In 2004—on a mission to bolster its community’s wellspring of creativity and education—the nonprofit Bergen Performing Arts Center took over the former John Harms Center, an art-deco-style movie and vaudeville palace built in 1922. Today, in the same antique theater where Frank Capra screened his first car chase, the venue hosts 150 yearly events that bring dance, music, and theatrical productions to an estimated 250,000 annual audience members. Networks such as HBO, PBS, and MTV all have filmed international broadcasts on the stage, which has seen the likes of Diana Krall, Heart, and ZZ Top.
The Cre.Art Project transforms venues into visual canvasses that complement and enhance music. Originally formed in Spain, the group has taken the Anglophone world by storm, staging hugely successful shows in London and New York and sneakily adding themselves to every English dictionary they can get their hands on. Not ones to put on a simple show, the collective regularly uses their work to explore the interplay between mediums, mixing such forms as classical music with 3-D video mapping projections. Characteristic productions include Noctum, a dreamlike chamber opera about Erebus, the spirit of darkness, stealing the moon, and Baobab, an evocative dance piece based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince.
To make classical music engaging and build future audiences: that's the mission of the Little Orchestra Society. And it's one the company has ably carried out for nearly 70 years by producing family- and kid-friendly works that pair live orchestration with puppetry, dance, and other arts. The multidisciplinary performances range from Lolli-Pops concerts for aspiring conductors ages 3–5, to the Peabody Award-winning Happy Concerts for Young People series, recommended for those ages 6–12. It's a unique approach that has won them some notable fans—the society's artistic advisors include Patti Smith, Kevin Kline, Rita Moreno, and Joel Grey.
Before the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was even built, the idea for its Chamber Music Society was born. American composer and Lincoln Center President William Schuman helped specially design a recital hall in which the chamber group could play more than three centuries worth of musical compositions. But the Chamber Music Society didn't stay contained within its venue. Throughout the following half century, its musicians collaborated with dance companies, jazz projects, and festivals, helping to spread awareness and appreciation of their craft throughout the city.
In 1922, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performed its first concert at the Montclair Art Museum. They weren't called by that name yet, and they only had 19 string players at the time, but it was a show that established the orchestra as an important organ in the artistic community. It also might have been the last time the group was largely unknown. The ensemble quickly swelled in size, talent, and popularity as it racked up one significant achievement after another. In 1968, Henry Lewis joined the company to become the first African-American music director of a major symphony. The orchestra reached new heights under his leadership, taking the stage at Carnegie Hall and at the Garden State Arts Center with Luciano Pavarotti—a guest who joined the musicians again in 1984 to perform the first-ever classical program at the humble speakeasy known as Madison Square Garden. The group's illustrious career continued into the late '80s, as it performed live on PBS and played a concert of Bernstein works that won the admiration of the man himself.
Today, the NJSO continues to confidently play into the 21st century. Under the current leadership of Music Director Jacques Lacombe, the ensemble shares seasons of classical, pops, and family programs, along with outdoor concerts, and educational projects. But the group has never forgotten its humble beginnings, maintaining a commitment to the community that caused The Wall Street Journal to call them “a vital, artistically significant musical organization."
New Jersey Performing Arts Center stands firm as a bastion of live entertainment, opening the doors to its two distinct venues for a wide array of productions. Inside Prudential Hall, 2,700 seats fill the multitiered auditorium where ballets, symphony orchestras, and Broadway shows flourish beneath radiant lights and a domed ceiling. Victoria Theater, meanwhile, beckons visitors to its more intimate 500-seat confines for jazz concerts and contemporary dance performances.