TACAW presents season preview with performance by BLKBOK

Detriot based pianist BLKBOK (Charles Wilson III) speaks with TACAW audience about his latest album "9."
Jonson Kuhn/The Aspen Times

The Arts Campus At Willits opened its doors Friday evening to share a season preview with annual donors, followed by the musical stylings of Detroit-based, neo-classical pianist BLKBOK.

Before the public was invited in for his performance, TACAW’s Executive Director Ryan Honey and Director of Programming Kendall Smith not only offered a taste of the upcoming season, but also provided a bit of an understanding behind “how the sausage is made” as a way of saying thank you to TACAW donors.

A full house of annual donors gather for complimentary food and drinks while catching a season preview for The Arts Campus At Willits Friday evening.
Jonson Kuhn/The Aspen Times

“60% of our annual budget comes from donations; that’s how we keep ticket prices low, that’s how we offer free programming, that’s how we do all of our education efforts in schools and in field trips,” Honey said. “We wouldn’t be who we are and do what we do if it weren’t for our donors, so tonight is just a way to say thank you and let them see an incredible artist.”

Though programming is year-round, he said that going into the fall and winter seasons tends to be TACAW’s more robust, busiest portion of the calendar, which is why a season preview is offered towards the end of September.

TACAW Executive director Ryan Honey (left) and Director of Programming Kendall Smith offer annual donors a preview of the upcoming fall and winter season programming on Friday evening.
Jonson Kuhn/The Aspen Times

Honey said some of the programming he’s looking forward to the most falls within the traditions the non-profit has already created, with such shows as Nuestra Voices, a Spanish-language theater piece performed every two years, as well as Immigrant Voices, storytelling centered around sharing true immigrant experiences.

As for music, he said he’s excited to welcome back TACAW favorites like The Motet and Leftover Salmon. But most of all, he said he’s especially excited for the artists he’s yet to discover.

BLKBOK at TACAW on Friday, Sept. 22.

“That’s part of the joy of TACAW — you’re going to see stuff that you know, and you’re also going to see stuff that you’ve never heard of that blows your mind,” Honey said. “For me, that’s one of the most exciting things that we do.”

One example of this he pointed to was BLKBOK himself, whom Honey was unfamiliar with prior to Smith booking him for Friday evening’s performance.

BLKBOK performs his neo-classical arrangements for a full house at TACAW on Friday evening.
Jonson Kuhn/The Aspen Times

Coming off of the success of his critically-acclaimed debut album “Black Book,” BLKBOK’s latest album entitled “9” is said to be a tribute to the “Little Rock 9,” the name given to nine Black students in 1957 who caught national attention for being the first to attend an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“I’m excited to have BLKBOK here — to have a piano player of his caliber come through and do a solo show with a little bit of mixed media is a complete treat for us,” Smith said. “It’s not something that comes through here a lot, and I’m really excited for it.”

BLKBOK performs at The Arts Campus At Willits on Friday evening to a packed crowd.
Jonson Kuhn/The Aspen Times

Additionally, Smith said he’s grateful for TACAW’s annual donors who not only make it possible to welcome performers such as BLKBOK, but also affords the company the opportunity to bring the community of Basalt an “exciting variety” of entertainment each year.

“I’m just excited for a lot of the idea-based programming, along with some of the comedy, a good variety of music, a little bit of something for everybody,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a good winter.”