VA - VA Arts - Wynton Marsalis

Leading the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and appearing as a pre-season bonus, Wynton Marsalis returns to Virginia for a three-day event that culminates in a performance on February 25.

Feeling “In the Mood” for some fabulous toe-tapping music? Looking for a “Sentimental Journey” this month? Even if your itinerary does not include “April in Paris,” February in Norfolk has its own special appeal: Get your tickets now for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, appearing for one night only, February 25, at the Chrysler Theater. 

A bit of background information: Since 1997, the Virginia Arts Festival has been bringing world-class talent to Virginia, with stages stretching from Williamsburg southward along the coast to the Norfolk area. From classical ballet to modern dance, jazz to classical music, folk to “Americana rock” (and everything in between), springtime offerings have lured visitors to the region before the traditional summer tourism season begins, noted Robert Cross, executive director of the festival.

VA - VA Arts - Chris Thile

In a world premiere, mandolinist Chris Thile, who has been called a “superstar” by The New York Times, will join the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in May.

This year, the festival’s regular season begins on April 14 and extends to the weekend of June 16-18. But as has become its custom, preseason and postseason offerings are now a part of the schedule. Thus, what has been called “The Finest Big Band in the World,” under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, will be in town during Black History Month (an unintentional “happy accident,” thanks to busy schedules). 

VA - VA Arts - Philadelphia Ballet

The Philadelphia Ballet will perform Swan Lake three times in mid-April at Chrysler Hall. Robert Cross, director of the festival, noted the wide range of every season’s offerings, from modern dance to classical ballet.


The Saturday night concert will cap off a three-day in-residence symposium, Cross continued, during which time bands from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will be mentored by individual Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra members. On Saturday night, one or two selected bands will perform prior to the concert presented by the New York ensemble. He pointed out that, although the Orchestra is not new to the festival, this collaboration with HBCU orchestras marks the beginning of a new biennial tradition. 

VA - VA Arts - Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is often featured in productions presented by the Virginia Arts Festival, and this year is no exception, with April performances in Newport News and Norfolk.

The Orchestra, Cross continued, plays music that reached its popular zenith in the 1930s and 1940s. While it is expected that older audience members will remember hearing this music when it was new, the hope is to keep this rich musical tradition alive, he said.

VA - VA Arts - Smokey Robinson

There’s only one Smokey Robinson. And who wouldn’t want to hear “The Tears of a Clown” one more time? One night only in Norfolk. Don’t be left behind.


Make it a weekend, Cross suggested. Norfolk is accessible by car or plane from most points in the Mid-Atlantic region. While there, spread out and visit nearby Virginia Beach’s Aquarium. Check out Colonial Williamsburg, where early signs of spring will be on display. On the other hand, a newly revamped Amtrak schedule includes three daily trains to the Norfolk station, which is just one light rail stop away from the hotel district. Visit the Chrysler Museum (with free admission), shop, dine, enjoy. Best of all, Cross pointed out, ticket prices for festival concerts are a bargain. “They’re cheaper than the cost of parking in New York City.”

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