Forbes Center Announces 2021–2022 Masterpiece Season, Returns to In-Person Performances

Ballet Hispánico, "A Tribute to Aretha Franklin," Catapult and "Small Island Big Song" Top List of New Shows

College of Visual and Performing Arts
Small Island Big Song Lead

July 1, 2021 - The Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University is excited to announce its 2021–2022 Masterpiece Season and to return to in-person performances. The season includes 25 Masterpiece events and features performances/work by Grammy-winning musicians, other world-renowned guest artists, ensembles and choreographers, and award-winning JMU theatre, dance and music students and faculty. The 2021–2022 Masterpiece Season sponsor is Kathy Moran Wealth Group.

Topping the list are performances by Forbes Center “Encore” artists including America’s leading Latino dance organization Ballet Hispánico, who will perform a fusion of classical, Latin and contemporary dance as well as create a work that will be performed by JMU dance students; A Tribute to Aretha Franklin - The Queen of Soul featuring Damien Sneed, who toured with Aretha, and four-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist Karen Clark Sheard backed by a stellar cast of jazz, soul and gospel musicians; Catapult, an America’s Got Talent: Season 8 finalist and the premier shadow dance company in the world; and Small Island Big Song, a multimedia musical spectacle reuniting the ancient seafaring cultures of the Pacific and Indian Oceans through song.

Other Encore shows include one of the world’s most popular Irish folk bands, The High Kings, in an evening of “swashbuckling, old-country fun that leaves your heart dancing jigs”(Broadway World) at the new Atlantic Union Bank Center; two-time Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble The King’s Singers in a performance that also features JMU’s Madison Singers; the Amsterdam-based Calefax Reed Quintet, acclaimed for its contemporary yet timeless interpretations of classical music; and award-winning actor Aidan Dooley in Tom Crean: Antarctic Explorer, a one-man play about the unsung Irish hero who conquered Antarctica.

Rounding out the list of Encore performances are internationally-acclaimed Latinx pop artist and 2020 Latin Grammy nominee Gina Chavez; American Patchwork Quartet, who is on a mission to reclaim the immigrant soul of American Roots Music; I Wrote That One, Too… An Evening with Steve Dorff featuring some of the master songwriter’s 400 legendary and iconic songs and the stories behind them; Brubeck Brothers Quartet in a centennial celebration of Dave Brubeck’s birth; the Amernet String Quartet, “one of America’s finest ensembles,” (The Cincinnati Enquirer) with pianist Heather Coltman; and Fiddlin’ with Stories featuring master storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston and jazz violinist Diane Monroe, who are dedicated to preserving African and African American folktales, stories and songs.

Catapult and Fiddlin’ with Stories are “Forbes Family Fun” events this season. Forbes Family Fun events are geared toward young audiences and their families, and this year’s series is sponsored by Shenandoah Valley Airport (SHD). Catapult and Fiddlin’ with Stories will also give matinee performances for students in Rockingham County Public Schools and Harrisonburg City Public Schools.

The Masterpiece Season opens September 10 with Songstress Sojourn, a brand new showcase celebrating singer-songwriters from the Shenandoah Valley presented by the Forbes Center in partnership with WMRA radio. The College of Visual and Performing Arts celebrates the life of the late Dean George Sparks in a gala weekend of visual and performing arts events. The three-day Contemporary Music Festival features performances by Grammy-nominated violinist Curtis Stewart, Grammy-nominated cellist Amanda Gookin, Albanian pianist Redi Llupa, and JMU musicians. JMU piano faculty members come together for Piano4-té, an extravaganza featuring performances on one, two, and even four of the Forbes Center’s prized Steinway grand pianos. Holidayfest and the JMU Symphony Honors Concert are back by popular demand.

The JMU Opera Theater will perform Street Scene, Kurt Weill’s groundbreaking “Broadway opera,” as well as Gilbert and Sullivan’s satirical and whimsical operetta The Gondoliers in the spring.

The School of Theatre and Dance presents Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream where “the course of true love never did run smooth”; Head Over Heels, a musical comedy set to the music of the iconic 1980s’ all-female rock band The Go-Go’s; and Once, the winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Dance events include Dancescapes featuring JMU’s Virginia Repertory Dance Company and New Voices in Dance featuring JMU’s Contemporary Dance Ensemble.

Subscriptions are on sale now at the Forbes Center Box Office in person or by phone at (540) 568-7000. Single tickets go on sale August 2nd and will be available—along with subscriptions—at the box office or

Small Island Big Song photo courtesy of SRO Artists.

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Published: Thursday, July 1, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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