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Bitterroot Performing Arts Council Executive Director Laurie Ruffner and Jaque VanDenburg, operations manager, celebrate an exciting 14th season of excellent performances coming to Hamilton.

MICHELLE MCCONNAHA michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com

The Bitterroot Performing Arts Council has created a stellar 14th season of six performances in a variety of genres to enlighten, inspire, educate and entertain audiences in the Bitterroot and Missoula valleys.

“We are excited to share that five out of six of our performing artists have agreed to be part of our educational outreach clinics," said Laurie Ruffner, executive director. "We also have some wonderful sponsors who are helping to make great things happen.”

On Sept. 22, the season begins with world renowned singer, songwriter and acclaimed acoustic guitar legend Leo Kottke.

Kottke is known for his finger picking style that draws on blues, jazz and folk music as well as for syncopated, polyphonic melodies. He has received two Grammy nominations, holds a doctorate in music performance by the Peck School of Music at the University of Wisconsin, and a "Certificate of Significant Achievement in Not Playing the Trombone" from the University of Texas at Brownsville.

On Oct. 14, Simply Three will dazzle the audience with a mix of styles spanning from Adele to Gershwin, and from Cold Play to 21 Pilots. They're a classical cross-over, combining original works with innovative arrangements that is creating renewed excitement for instrumental music among younger generations. They have been recognition by mainstream artists and publications like The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, and RyanSeacrest.com.

On Nov. 17, legendary modern jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis is arriving in the Bitterroot to attend a VIP event for the BPAC and perform for what is expected to be a full house at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center. Marsalis is regarded by many as the premier modern jazz pianist in New Orleans. Born on Nov. 14, 1934, he began formal music studies at age 11. After high school Marsalis enrolled in Dillard University in New Orleans as a clarinet major and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education in 1955.

Marsalis joined the U.S. Marine Corps the following year and while stationed in southern California honed his skills as a pianist on a television show sponsored by the Marine Corps. After completing his duty, Marsalis returned to New Orleans and married Dolores Ferdinand, a New Orleanian, who bore him six sons; Branford, Wynton, Ellis III, Delfeayo, Miboya and Jason - several jazz legends in their own right.

"For the first time in our 14-year history, we had a group entirely cancel their tour due to serious illness and so we scrambled to find a substitute for our November show," Ruffner said. "Luckily, we've established great relations with talent agents and were able to secure Ellis Marsalis, who is much more than a substitute. His signature performance will be memorable. He frequently charges much more than he is charging us so we feel very fortunate to add him to our wonderful line-up this year."

The fourth performance in the series on Jan. 12, 2018, will be a high-energy performance by The Dustbowl Revival. A vibrant mix of vintage American sounds, this eclectic eight-piece band “would have sounded utterly at home within the hallowed confines of Preservation Hall in New Orleans’ French Quarter,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Their “upbeat, old-school, All American sonic safaris exemplify everything shows should be – hot, spontaneous, engaging and, best of all, a pleasure to hear,” writes the L.A. Weekly.

On Feb. 10, the Bitterroot Performing Arts Center welcomes Phoebe Hunt & the Gatherers. An accomplished Americana instrumentalist, singer and songwriter with foundations in country, swing and jazz, Rolling Stone Country named Phoebe Hunt as one of its Top 10 “New Country Artists You Need to Know.” The group’s album, “Shanti’s Shadow,” released last June, is a culmination of a five-year journey that has taken Hunt from her Austin roots through Music Row, Brooklyn, and even to India to study with seventh generation master violinist Kala Ramnath.

The series wraps up on March 23 with the Celtic/Quebec artists De Temps Antan. They play fiddle, accordion, harmonica, guitar, bouzouki and a number of other instruments, blending their boundless energy with the unmistakable joie de vivre found only in traditional Quebec music.

Ruffner said De Temps Antan was a highlight at the Montana Folk Festival in Butte in July 2015 and a popular request by Bitterroot audiences.

For more information on the Bitterroot Performing Arts Council’s 14th season series or to subscribe, call 406-363-7946. Season subscriber tickets are on sale now at the box office and the popular four-show flex package will be offered again. The BPAC Box Office, 127 West Main St., in Hamilton is open Tuesdays through Fridays, on online at bitterrootperformingarts.org and on Facebook.

Bitterroot Performing Arts Council will be hosting a “Series Ticket Release Party” for subscribers to celebrate the new series and pick up their ticket packets at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14, at Blodgett Canyon Cellars.

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