The Port Theatre’s Discovery Series returns to offer its stage to emerging artists from Vancouver Island.
The theatre’s executive director, David Warburton, said he was intrigued by the idea of supporting emerging talent since it was part of his work prior to moving to the Island.
“Discovery started during the pandemic when none of our spotlight shows could come in – this was before my time … But, from there, it was ‘how do we program?’ So they looked regionally instead of nationally or internationally,” he said.
The executive director said the series aims to entice local talent to remain on the Island instead of feeling like they need to move to a larger city to start their career.
“Discovery was, over the pandemic, just a standard presentation series with slightly different selected artist … And that’s not what I get most excited about… I get excited about the ways in which we can help [the artists] build and grow their platforms.”
The series will kick off on Nov. 30 with a double-billed show featuring Kenton Willem and Danielle Lebeau-Petersen.
The saxophonist, pianist, flutist and composer/arranger Willem, who prefers to go simply by Kenton, first developed his musical interests at 10 years old, and is now recognized throughout North America for his work and talent.
Notable accomplishments for the Nanaimo-raised performer include receiving a Downbeat Magazine Composition Award, winning California’s Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Soloist categories, and being awarded the full-tuition Jimmy Lyons Scholarship to Berklee College of Music.
Kenton will perform at the Port Theatre alongside one of his favourite pianists, Nick Peck, as a piano-saxophone duo.
“There will be a few jazz standards that Nick and I love to play together. And then a few of my original songs as well… It’ll be some original instrumental music, and there’s a possibility that I might sing something… I’ve learned a lot about myself during COVID, and I realized I am actually a bit of a songwriter as well,” he said, adding that he’s written lyrics since high school.
Kenton said as a child, he was actually more focused on the theory of music than the expression of it, which came later through exploration.
“I used my music theory knowledge to get good at improvising… which really fascinated me… and then later discovered that it can be really emotional and beautiful,” he said.
Following Kenton will be Lebeau-Petersen’s first Port Theatre appearance with her Joni Mitchell tribute called ‘Miles of Aisles’ – a performance she said she’s been nurturing for the last year.
Lebeau-Petersen will be joined on stage by bassist Phil Albert.
As a child, Lebeau-Petersen said she was exposed musically and emotionally to the late 1970s through her parents.
“I really developed a love for this time period and music, and an intimacy with it … As I matured as a woman and as an artist, I started to look at this time period for women in music. And I really noticed it as being a turning point for how women started to emerge and write songs and perform and start to take up more space… They started to have a much more vulnerable voice and a real voice,” she said.
According to the artist, tribute acts, by nature, are a commercial product in the music business that also offer viability and preservation.
“It’s also definitely about honouring the people on the ground floor experiencing this when it did come out,” she said. “When I was at the Islands Folk Festival in Duncan I was looking out and seeing all these women who I knew listened to Blue (Mitchell’s 1971 studio album), women in their fifties, sixties, seventies. And I was like, they were there and they listened to that music when it came out. And it was a very profound for me to see them re-experiencing that music through me … Tribute acts also help people look at their lives with an anchor of art if it came from a different time, and helps people think about their lives.”
Further information on the Nov. 30 shows can be found online at www.porttheatre.com.