By Bradley Robertson
For the Opelika
The Arts Association of East Alabama is a local organization that serves the Lee County area through the efforts of Director Philip Preston, who is originally from Beauregard and studied piano in college. He has been in Opelika for more than 30 years and has been with the Arts Association since 1981.
“We’ve been bringing major cultural events from all over the world for over 30 years,” Preston said.
“We’re proud of what we do. Our mission is to make arts accessible to as many people as possible in this area and to make it affordable.”
“We want to provide experiences. People can come and enjoy (events) they already know about or perhaps see something they’ve never seen before or didn’t even know they would enjoy,” Preston added.
All performances are held at the Opelika Performing Arts Center, located at Opelika High School. The state-of-the-art facility was built to bridge education with the events to be held by the association, a partnership that benefits both sides. Preston spoke of performers who were able to personally connect with students and teachers.
“Whenever we can, we piggy-back off (the performers) to get some of the artists in the school system to work with teachers and kids doing master classes. We try to get as much connection as we can between the artist and the people that are here. It’s not always possible with every performer we host but when we can, it’s beneficial for everyone,” Preston said.
The greatest endeavor and success for Preston is to bring world-renowned arts to the community and to share the wow and wonder with as many people as possible.
“The greatest compliment we can receive is when someone says ‘This was amazing, I had no idea I would like this.’ For the audience to have that sense of discovery. You don’t have to visit The Fox in Atlanta or go to New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. We are doing all those things here. What you see is also what is seen in major metropolitan areas,” Preston said.
Preston reviewed the upcoming season, which includes signature performances from groups and acts from all over the world , notably Australia, Ireland, Japan, London and even Siberia.
The season lineup
The opening show will be Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and the association will host the Kingdom Choir. The group is a gospel choir that is famous for having sung ‘Stand by Me” at the royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
When their tour was announced, Preston knew this would be a beautiful addition to this year’s season.
Following the Kingdom Choir’s performance and straight from Broadway is “The Color Purple” on Nov. 13.
A holiday performance is set for Dec. 10 with “The Ten Tenors.” They will be singing festive favorites along with a few modern holiday hits.
“The Siberian State Symphony Orchestra” is set for Jan. 29.
“Drum Tao” will be performing Feb. 3. These are internationally acclaimed TAO artists from Japan.
Taiko is an ancient Japanese art of drumming. Expect a high-energy performance from the group.
Feb. 18 is set to be one of hysterics and great choreography presented by “Les Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo.” A dancing group of men poking fun at the ways of the ballet through the ages.
Billed as “the hottest guitarist in the world” Milos Karadiglac out of London will be setting hearts and souls on fire Feb. 27. He delights audiences worldwide, and his music is inspired by The Beatles as well as Mozart.
The finale performance will be held April 2 with “The Choir of Man,” which will include some of the best voices of the UK and a completely fun performance of dancing, singing and a few beers in an Irish pub.
“The thing that we want to accomplish,” Preston said, “is that for this community, arts is just what we do. It’s entertaining, it’s educational, it’s inspiring. It’s all the things we need to communicate with each other as people.”
“We can become as sophisticated of an audience as we choose to be,” he added.
Individual tickets and season tickets are available and can be purchased at www.eastalabamaarts.org.
The Arts Association offices are located at 1103 Glenn St. in Opelika and can be reached at 334-749-6105 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.