Bridging the Gap

Promoter and event producer Jake Ward wants to see the entertainment scene in Sonoma County succeed. The founder of North Bay Cabaret and co-founder of Circus Maximus, which performs its new original production, Juxtapose, at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa on April 9, has gained a wealth of knowledge, and he plans to pay it forward.

In the last year, Ward was introduced to and began working with promoter Rick Bartalini, the one-man force behind Rick Bartalini Presents, whose client list includes Diana Ross and comedian Bill Maher. Last month, Bartalini brought Ward on board to help with the sold-out Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen acoustic show at the Marin Center in San Rafael.

“His approach to being a promoter really resonated with me,” Ward says. “He’s very successful, but he’s not in it for self-promotion. And he’s really dedicated to offering a quality experience for the artist.”

In addition to the idea of artist-focused attention, Bartalini has also introduced Ward to the financial scrutiny that comes with event promotion, analyzing and strategizing everything from venue size to ticket prices. Now Ward wants to translate this knowledge into helping local bands and venues maximize their potential. For Ward, the state of the scene in Sonoma County is at the forefront of his mind.

“There are so many bands who would be adept at creating their own shows, at dealing with independent tours, if they just had a little direction,” says Ward.

Ward points to the upcoming Next Level Showcase and Conference (see p21 for more info) as a great resource and sees his own concept, a series of workshops focused on helping musicians and venues connect, as the flip side of that coin.

“There is no book to being an independent promoter or producer,” Ward says. “Every market is different, every venue is different. I’m trying to boil some of that down and save people years of trial and error.”

Ward is also focused on his work with Circus Maximus. For the past few months, he’s organized biweekly workshops at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, where potential performers can drop in and practice with things like stilts and tight ropes. The next event is Sunday, April 17.

This weekend’s Circus Maximus production will be an all-ages show with aerialists, acrobats and clowns. Face-painting, food, games and midway attractions will also be part of the action. “It’s an awe-inspiring lineup,” Ward says. “It’s going to be great for kids as well as adults.”