March 23-34, various times in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Mateo: San Francisco Chamber Orchestra family concert, “Shall We Dance.” For entertainment and educational value the SFCO family concerts are the best shows in town — inventive, relevant, interactive, and hosted by the funny, down-to-earth, and expert conductor/educator Ben Simon. And this particular one is even better because it involves not just the orchestra but also members of the Berkeley Ballet Theater’s Youth Company. What’s better than that? It’s free, just like all of the SFCO offerings.
March 24, Saturday, 2:30 p.m., Stanford's Bing Hall: Making Books Sing: Louis Armstrong, Jazz Ambassador. We feel kind of bad recommending this one, since practically every event at Bing Hall, Stanford, this season is completely sold-out. Still, some ticketholder or other might die between now and Sunday, and you’d want to be first on the waitlist, wouldn’t you? Making Books Sing is a company that turns books (or nonfiction stories) into musical theater. In this case, they’re working in collaboration with an all-star band assembled by the Stanford Jazz Workshop, to tell the true story of jazz legend Louis Armstrong, who, in the 1950s, was a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department. Then came the first big tests of the Civil Rights Movement, the Little Rock nine, and Armstrong, perhaps to his own surprise, made strong statements on the politics of race at the time. An artist, even one as dedicated to music as Armstrong, cannot always stand aloof from what is happening around him or her. It’s a genuinely human story backed by superb music. What more could you ask for?
Included in: Kids Around the Bay
Mark MacNamara is a journalist who has written for such publications as Salon.com, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, The Stanford Social Innovation Review and The International Herald Tribune. His website is: macnamband.com.