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Distinguished Black artists star on Ravinia Festival stages throughout the 2023 season

Photo caption: BOYZ II MEN and the Isley Brothers are on schedule to bring their iconic, soulful music to Ravinia Festival on August 26. This is the first time that either group has appeared at the North Shore venue. See our website for other Black artists appearing this season.

Every summer, Ravinia Festival leads the way as one of the most artistically diverse music festivals in the country, with a signature mix of programming across a variety of genres.

The 2023 season features several Black artists whose music and performances will inspire, connect and engage all concertgoers.

Singer, producer and songwriter Ne-Yo makes his Ravinia debut alongside opener Mario, July 7.

Ravinia’s Reach Teach Play education programs host National Seminario Ravinia—a gathering of 130 students from El Sistema-inspired organizations across 15 states and Canada—where, over July 5–8, the young musicians will participate in four days of orchestral training, mentorship, and fellowship.

The Seminario culminates in “National Seminario Ravinia: Orchestras for All Concert” with Chicago Philharmonic led by conductor Jonathan Rush and Chief Conductor Marin Alsop, July 8.

Miko Marks, named the “Next Woman of Country” by CMT, makes her Ravinia debut this summer, July 13.

Janai Brugger, Ryan Speedo Green, the Adrian Dunn Singers, and the Ayodele Drum & Dance perform as part of “Turn Up the Joy: Beethoven 9 Expanded” with Marin Alsop, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and special guests. The “Ode to Joy” text performed that night is by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. A pre-concert performance at the Carousel Stage by Adrian Dunn Singers presents selections from Dunn’s Emancipation, July 14.

Ravinia’s annual Women’s Board Gala features Tony and Grammy Awards-winning vocalist Heather Headley and the Ravinia Lawndale Chorus with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop. This fundraising concert benefits the festival’s “Reach Teach Play” music education programs, July 16.

Alexis Lombre Ensemble gives a pre-concert performance at the Carousel Stage before the Maria Scheide Orchestra makes their Ravinia debut as part of the “Breaking Barriers” weekend festival. Lombre is a Ravinia Jazz Scholar and Ravinia Steans Music Institute alumna who frequently performs at Ravinia Festival, July 23.

For nearly four decades, the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band has been playing fiery live shows with a rich musical catalog. This summer, the band will grace the Ravinia stage for the very first time, July 26.

Composer Florence Price’s “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America” will be performed by the CSO led by composer Mei-Ann Chen, July 28.

Capathia Jenkins performs as a featured vocalist with the CSO for the program of Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon with the CSO, July 29.

MONICA MARTIN OPENS up the show on August 2. (source: Monica Martin/Facebook)

Chicago-born singer-songwriter Monica Martin makes her Ravinia debut and opens for Jason Mraz and His SuperBand, August 2.

Soprano Janai Brugger stars as Pamina, and mezzo Taylor Raven stars as the Third Lady in the semi-staged performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” with the CSO and led by Marin Alsop, August 4 and 5.

With five Grammys, 14 Blues Foundation Awards, and a groundbreaking career spanning nearly 50 years, Keb’ Mo is not slowing down. The star returns to the festival as a special guest to Boz Scaggs for a can’t-miss Blues performance, August 6.

American conductor Jonathon Heyward leads a program of Serge Rachmaninoff, Tania León, and Max Bruch with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Violinist Benjamin Beilman plays “Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1,” August 9.

Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-winner John Legend returns to Ravinia for two nights this summer, August 13 and 14.

Pianist Lara Downes brings her program of women composers’ interpretations of love, life, and laughter on Aug 22, including premieres of unpublished songs by Margaret Bonds, as well as piano works by Florence Price and arrangements of songs by Billie Holiday, August 22.

Grammy-award-winning blues guitarist and singer Buddy Guy takes the Ravinia stage with another American guitar legend, George Benson, in Buddy Guy’s “Damn Right Farewell Tour,” August 23.

Soul Icons Boyz II Men and The Isley Brothers make their Ravinia debut this summer, August 26.

Ruth Page Festival of Dance presents Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project: Metamorphosis. This project celebrates the historical impact of Chicago-based Black choreographers in the national dance community and strengthens Black dance’s impact and reach for generations to come.

Dance companies included in the program are the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center, Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, The ERA Footwork, Forward Momentum Chicago, Joel Hall Dancers & Centers, M.A.D.D. Rhythms, Move Me Soul, Najwa Dance Corps, and Praize Productions Inc., September 7.

Ravinia Steans Music Institute Jazz Directors, pianist Billy Childs, bassist Rufus Reid, and saxophonist Steve Wilson, form a Quintet with RSMI alum and violinist Sara Caswell, drummer Christian Euman, and vocalist Kurt Elling, September 8.

Queen! Featuring DJs Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini and Garrett David, present a night of House and Techno with hosts Lucy Stoole, Nico, and special guests from Metro and smartbar, September 9.

The Ravinia Music Box presents an immersive theater experience featuring a gallery space in addition to the holographic “show” entitled “Bernstein’s Answer.”

This summer, the museum gallery features a new exhibit highlighting the legacy of Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Billie Holiday. The 375-running-foot exhibition provides a rare glimpse into Holiday’s public and private life through 65 pigment prints with labels, curated panels, projected video, and more.

The Ravinia Music Box is open on all Pavilion concert dates, from gate opening through intermission; admission is free to patrons in the park.

Ravinia’s initiatives serve tens of thousands of students, families and young professional musicians. The 36-acre park is home to North America’s longest-running outdoor music festival.

Over 100 different events featuring a mix of classical, rock, pop, jazz, R&B, indie, and country performers make up a typical summer season across two open-air and two indoor stages, including the annual residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Guests can bring their own picnics, including food and liquor. A full range of dining options is available at the park, from casual carts to fine dining. Ravinia performances occur rain or shine. Audiences are invited to come early to enjoy various pre-concert activities, including the festival’s sculpture tour, the interactive musical playground KidsLawn and the Ravinia Music Box.

Ravinia is the only private train stop in Illinois, with Metra’s Union Pacific North line stopping at the Grand Entrance. Since 2021, in collaboration with Metra, all trains on the Union Pacific Line honor Ravinia tickets as train fares; patrons can show their dated concert e-ticket for a free train ride to and from the park on the day of the event.

Ravinia Festival is located about 20 miles north of Chicago at Green Bay and Lake Cook Roads in Highland Park. Onsite parking is limited, and the festival operates a free park-and-ride shuttle bus service to nearby lots along the train line.

The safety of audiences, artists, staff and the community is Ravinia’s top priority. Managed by expert guidance, safety protocols are practiced and recurrently updated to ensure best practices; a variety of specialized programs and technology are engaged to ensure the venue is accessible and safe for all its patrons.

Visit for the most up-to-date programming and protocols. Tickets are on sale now.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago (

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