Reynolds Industries Theater, Duke Campus—Awadagin Pratt emerged as a luminous young piano virtuoso in the late '80s, dazzling with his vibrant takes on works from major composers like Rachmaninoff, Bach and Chopin. He won big at the career-defining Naumburg competition, where he was the first African-American classical instrumentalist to win first prize. Later, he mastered the violin and began conducting, becoming a conduit, too, for education in classical music. Ultimately, Pratt, now 43, plays this music with equally exciting degrees of technical prowess and finesse. On Thursday, Oct. 1, Pratt teaches a free master class at Duke's Baldwin Auditorium at 5 p.m. Friday, pay $30 ($5 for Duke students). The performance starts at 8. Visit www.dukeperformances.duke.edu. —Chris Toenes
Correction (Sept. 30, 2009): Pratt's concert performance will be in Reynolds Industries Theater, not Page Auditorium.
Raleigh Little Theatre—The Beatles started it. Then Menudo and New Kids on the Block followed. For my generation, there's been Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and made-for-MTV 2gether. Now, the Jonas Brothers will have to make room for Altar Boyz, a Christian quintet made up of members Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan ... and Abraham. The latest (albeit fictitious) boy band rolls into town on its Raise the Praise tour, with songs like "Jesus Called Me on My Cell Phone" and "Girl You Make Me Wanna Wait." Anyone who's loved a boy band or suffered through its reign atop the pop charts will recognize the music and appreciate the satire. The Boyz are savin' souls through Oct. 25. Tickets for adults are $20, with students and seniors $17. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, with 3 p.m. matinees on Sundays. Seeing the show early in its run offers an incentive: On the first Sunday, Oct. 4, everyone gets in for $10. For more information, visit www.raleighlittletheatre.org. —Sarah Ewald
Memorial Auditorium—The Opera Company of North Carolina opens its 2009-10 season with this staging of Giuseppe Verdi's classic tale of vengeance and manipulation. Internationally experienced Gaétan Laperrière heads the cast as Rigoletto, the hunchbacked court jester whose "tongue of malice" leads to a terrible curse that unfolds when the lecherous duke he serves falls for Rigoletto's daughter, Gilda. This being an opera, there's not exactly a happy ending. The performance runs at 7:30 tonight, with another presentation at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4. Ticket prices range from $21 (rear balcony) to $76 (dress circle). For more information, visit www.operanc.com or call 792-3850. —Zack Smith
Local 506—The Internet owes Nathan Williams an apology, and Nathan Williams owes the world that apology back. From late last year until about March, the online music literati creamed its collective jorts for Wavves, the San Diego teenager's bedroom project of simplistic pop and punk bent into the blues by shitty equipment and scattershot delivery. And by creamed its jorts, I mean the World Wide Web went for that orgasm full thrust: By South by Southwest in March, Wavves was playing a dozen or so parties, getting inundated with press requests, and generally snorting the eight ball of a drug labeled "Holy shit, the whole world loves me." Williams crashed hard from the high, though, yelling at and launching bottles into a massive crowd at a Spanish music festival in June. His drummer walked off stage. He had to cancel a European tour. He sent himself packing. So the Internet, ostensibly, put Williams—the nadir of the latest in lo-fi—beneath a spotlight when he simply wasn't ready. But, as you'll figure out tonight, he continues to put songs into the world that could suffer the stamp of maturity. Let's apologize and wait a few years, OK? Or, hey, let's call the whole thing off.
That said, go to this show, if only for Sacramento trio Ganglians. Sun- and smoke-damaged, Ganglians make Beach Boys harmonies and Byrds jangle sound wonderfully casual again. Across three releases for red-hot New York label Woodsist, they've oozed warmth and charm, delivering songs about the annals of 20-something existence (seriously, lyrics about grocery store lines and equivocation) as if singing from some cosmic proclamation. Embarrassing Fruits open. Pay $10-$12 at 9:30 p.m. See www.local506.com. —Grayson Currin
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Sertoma Amphitheatre, Bond Park—"Jack shall have Jill, and naught shall go ill" goes the show. Are you kidding me? Shakespeare's classic comedy functions as a doubling down of Murphy's Law for everyone. Four humans (ladies Hermia and Helena, and lads Lysander and Demetrius) couple and un-couple both of their own accord and helped by a magic flower. In the fairy realm, would-be changeling-thief Oberon tries to work himself back into queen Titania's good graces. There's more to this version by the Cary Players: We're told they've taken inspiration from Bollywood, which should make for an entertaining night in the woods. The play runs this weekend and the weekend of Oct. 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults, $11 for the under-18s and over-55s, and $10 for all on Oct. 8. For more information, visit www.caryplayers.org. —Sarah Ewald
Masters of the Irish Harp
University Mall—William Jackson helped revive Scottish folk music in the 1970s while playing harp with the band Ossian. Gráinne Hambly earned her advanced degree researching Irish folk music and has been playing harp professionally for nearly a decade. Jackson is a Scotsman who now calls Asheville home, while Hambly hails from County Mayo, Ireland. They've been playing together since 2004. The two multi-instrumentalists interweave plucked harp strings to create a dense, rich tapestry of pan-Celtic music, where songs might be as ephemeral as mist but where jigs and reels spring with the excitement of an open Guinness. Get $15 tickets ahead of time at The ArtsCenter for the 7:30 p.m. show. Visit www.artscenterlive.org. —Andrew Ritchey