN 2.1. These enhancements further substantiates the financial health of Charity Navigator four star charities.

“Celebrity Series of Boston’s exceptional 4-star rating sets it apart from its peers and demonstrates its trustworthiness to the public,” according to Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “Only a quarter of charities rated by Charity Navigator receive the distinction of our 4-star rating. This adds Celebrity Series of Boston to a preeminent group of charities working to overcome our world’s most pressing challenges. Based on its 4-star rating, people can trust that their donations are going to a financially responsible and ethical charity when they decide to support Celebrity Series of Boston.” Continue Reading

Main Stage

Sound? Check! Meet Steve Colby

Engineering a Great Listening Experience for Celebrity Series’ Audiences at Sanders, Symphony & More

Sound engineer Steve Colby enters the room with an unassuming air. His humble manner does not reveal his years of experience cultivating soundscapes for events such as the Boston Pops 4th of July celebrations on the Esplanade, orchestra mixing for Barbra Streisand’s “Back To Brooklyn” tour, countless Celebrity Series concerts, and a myriad of other events.

In fact, he’s happiest when audiences don’t notice him.

“The whole spirit of sound engineering is that we help performances in ways that audiences don’t notice,” he revealed during a recent sit-down in between performances at Celebrity Series’ Stave Sessions contemporary music festival.

Steve Colby at Stave Sessions at 160 Mass Ave.

Steve not only mixes sound at Stave Sessions, but he is also the lead sound engineer for a number of other Celebrity Series performances throughout the season, including events at Sanders Theatre and Symphony Hall. In short, if a performance needs amplification, Steve is the go-to guy.

“Sanders is a great place to play as an artist,” says Steve. “But that reverberant space is sometimes a problem for audiences due to the echoes off of all of the natural hardwood surfaces.”

Steve and Sarah Cronin, Senior Manager of Performance Operations, got creative and started adding as much dampening fabrics and effects to the venue as practical starting with area rugs and curtains on the stage itself.

To help improve the sound across the entire hall, Steve tries to point the speakers directly at softer surfaces like at the audience members themselves. If the sound is allowed to bounce off the high dome or the walls, it rebounds and creates a muffled sound to a listener’s ears. Both Steve and Sarah note that a full house makes for a much better aural experience because there are many more soft surfaces sounds can hit.

During sound check when the room is empty, it’s more difficult to plan for what the hall will sound like once it’s filled with audience members. Sometimes artists are concerned with the amount of echo they hear in an empty hall. However, throughout his years of working with artists and their touring crew, Steve is able to patiently explain the differences in an empty performance space versus how it will sound in live performance in order to calm their nerves or adjust expectations in the moment. Continue Reading

Arts for All

Sound Sculpture with the Mattapan Teen Center

“What I learned from this project is that music is not just vocal, it’s not just instruments, it could be anything around you.” – Kamara from the Mattapan Teen Center

Throughout the year, Celebrity Series partners with Boston communities and local artists to bring artistic opportunities to young people through the Neighborhood Arts program. This year’s SHINE! Gala showcased a special collaboration between the Mattapan Teen Center and local artists Ryan Edwards and Devin Ferreira with “Sound Sculpture.” Watch this behind the scenes video and hear from those young people about how this exciting performance experience has shaped and changed their lives!

Interested in supporting projects like this? Your support can really make a difference.

Arts for All, Boston Community, Neighborhood Arts

Celebrity Series of Boston to Receive $15,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $80 million in grants as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018. Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $15,000 to Celebrity Series of Boston for the Neighborhood Arts program in 2018-19, including activities led by composer/percussionists Ryan Edwards and Maria Finkelmeier and by the Soul Yatra trio (pictured above), comprised of Mike Block (cello), Sandeep Das (tabla), and Shaw Pong Liu (violin/erhu).

The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

“The variety and quality of these projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as Celebrity Series of Boston, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.” Continue Reading

Main Stage

Tracing Artistic Legacy from 1938 to Today: An Interview with Celebrity Series Artistic Programmer Amy Lam

For 80 years, Celebrity Series has been a tastemaker and curator of artistry, bringing some of the world’s greatest performing artists to Boston. When you dive into the robust history of the Series and its humble beginnings in 1938, you begin to understand the threads of continuity that run throughout the organization, connecting founder Aaron Richmond to the programming that happens to this day.

When Richmond founded the Celebrity Series in the late 1930s, he was a one-man shop. He programmed the season, booked the artists, rented the venues, and sold all of the tickets. He would gather his wife and young daughter around the kitchen table to process the mailed-in subscriptions, overwhelming their home with hundreds of paper orders.

The first-ever Celebrity Series concert offered, which took place on October 9, 1938, was the Don Cossack Choir of Serge Jaroff, a men’s chorus of exiled Cossacks who found a new home in America as the threat of WWII loomed ahead. That same season, on December 4, 1938, Richmond presented famed African-American contralto Marian Anderson in recital. This concert took place just four months before her widely acclaimed performance at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1939. She would go on to sing with the Celebrity Series a staggering 16 more times, including her Farewell Tour in 1964.

Ever since its very first season, the Series has provided the people of Greater Boston with innumerable opportunities to experience both present and future stars of the stage – artists who energize and transform entire genres.

Amy Lam, Celebrity Series of Boston Artistic Programmer. Photo by Robert Torres.

After Aaron Richmond’s death in 1965, Executive Director Walter Pierce led the organization from 1965-1996 and hired a young arts administrator as his assistant, Amy Lam. Lam took over all concert programming in 1996, and over the past 22 years has emerged as an influential and respected programmer. Her carefully planned seasons earn praise from the Boston arts community, critics, and audiences alike.

Times have changed since 1938. Lam doesn’t program a season from her kitchen table, and the Series engages a full-time staff to manage marketing and ticketing logistics. But one key thing ties her to founder Aaron Richmond—the ability to build trust with an audience.

“Many audience members tell me that every year they look through the season offerings and do some research online to check out a few new things that sound interesting before making their selections,” Lam says. “They tell me they trust the Celebrity Series to offer them something new and remarkable, which honestly to me, is incredibly gratifying and humbling.” Continue Reading

Jazz, Main Stage

“Listen, Let Go, and Have Fun”: An Interview with Violinist Johnny Gandelsman

On Saturday, May 19, Celebrity Series will present the brand new musical collaboration between groundbreaking jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman and genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider that explores new music by composers Patrick Zimmerli, Colin Jacobsen, Guillermo Klein, and an arrangement of “Veda” by Gabriel Kahane just for this group. Celebrity Series audiences will remember Brooklyn Rider from their debut performance on the inaugural year of our contemporary music festival Stave Sessions in 2015, and a return performance in 2016 with singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane. This performance will mark the Celebrity Series debut for Redman, who WGBH has called “an uncompromising creative spirit,” and who will be joined by all-star collaborators percussionist Satoshi Takeishi and bassist Scott Colley.

Johnny Gandelsman of Brooklyn Rider

Founding member of Brooklyn Rider, violinist Johnny Gandelsman, answered a few questions about this exciting new collaboration with Redman and offered some advice on working with other musicians. Read on to discover how they blended jazz and classical music to create a “new band,” and grab your tickets online here.

Celebrity Series: How did this collaboration with saxophonist Joshua Redman come about?

Johnny Gandelsman: A few years ago Josh came to us with the idea of recording an album of music written by Patrick Zimmerli for Josh, Sato [Takeishi, percussion], Scott [Colley, bass] and a string quartet, to be released on Nonesuch Records. We of course said yes – all 3 of those guys are incredible musicians, and Patrick’s music is beautiful, challenging and ultimately, very satisfying. This weekend’s shows mark the first time we are getting together to perform this material, so it will feel very special. Continue Reading

Arts for All, Public Art

What’s Next for Celebrity Series’ Public Performance Projects Initiative

Let’s Dance Boston 2015

Celebrity Series of Boston is continuing its commitment to bringing exciting public performance projects to the Boston community that encourage participation in the arts. As part of this effort, we’ve launched a nationwide search to find innovative and engaging public art initiatives to bring to the streets of Boston. Artists of all types are invited to submit project proposals that conceive the entire city as a canvas for participatory arts activities in an effort to promote the Celebrity Series’ vision to utilize the performing arts to enrich and transform lives and build better communities.

Celebrity Series launched its first public performance project in 2013 as part of our 75th anniversary celebration, and since then, we’ve engaged Bostonians in a number of successful events such as Street Pianos Boston, Le Grand Continental, and Let’s Dance Boston. The goal of these public performance projects has been to broaden the awareness of Celebrity Series’ activities by taking the artistic experience outside of traditional concert venues to public spaces throughout Boston.

“Our Public Performance Projects amplify our belief that everyone can participate in the arts and that live performance can happen anywhere – not just in the performance halls, but also on streets and in neighborhoods,” says Celebrity Series Executive Director Gary Dunning. “We are eager to build on the successes of our previous public projects, and encourage the development of new projects specifically for Boston. We are curious to see what artists might envision, and we’re excited that Celebrity Series can bring the performing arts to life for all Bostonians.”

Le Grand Continental 2014

To help us in our search, we’ve teamed up with public arts consultant Ricardo Barreto, who brings decades of experience working for a variety of cultural initiatives — among them the Urban Cultural Institute, The UrbanArts Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and more — as well as his own experience consulting for cultural nonprofit organizations in the United States, Mexico, and Europe.

What makes this call for new work so unique? With a rich perspective on the subject, Mr. Barreto answered a few of our questions on the importance of this Celebrity Series’ initiative. Continue Reading

Special Events

Thank You For Helping us SHINE!

Video by: Kristin Otharsson

Thanks to everyone who joined us for our SHINE! Gala, a shimmering evening celebrating the power of live performance in our community. Taking place at The Cyclorama last Saturday, April 28, the annual event brought patrons and community leaders together to applaud the artistic quality, variety, and diversity of the Celebrity Series of Boston. Relive the evening (or see what you missed!) in our recap video above!

A special thank you to our co-chairs,
Stephanie L. Brown and Ivana Magovčević-Liebisch. Continue Reading