Performances to Grow On
Performances to Grow On

The Best Performers You’ve Never Heard Of

I was wondering if there is a gene for browsing in old record stores. You see a few days ago my son, who attends college, spent his day in LA browsing in a 2nd hand record shop. He came home with about 25 LP’s. Now mostly I hear the bass-boom of rap reverberating out of his room so I was surprised when he showed me his latest acquisitions-- Lots of 60’s soul, some jazz and even some titles I had never heard of.

Back to the gene question…

When I was in high school at Fairfax in Los Angeles there was an old record store across the street that had just opened called Aron Records. It was really small and I would spend hours sometimes (when I should have been in class), perusing the bins searching for that really unusual LP. When my friends were listening to the current radio hits, I was playing folk music and jazz and trying to get my buddies interested in what I’d found. I found groups like the Pair Extraordinaire (my male friends were quite disappointed when they discovered that this was a musical group and not a woman), Hedge and Donna, Tim Morgan, and many other unknowns.

And now 42 years later, I am about to turn 60. Reflecting on my current position as artistic director of Performances To Grow On, I realize that every time I present a performer, it’s much like the time I bought that used record. I have managed to parlay my interest in the obscure and the unknown into a career…go figure.

Performances To Grow On… we present the best performers you’ve never heard of. Grand Derangement, Samite, Eric Bibb, the Polyjesters, the Gizmo Guys…. Names don’t ring a bell? These are just some of the many wonderful performers we have presented over the years. You’ve heard the expression, “one hit wonders”. Most of the artists I work with are wondering if they’ll ever have a hit. A few years ago, David Holt, a Grammy winning musician and storyteller almost reached the big time when he landed a small bit part in “O Brother, Where Art Thou” with George Clooney. Holt, much to the chagrin of his friends and fellow storytellers played the role of the village idiot—Almost, but not quite famous. Most of the performers we present, if you hear them at all, are found on the left side of the radio dial. 

Performances To Grow On, we present the best performers you’ve never heard of, that’s some tag line.  People like Joe Cashore, a marionette artist that takes up to 6 months to build just one marionette, Claudia Villela, a Brazilian singer with a 5 octave range, Al Simmons, who plays the overture of 1812 on a homemade symbonium complete with the surprise appearance out of its bells of chimes, confetti, party favors, flowers, a flag and even a ping-pong ball, storyteller Willy Claflin and his sidekick Maynard the Moose and Gale Lajoye, aka Snowflake, these are but a few of the  many unique performers we have brought to Ventura County. 

Fame and fortune, I don’t think either is the goal of most of these performers. They are more concerned with the magic they can create out of the darkness in a theatre and the creative moment when they and the audience are one. So if you’re the type that likes to try a restaurant on a darkened side street, read a book that isn’t a best seller, or walk a path that’s not well marked, than Performances To Grow On just might be your ticket. Last week, I was approached about a circus act from Canada, their name…“The Perfect Unknowns ” …  I think they might just fit in… perfectly.

P.S.  This coming May, Performances To Grow On will present the Ojai Storytelling Festival with some of the top storytellers you never heard of. For more information on our programs, visit or phone (805) 646-8907.