When walking up to the Kennedy Center’s large gold columns, it is natural to feel intimidated. While strikingly gorgeous and immediately demanding respect, it is easy to think it’s an institution exclusively for well-established classical artists and aficionados. However, this would be a misguided perception.
Since The REACH addition opened in 2019, the Kennedy Center has actively worked to create a more inclusive and experimental space for audiences and modern artists — including through The Club at Studio K series.
“The Club at Studio K represents an institutional commitment to advancing our vision and goal of serving as the 21st century performing arts organization,” says Kennedy Center Director of Hip Hop Culture and Contemporary Music, Simone Eccleston. “We see it as an opportunity for audiences to see the Kennedy Center as a destination where they can experience the very best in contemporary music and culture.”
From February 10 through the end of March, The Club at Studio K will return after a Covid-forced two-year hiatus to host artists in comedy, jazz, hip-hop and cross-genre music. To kick off the series, Grammy-nominated artist Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah will open with a two-night performance. Adjuah is the progenitor behind stretch music, an extension of jazz. He plans to debut new music at Studio K, which ventures into new territory for Adjuah of Delta Blues music.
“Half of what we’ll play is completely new,” Adjuah says. “I am really excited about it because this is going to be one of the first performances where audiences will be able to hear some of the newer music we’re developing for the upcoming records.”
As a two-time Edison Award winner, Adjuah constantly innovates not only the music he composes and produces but the physical instrument itself. While most of us were binge-watching whatever Netflix suggested during quarantine, Adjuah was creating and producing four new records which will all be released this year — as well as inventing a new instrument.
“I have my own line of trumpets, but I decided I wanted to create a 21st-century corollary to a West African double-sided harp,” Adjuah says about his process of patenting the new harp called the Adjuah Bow, which he’ll play during his Studio K performance.
Nationally renowned artists like Georgia Anne Muldrow, jazz singer Laurin Talese and saxophonists Mark Turner and Immanuel Wilkins are set to take the stage at Studio K. Along with music, the series is packed with comedy performances including D.C acts like Washington Improv Theater and Story District, as well as comedians Cristela Alonzo, Natasha Leggero and Megan Stalter, each headlining a night of emerging women comedians.
When describing the ethos behind the lineup selection Eccleston explains, “There is a curatorial vision for us to represent voices we think will propel us forward. All of the featured genres and disciplines are future-facing. And so that will always represent a dynamic mix of local and national.”
An exciting addition to The Club lineup includes two events from Issa Rae’s production company HOORAE. As part of their inaugural takeover at the Kennedy Center, HOORAE will close out The Club series with “pieces,” a stripped-down concert from undisclosed artists, and a networking party the following night.
“Our entire weekend of HOORAE events is going to be incredible but I am personally excited for ‘pieces,’” Davis says. “Live music is my favorite thing, and I’m a huge fan of this year’s performing artists, which we will be unveiling soon. Past performers have included Jazmine Sullivan and Teedra Moses and this event is being presented in partnership with Frequency, Spotify’s home for Black expression.”
Due to Studio K being only able to hold approximately 300 people compared to the 2,465 seats in the Concert Hall, each performance during The Club will provide a unique and intimate experience.
Eccleston elaborates, “This is about pulling back the layers and allowing audiences to have really meaningful and engaging experiences.”
And the feeling is mutual for the artists.
“We all like to play concert halls, but there’s nothing like being 20 feet away from someone and being able to see how what you’re expressing is affecting them,” Adjuah says. “There’s some synergy between what we are experiencing onstage and what the audience is experiencing. It’s like a conversation. If I’m having the conversation with you from 30 feet away, that will feel different than if I’m having a conversation with you only two feet away.”
With the selection of top artist performances, dance parties and interactive opportunities, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this series and it is all packaged in an inviting, inclusive space.
“We are creating a sense of home by offering an opportunity to feel invested in the Kennedy Center and The Club at Studio K space,” Eccleston says. “We want audiences to take ownership and feel this is where they can come and see their favorite artists. This is a place where they can come and have a transformative experience.”
The Club at Studio K begins on February 10 through March 26. To learn more about the series, view the full lineup and purchase tickets, visit here.
To learn more about Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and his music, visit his website here or follow him on Instagram at @chrisctianscottofficial. Listen to his music on all major streaming platforms, like Spotify.
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