facebook Share on Facebook A mix of music, comedians and magic are on the schedule for The Clayton Center's 2009-10 performing arts season.

The seventh Palladian Series opens on Saturday, Oct. 17 with two shows by Ricky Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder. Skaggs’ show will feature songs from his 2009 Grammy Award-winning “Honoring The Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947” as well as tunes he has produced in his 38-year career. The band will appear at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. in its first appearance since 2003.

“We are really excited about the new season,” said Heidi Stump, executive director of The Clayton Center. “As always, we are committed to producing a variety of programs and the very best artists touring the world today.” Stump said several factors go into putting together the schedule each year. She attends music conferences, where artists perform in showcases and full-fledged concerts. In addition to seeing who is on tour and meeting with agents, she also must consider the venue’s budget, which artists could be promoting new material and creating a lineup with variety.

It was at a conference that Stump was able to see Skaggs and another artist who ended up on this year’s schedule: Mike Farris and his Roseland Rhythm Revue (April 10). “Ricky and Mike both played full concerts at this conference, and both of them knocked my socks off,” Stump said. “It was the first time I’d seen Ricky live – I think I might have been the only person in Johnston County who’d never seen him. They both sounded great. It was happenstance that I caught Mike. I was there to see Ricky, and then Mike walks on stage and just blows me away.” Farris is the former frontman of Screaming Cheetah Wheelies. After falling on hard times, Farris overcame his alcohol abuse, put together his new band and released “Salvation Lights” in 2007 to worldwide critical and fan acclaim. His blues- and gospel-infused music features elements of redemption and earned him the 2008 Americana Music Award for New/Emerging Artist of the Year.

The Clayton Center will offer a special Sunday afternoon event on Nov. 15. “The Spencers: Theatre of Illusion” is a fun, family show filled with never-before-seen illusion. Etta May returns with her new show, “Dr. Etta: Family Specialist,” on Jan. 22, followed by Blues Bash V: Soul Mates, featuring Eric Bibb and Ruthie Foster, on Feb. 26. Popera sensations Destino Tenors make their début at the Clayton venue on Feb. 13, and jazz guitarist, band leader and radio host John Pizzarelli will perform on March 26. Farris and his Roseland Rhythm Revue close out the season in April.

Tickets are open to new subscribers only from Aug. 19-26. Individual tickets go on sale Aug. 27. To purchase tickets, call The Clayton Center at 553-1737, visit www.theclaytoncenter.com or go by the center's box office on weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon or 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Last year, five of the six Palladian Series sold out. “We attracted audiences from all around the region, and audience response to the artists who appear here continues to grow,” Stump said. “We are always looking for artists who not only are great live but who engage the audience. We believe all of our artists will give our patrons something they will appreciate.”

A brief synopsis of each show follows: Saturday, Oct. 17 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets: $25 (4 p.m.) and $29 (8 p.m.) Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder Called “nothing short of brilliant” by Billboard magazine, Skaggs and his band will return to Clayton for the first time in six years. Affectionately known as the “official ambassador of bluegrass,” Skaggs has single handedly ferried the genre to greater levels of popularity than most anyone could ever have imagined, sealing his position as one of the country’s true musical treasures. Sunday, Nov. 15 4 p.m. Tickets: $15 adults, $12 children 12 and under, $50 family four-pack (two adults, two children)

The Spencers: Theatre of Illusion Modern-day Houdinis Kevin and Cindy Spencer fuse their passion for the art of magic and appreciation of theatre into one of the largest-touring illusion shows on the road today. The show combines drama, comedy, romance and suspense with elaborate stage illusions, dazzling special effects and magnificent stage design. Friday, Jan. 22: 8 p.m. Tickets: $20

“Dr. Etta: Family Specialist” The family of the 21st century is deathly ill, and Dr. Etta has the cure. This new one-woman show from award-winning comedian Etta May is a hilarious and heartfelt look at the breakdown of the American family presented as a two-act play staged as a seminar. Saturday, Feb. 13 8 p.m. Tickets: $22

Destino Tenors The Vancouver-based tenors who make up Destino combine their powerful and commanding voices into a style best described as “popera” – pop with an opera flair, infused with a little soul, R&B and jazz. They sing in English, French and Spanish and cover everything from operatic classics to songs by Marc Anthony. Friday, Feb. 26: 8 p.m. Tickets: $25

Blues Bash V: Soul Mates Eric Bibb and Ruthie Foster are soulmates of sorts – collaborators in the studio and on stage, and each is critically acclaimed for creating their own unique voice within a blend of soul, blues, gospel and R&B. Bibb is an acclaimed guitar player who has dazzled audiences for four decades; Foster blends Southern blues, country poetry, jazz elegance and gospel redemption. Friday, March 26: 8 p.m. Tickets: $25

John Pizzarelli Internationally known for classic standards, late-night ballads and the cool jazz flavor he brings to his music, Pizzarelli has established himself as the consummate entertainer. The 2009 recipient of the Ella Fitzgerald Award, he continues to tour the world performing classic pop, jazz and swing and setting the standard for stylish modern jazz. Saturday, April 10: 8 p.m. Tickets: $25

Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue If the music of Lou Reed and Otis Redding spawned a love child, Farris’ musical genius would be the offspring. His live performances and rafter-raising boogie stew will light your soul on fire with bone-rattling Southern gospel with an undeniable sound right out of New Orleans.