There is no shortage of intriguing performance venues across Northern California. Indeed, I find the sheer variety nearly as impressive as the overall number. We really are blessed to live in a region of the country where we can hear jazz in world-class concert halls, outdoor amphitheaters set amid spectacular natural beauty, and exquisite homes and historical sites.
Maybeck Studio for the Performing Arts falls into this last category and is easily among the most intimate and attractive venues in the Bay Area. You can see (and hear) for yourself this weekend by checking out veteran vocalist Sony Holland’s two Sunday afternoon sets.
The Maybeck Studio for the Performing Arts is part of Bernard Maybeck’s 1914 Kennedy-Nixon house. Joseph R. Nixon commissioned the building as a live-in studio for his daughter Milda’s piano teacher, Alma Schmidt Kennedy. The studio (and the Nixons’ wood shingle home next door) burned to the ground in the 1923 Berkeley hills fire. When Maybeck rebuilt the studio, he added the uphill home on Buena Vista, connected to the studio by a bridge, where Milda Nixon lived into her nineties. Performances have been held in this beautiful and acoustically glorious space for nearly 100 years.
Holland noted to me in an e-mail that Maybeck was among the region’s top architects, having designed the Palace of Fine Arts and Berkeley’s First Church of Christ, Scientist. “In 1987, jazz pianist-educator Dick Whittington and his wife purchased the house with the intent of creating a commercial concert venue,” Holland added. “Over the next 10 years, Concord Records recorded and released 42 solo piano recitals and 10 jazz duets. Today, Maybeck Studio is owned by Ann and Jack Eastman.”
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