Weill Hall at Sonoma State University's Green Music Center will host 34 musical events during the 2014-2015 MasterCard Performance Series, about 30 percent more than the previous season, the university announced Monday.
The 2014-15 season has dropped its prior focus on top-notch talents from the opera world. Instead, it offers an expanded selection of jazz, pop, world music and dance artists to complement such well-known classical musicians as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Murray Perahia.
“I wanted to help people open up their taste preferences by creating a series that offered new contrasts, resonances and balances,” said new Co-Executive Director Zarin Mehta, who started planning the season after being appointed in October 2013.
The season's opening gala on Sept. 28 stars American cabaret singer Michael Feinstein in a tribute to Frank Sinatra. The back wall of the hall will open up for the concert, providing additional seating on the lawn.
Other popular legends in the upcoming season include jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis and Broadway singer Audra McDonald, multimedia pioneer Laurie Anderson and vocalist Bobby McFerrin. World music artists range from sitarist Anoushka Shankar to the virtuouso dance group Tango Buenos Aires.
In booking the season, Mehta drew upon his long-time relationships with artists such as Shankar, the daughter of the late sitar master Ravi Shankar.
“I can look at the season and see people I've known and worked with for a long time,” he said. “We're creating a musical community here, a musical family, centered on this beautiful hall.”
Mehta, who is the younger brother of conductor Zubin Mehta, has strong ties in the classical world as well. Nearly half of the 2014-'15 season is devoted to either classical music or crossover artists such as virtuoso mandolist Chris Thile and bassist Edgar Meyer, who will perform together in the season's first concert on Sept. 19.