Now in its 14th year, Festival Napa Valley will host another sensational summer season, running July 12 – 21 and giving concertgoers moving performances in support of educational programs that ensure that music and the arts remain integral—and accessible—to the community at large. Since 2010, the Festival’s annual Arts for All Gala has been on a mission to do just that, raising over $8 million to date in support of the Festival’s Arts for All programs, including the Festival’s tuition-free Blackburn Music Academy, summer camps for Boys & Girls Club students, as well as continued investment in Napa County public school arts education. Thanks to underwriting from the Gala, 6,000 tickets will be distributed free to seniors, families, and veterans to enjoy world-class concerts that span all genres, from classical and jazz to theater and dance.
“The Arts for All Gala has become a centerpiece of our summer season and an expression of the importance arts and culture play in enriching people’s lives,” says Richard Walker, Festival Napa Valley’s President and CEO. “The fact that we continue to raise such significant funds and break records year after year is a testament to our cause, as well as our team’s hard work in producing ultra-exclusive wine lots and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We are so grateful to those who generously support our mission and are helping change lives for the better.”
This year, Gala attendees will be treated to a headlining performance by none other than British singer and songwriter Seal, who appears as part of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Vocal Arts Series, and joins the likes of Bill Murray and Kristin Chenoweth on an impressive list of those who have previously performed. Gentry checked in with the four-time Grammy Award winner to learn more about what we can expect from his performance, how music education first influenced him, and if any of his children are following in his talented footsteps.
With your last album, Standards, you paid homage to jazz greats like Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone. Has jazz always inspired you?
Jazz has not always inspired me. I don’t profess to be any kind of big jazz buff. I simply love great songs; I don’t particularly pay too much attention to what genre they are in. And when I did the Standards album, in my mind, I wasn’t doing a jazz album—I was just doing an album of great songs.
What can you tell us about your upcoming performance at Festival Napa Valley’s Arts for All Gala?
Seeing as I have the rare opportunity to play with an amazing orchestra, I think it would be remiss of me to not take advantage of that—so I’ll play two or three off the Standards album and then one or two of my own hits that hopefully everyone will love and recognize.
As the Gala supports music education programs, how were you first exposed to music? Do you credit a particular influence or program with helping you develop your talent?
Well, I was first exposed to music through a teacher at school that I idolized, and he was a musician—he was a singer. I wanted to be like him and he would always encourage that in me. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue at home, but I felt that teacher was quite possibly the first person who actually saw me—or saw what was inside me, and so he was a very influential figure in my life. His name was Mr. Ren. There was a music program at school, if I remember rightly, but unfortunately I did not take advantage of it—probably because we were given things to play like the recorder—deathly boring!
With some nine other albums (not to mention four Grammy Awards and other accolades) under your belt, how else has your sound or vision as a performer evolved?
I would like to think I have grown better as a songwriter and as a singer at telling the story. I think my focus is on telling the story more so now than ever before, because ultimately I think that’s what great songwriting and singing is about—being able to really tell the story.
Later in the year, you’ll be performing in Brazil. Is it true you have Brazilian roots?
Yes, on my grandfather’s side.
What’s a little something our readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I like cooking . . . but I’m crap at it!
You’ve performed around the Bay Area many times over the years. What do you like best about visiting Northern California?
Culture. It seems to be a very culturally rich part of America.
As you reside in Los Angeles, what do you love most about living in California overall?
I love that my family and friends are here. I am just so fortunate to be here in a great part of Los Angeles. I live by the sea and every day is perfection.
If you’d like to share, are any of your children following in your musical footsteps?
Yes, my daughter Lou. Well, they all play an instrument. Leni, my eldest, doesn’t care too much, but the two boys play guitar and Lou is a really talented piano player. Lou actually played a song with me last year at the Hollywood Bowl during my show. If they wanted to pursue a career in music, it’s a tough road, but I would support and encourage them to do so because it’s so fulfilling. My whole life is a testament to that.
Is there a new album in the works?
It’s in the works and new music will be released soon enough.
Festival Napa Valley’s Arts for All Gala
Sunday, July 14, 2019 | HALL Napa Valley | 5:30 pm
For more information and event details, please visit www.festivalnapavalley.org