Singer-songwriter and Big Top Chautauqua founder Warren Nelson returns Sunday, March 17, to The Park Center in Hayward for a matinee performance with fiddle virtuoso Randy Sabien and cellist Ed Willett. Showtime is 3 p.m.
Tickets are $20 in advance at Art Beat of Hayward, 15845 W. Second St. and online at www.TheParkCenter.com. Admission is $30 at the door; students 18 years and younger are admitted for $5.
A professional musician and entertainer since the late 1960s, Warren Nelson’s trail has taken him across the U.S., on “both sides of 1970.” He and his music have ranged from his first full-time professional group The Tenth Story Window (he met Elvis twice), to Colorado, where he spent five years writing and playing music in the mountains, to the Madison, Wisconsin, area, where he formed the Lost Nation String Band with Don Pavel.
Nelson moved to northern Wisconsin’s Bayfield Peninsula, where he founded Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua in 1986. For 23 seasons, through 2008, Nelson was the ringmaster, artistic director, resident writer and lead dreamer of the widely celebrated Big Top. He also started and hosted Tent Show Radio for 15 years, a nationally syndicated program.
Randy Sabien was planning on becoming a drummer when he set out on his musical path, but fate stepped in when the conductor of the high school orchestra persuaded him to play the violin in fourth grade. So with a bow in his hand instead of drumsticks, he began studying classical violin by day and playing along to records of his favorite 60s rock bands by night.
Lightning struck in the form of a vinyl record by legendary jazz violinist, Stephane Grappelli. Hearing this and other virtuoso violinists from the swing era opened up a new world of possibilities. Not only did Sabien find his voice, he went on to create a place in education where this music would be a prominent part of the foundation for any aspiring string student who came his way. At age 21, he founded and chaired the string department at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Since then he has gone on to perform, record and teach internationally.
Ed Willett is a cellist, guitarist, composer, arranger and vocalist. He earned a bachelor of music degree in performance from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he studied with cellist Eleanor Schoenfeld. After graduating, he freelanced as a studio musician, participating in hundreds of recording sessions as well as performing in numerous symphony orchestras, including the Honolulu Symphony, the Pasadena Symphony, the Glendale Chamber Orchestra and the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra.
In 1986 Willett co-founded Chance with vocalist Cheryl Leah. The quartet landed a record deal with Rough Rider Records, were featured on the CBS television series “Northern Exposure,” had countless Los Angeles performances and their first album release, “Something Ventured.” In 1993, Willett and Leah relocated to northern Wisconsin, where they performed as Chance, and as members of The Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua Blue Canvas Orchestra. Willet served as music director and co-artistic director at Big Top, and from 2011 to 2013, Willett toured worldwide with artist Rickie Lee Jones.