(WASHINGTON)—The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announces the 2021–2022 seasons for Comedy, Jazz, Hip Hop, NSO Pops, and Renée Fleming VOICES. These more than 120 performances announced for the Center’s 50th Anniversary season highlight the breadth and diversity of contemporary performance styles and traditions upheld by the National Cultural Center as it fully reopens following more than a year of disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From legends in their field to irreverent cultural critics and bold experimenters, what better way to signal who the Kennedy Center is as it enters its second half-century than with these seasons representing the very best in contemporary culture?,” asked Kennedy Center president, Deborah Rutter. “The artist is always at the core of what we do, and I cannot wait for audiences to join us throughout the year as these remarkable artists lead us to be entertained, provoked, and moved.”
Comedy at the Kennedy Center, a signature program focused on celebrating the genre as an art form, is pleased to welcome audiences back with some of the biggest names and most exciting rising stars in the comedy world today.
“We need comedy now more than ever,” said Matthew Winer, Director of Special Programming and Comedy. “These artists not only make us laugh, but give us a unique lens through which to see the world, and I am thrilled that we can once again come together to experience their hilarious genius.”
Due to popular demand, the first program in the Comedy season, Patton Oswalt Live: Who’s Ready to Laugh? has added a second show, which will go on-sale to Kennedy Center Members July 22 and to the general public on July 23.
Newly announced today, Emmy®–nominated television personality, podcaster, and hairstylist to the stars, Jonathan Van Ness, who can be seen starring on Netflix’s Emmy Award®–winning Queer Eye, takes to the Concert Hall stage in October. Then, in November, prolific magician/comedian Justin Willman will “amaze, delight, and shock you in a way that is sure to have your face sore from smiling” (Decider) with Magic for Humans in Person. And India’s highest-selling stand-up comedian, actor, and musician, Vir Das, who has sold over 1.5 million tickets across 36 countries, will return to the Concert Hall for one night only. In December, The Daily Show With Trevor Noahcorrespondent and one of the sharpest, fastest rising voices in comedy, Dulcé Sloan, will bring her fresh and honest perspective that speaks truth to power to the Terrace Theater.
Beginning December 28, in the Concert Hall, John Oliver, the Emmy® and Writer’s Guild Award–winning writer, comedian, and host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliverwill return to his first love, stand-up, which he has performed to sold-out audiences around the world.
In February 2022, cultural satirist and one of our most insightful social commentators, Fran Lebowitz, comes to the Kennedy Center with her signature acerbic views on current events and the media. In the spring, comedian, actor, and podcast host, Maz Jobrani, whose Netflix special Immigrant was filmed at the Kennedy Center in 2017, returns with his Things Are Looking Bright Tour. Then, Made in Puerto Rico, a show about family, music, and cultural identity in which former attorney-turned-comedian Elizardi “Eli” Castro will take Kennedy Center audiences on a journey through Puerto Rico, celebrating its people and cherished traditions.
As previously announced, comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host, Hasan Minhaj, will make his Kennedy Center debut with The King’s Jesterin November; in December, The Improvised Shakespeare Company will create a fully improvised masterpiece based on the audience suggestion of a play that has yet to be written; and direct from Broadway, Freestyle Love Supreme—the original hip hop musical phenomenon from Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Anthony Veneziale—returns to the Kennedy Center in May of 2022.
For a complete schedule of comedy at the Kennedy Center, click here.
In its 2021-2022 50th Anniversary Season—the 11th under Artistic Director for Jazz, Jason Moran—the Kennedy Center jazz program will present artists, intellectuals, and thought leaders who use their work to reflect on the past, present, and future of music and the country. This season focuses on jazz as a platform to help both artist and audience use music and performance as a dialogue to talk about the collective human experience.
“We welcome back the musicians, the audiences, the ushers, the security guards, the cooks, the janitors, the staff, the crew, and everyone else. Now is the time to reengage the music. Our ears are hungry for what is sure to be a powerful decade of music. Just as the 1920s birthed a cultural milestone called the Harlem Renaissance, I’m confident that the 2020s will live in future history as another cultural watermark,” said Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran. “The 2021–2022 Kennedy Center jazz season is filled with fresh ideas that will resuscitate aspects of our musical past and breathe life into the future of the genre. This kaleidoscope of ideas is shaped by each musician taking turns rotating the dial, spinning songs anew with each solo. ”
A centerpiece of the Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary season is the co-commissioned opera, Iphigenia, the collaborative work of 11-time Grammy Award®–winning composer, saxophonist, and Kennedy Center Honoree Wayne Shorter, and four-time Grammy Award®–winning bassist, composer, and vocalist esperanza spalding. With scenic design by architect Frank Gehry, a luminary creative force of his generation, the production will be directed by award-winning theater and opera director Lileana Blain-Cruz in its Washington, D.C. premiere in the Eisenhower Theater, December 10–11, 2021.
The Center will celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month with two events. First, the 14-piece ensemble, Mingus Big Band, will celebrate the centennial of the legendary composer and bassist Charles Mingus in the Terrace Theater, April 8, 2022. Then, MacArthur Fellow, award-winning pianist and composer, and Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz, Jason Moran, and Grammy Award®–winning pianist and producer Robert Glasper will come together to pay homage to the impact of the American art form for a one-night-only performance in the Concert Hall, April 16, 2022.
This season highlights the intersection of music and activism including Grammy Award®–winning pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill, his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, and virtuosic speaker, scholar, and activist Dr. Cornel West, bringing their groundbreaking collaboration, which touches on diverse subjects such as John Coltrane, the status of the arts, and our current political situation to the Terrace Theater, October 30, 2021. Saxophonist Jimmy Greene brings his quintet to the Family Theater in a night of reflection that serves to encourage the audience to look inward to find strength and peace and refuse to succumb to negativity, January 21, 2022. And finally, highlighting Black History Month, Grammy® Award-winning bassist and bandleader Christian McBride will present The Movement Revisited, a commemorative big band and vocal oratorio inspired by the written words and speeches of Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama in the Concert Hall, February 4, 2022.
The season will also see the return of some of the most popular annual jazz season highlights including:
- The sell-out holiday tradition, NPR’s A Jazz Piano Christmas, will spotlight jazz pianists Gerald Clayton and Eric Reed in the Terrace Theater, December 4, 2021. Additional pianist announced at a later date.
- The annual A Jazz New Year’s Eve celebration with returning favorites: NEA Jazz Master and award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves; pianist, bandleader, composer, and arranger Chucho Valdés; and Grammy®-winning saxophonist, composer, and arranger Joe Lovano.
- The Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival continues its mission to mark the influence of pianist, composer, educator, and humanitarian Mary Lou Williams (1910–1981) with two nights (May 6–7, 2022) of phenomenal guest musicians in its 25th anniversary celebration in the Terrace Theater. This year’s festival, hosted by Grammy® and Tony Award–winning singer-songwriter and NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater, will feature drummer Allison Miller and bassist Derrick Hodge in a tribute to Williams titled “Soul on Soul;” Grammy®–winning drummer, composer, and NEA Jazz Master Terri Lyne Carrington with her new ensemble Social Science in a presentation that blends jazz, indie rock, and hip hop to explore issues of racial and gender justice; and rounding out this celebration is ARTEMIS, featuring pianist and musical director Renee Rosnes, clarinetist and soprano saxophonist Anat Cohen, tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, bassist Noriko Ueda, and drummer Allison Miller.
- And finally, Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead, the Center’s annual two-week international career development program for aspiring jazz musicians returns from a two-year hiatus for its 22nd year. As the world emerges from the harshest restrictions of the pandemic, jazz students are inheriting a post-COVID jazz landscape and Jazz Ahead will seek to address their needs with hands-on guidance with the renowned Jazz Ahead faculty, sessions that will offer them useful insights for a career as a professional musician, and training that will prepare them for the fire of the stage (dates to be announced at a later date).
For a complete schedule of Jazz at the Kennedy Center, click here.
For the Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary Season, the Hip Hop Culture program leans into its programmatic mission to celebrate the genius of Hip Hop Culture and the communities that created it by highlighting important voices who have transformed contemporary society as well as those that will carry us into the future.
“By focusing on those who are deeply rooted alongside those that dwell at the intersection, we will explore the full range of Hip Hop’s breadth, depth, and aesthetics, sparking new understandings of hip hop’s vastness and possibilities.” said Artistic Director of Hip Hop Culture Q-Tip “As we reflect on hip hop’s crucial role in the American story as both a shaper and shifter of culture, we will highlight hip hop generation creators—uplifting their role as creative and cultural leaders, community catalysts, and powerful storytellers.”
The fall 2021 season kicks-off with the return of a Kennedy Center favorite: five-time Grammy Award®–winning pianist, composer, producer, and founding Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council Member Robert Glasper in his second two-week residency, from September 9–19, 2021 in the Club at Studio K at the REACH.
- The first week of the residency (Sept. 9–12) will explore the collaboration between Glasper and co-producer and Grammy Award®–winning creative partner Terrace Martin that led to the release of two critically-acclaimed EPs, Dinner Party and Dinner Party: Dessert, in Glasper & Martin Presents “Dinner Party” with DJ Jahi Sundance and friends. Glasper, Martin, and DJ Jahi Sundance will host an array of musical guests in the supergroup’s D.C. debut.
- The second week of the residency (Sept. 16–19) closes out with a black radio production by Glasper and Friends. For four evenings and eight eclectic sets, Glasper brings his award-winning and genre shattering brand—Black Radio, showcasing the very best in hip hop, jazz, R&B and soul with a host of special guests.
The For the Culture Artist Residency—a new Kennedy Center initiative—will uplift one of the core tenets of the Center’s Hip Hop Culture Program: celebrating the multi-hyphenate artist. The inaugural residency will feature one of hip hop’s vital cultural leaders and most respected acts, four-time Grammy Award®–winning band, and founding Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council members, The Roots. Exploring the full range of their creative expression, the two-year residency will include the presentation of work, performances, curatorial endeavors, activations, and humanities activities highlighting the legendary crew and its joint front men: acclaimed emcee, writer, actor, and artist Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter and award-winning drummer, DJ, producer, director, journalist, and best-selling author Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.
- On Saturday, October 9, Black Thought will host Streams of Thought, an intimate conversation with his artistic contemporaries where they discuss their art, inspiration, and creative consciousness in the Terrace Theater.
- On Saturday, November 13, Questlove will present a book talk and signing for his new book MUSIC IS HISTORY. Focusing on the years 1971 to the present, Questlove harnesses his encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and his deep curiosity about history to examine America over the last 50 years; revealing the pivotal role that American music plays around issues of race, gender, politics, and identity.
“What I love about our Fall 2021 Season and the 2021–2022 season at large is that we are working with creative visionaries, multi-hyphenates, and artistic leaders who not only build worlds around their work, they create universes,” said Director for Hip Hop Culture Simone Eccleston. “They cultivate, engage and sustain community as active parts of their creative and curatorial practice so in centering them, we also center their communities.”
Lyricist Lounge will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its iconic brand with a one-night-only event Rakim, Slick Rick, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and more in the Concert Hall on Friday, November 19. Evolving from a safe space for hip hop artists to hone their skills on a major platform, Lyricist Lounge is an integral part of hip hop history that been known for its ability to curate and showcase authentic, high-quality hip hop talent. Over the course of its 30-year history, Lyricist Lounge has produced a multitude of open mic events, showcases, concerts, albums, documentaries, and an MTV show featuring big name talent including: Dave Chappelle, Talib Kweli, 50 Cent, Eminem, Notorious B.I.G., Sean “Diddy” Combs, The Black Eyed Peas, Jay-Z, The Roots, Tracy Morgan, Common, De La Soul, Q-Tip, and Mobb Deep.
After their sold-out Kennedy Center show in 2019, the fall season wraps up on December 26 with a performance by The Roots as a part of their residency and 2021 Holiday Tour in the Concert Hall.
As part of its continued partnership with the Hip Hop Culture Program, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! returns to the Kennedy Center for the highly-anticipated BGR!FEST™ 2022 (March 10–12) and will collaborate for the first time with the National Symphony Orchestra, backing an iconic headline performance.
Past BGR!FEST™ events have included sold out concerts featuring multi-Grammy® Award-winning vocalist, emcee and icon Ms. Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Alice Smith, Rapsody and more. Celebrity DJ, CEO, and founder of BLACK GIRLS ROCK!, Beverly Bond, established BGR!FEST™ as a complementary platform to the BLACK GIRLS ROCK!™ brand to further its mission to create spaces for black women-centered content and uplift groundbreaking women who stretch the boundaries of creativity, artistic expression and innovation. BGR!FEST 2022 at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra will be a full-spirited and empowering celebration of Black Girl Magic.
For a full schedule of hip hop at the Kennedy Center, click here.
Recognized for its leadership in curating innovative and wide-ranging Pops programming, the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) is planning a Pops season which offers a broad array of electrifying and classic programs with something for audiences of all ages. The NSO Pops season is curated by Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke, whose boundless enthusiasm and exceptional artistry have made him one of the nation’s most sought-after pops conductors, composers, and arrangers. The season kicks off with two beloved films in concert: Marvel Studios’ critically-acclaimed Black Panther and Disney and Pixar’s Up, with Reineke and the NSO performing the award-winning scores live to film on the big screen (October 14–16 and November 26–27 respectively).
“I can’t begin to describe how excited I am to return to the Kennedy Center with our fantastic National Symphony Orchestra!” said Reineke. “We’ve crafted a diverse and fun-filled Pops season for our long-awaited return to the Concert Hall stage, and I cannot wait to share these great programs and artists with our audience.”
The season also includes founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bobby Weir, with his new project Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros; Love: A Joni Mitchell Songbook, a tribute to singer-songwriter legend Joni Mitchell; BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Festival™ (BGR!FEST™); Disney Princess: The Concert; and the NSO’s annual Holiday Pops!Concert, which this year features singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson.
Renée Fleming VOICES
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Artistic Advisor-at-Large Renée Fleming today announce the schedule of performances for the 2021–2022 Renée Fleming VOICES series celebrating the vitality and versatility of the human voice and artistry across a wide range of genres.
“As we finally gather together again to share live performance, I’m thrilled about the array of artists VOICES will feature. Human vocal expression is virtually limitless—there are as many kinds of voices as there are kinds of people. My goal for this series is to celebrate the best singing in styles that may be familiar, and also to expose audiences to types of vocal music that might be totally new to them,” said Renée Fleming. “From the classical song recital, to cabaret, bluegrass, and world music, the common thread will be vocalism of exceptional quality or innovation, representing a diverse range of styles.”
The 2021–2022 season includes performances by outstanding artists from a wide range of genres including Broadway, jazz, pop, and opera, as well as artists who defy categorization. Oliver and Tony Award® winner Alan Cumming and NPR news host Ari Shapiro join forces to open the series in October with their critically-acclaimed show Och & Oy!. They are followed by the great tenor Jonas Kaufmann as he brings his magnificent sound to the concert hall. Then, celebrated mezzo-soprano Susan Graham collaborates with Music from Copland House Ensemble in a celebration of America’s creative genius. In November, the Center welcomes back a VOICES series favorite Tony Award®–winning singer, actor, Broadway star Leslie Odom Jr.
The second half of the season continues with Fado superstar Mariza celebrating two decades in music; followed by Renée Fleming and the Emerson Quartet performing a new piece composed by the late André Previn. Then, the first and only Grammy Award®–winning all-female mariachi band Flor de Toloache bring their mariachi girl magic back to the Center. The season concludes in the spring when the NSO Pops comes together with Renée Fleming, Lalah Hathaway, Aoife O’Donovan, Moses Sumney, and Vince Mendoza to pay homage to legendary singer-songwriter, Joni Mitchell.
For a complete schedule for Renée Fleming VOICES with commentary from Ms. Fleming on why she personally selected each artist for the series, click here.
More Exciting Performances
Yemandja, one of two Sonic Portraits presented by the Center for its 50th Anniversary (with the previously mentioned Iphigenia) is three-time Grammy®–winning singer and storyteller extraordinaire Angélique Kidjo’s first foray into theater. The work, co-commissioned by the Kennedy Center, is currently in development and will be given its D.C. premiere at the Kennedy Center in May 2022. Inspired by her ancestors, her family, and Africa’s resilience, Kidjo’s Yemandja is a timely theatrical work that is at once a family drama and historical thriller, redolent of Greek tragedy and infused with themes of love, betrayal, honor, free will, and the horror and injustice of slavery. Conceived by Kidjo, written by her daughter, Naima Hebrail Kidjo, and directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Yemandja is a work of magical realism that illuminates what happens when people are robbed of their culture.
On October 24, 2021 the Kennedy Center will present Mountain Stage, a West Virginia Public Broadcasting radio show, distributed by NPR Music, which has been home to live music on public radio for nearly 40 years. This special episode of Mountain Stage will be hosted by Country music singer and Grammy®-winner Kathy Mattea and feature Grammy Award®–winning country music group Asleep at the Wheel (as they celebrate their 50th anniversary as a group), singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien with vocalist Jan Fabricius, and singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton.
After his sold-out Kennedy Center debut in 2019, multi-Grammy Award®-winning R&B and soul singer-songwriter, performer, and producer PJ Morton returns to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday, November 7 for a special one night only performance. Since the breakthrough of his 2017 LP Gumbo to his latest project Gospel According to PJ which earned the 2021 Grammy Award® for Best Gospel album, Morton has had a creative and critically-acclaimed streak of six self-released and self-produced albums garnering ten Grammy nominations with consecutive wins, his first-ever NAACP Image Award and Soul Train nominations, BET Award nominations, and countless television appearances.
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