418 South Illinois Avenue, Carbondale, Illinois 62901, United States

(618) 457-5353

A historic visual and performing arts venue in downtown Carbondale, IL.


Banjovi with Tawl Paul

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6
$7 in advance / $10 at the door
Doors and Varsity Bar open at 7

The combination of three musical genres – traditional contra, blues and standards – might seem an odd combination, but you can hear just how well it works when bluesman Tawl Paul joins contra string band Banjovi in a special concert at The Varsity on Oct. 6.

 The set list includes a variety of songs. “Sam Hall,” “I’ll Just Pretend,” “Pinball Wizard,” “College Blues” and “High on a Mountain Top” will be performed by Banjovi. Paul will join them for performances of “Big Boss Man,” “The Letter,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “Blue Skies,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “500 Miles,” “The Thrill is Gone,” “My Babe” and “High Heel Sneakers.”  

Banjovi has played for square- and contra-dances in Southern Illinois and Missouri for more than two decades, as well as many other venues and private events. Their repertoire includes not only old-time dance tunes but also songs from traditions such as bluegrass, classic rock, folk and blues.


Lew Hendrix plays dobro and clawhammer banjo, the oldest style of playing with roots in Africa. Cathie Hutcheson plays upright bass and guitar; Toby Merriman plays fiddle and mandolin. Lew and Toby sing lead while Cathie sings harmony. Regular Tawl Paul band member Bill Carter will join the group for Paul's set.

Carbondale’s Tawl Paul (Paul Frederick) has been singing the blues for almost 40 years and is known for his growling, deep voice and electric presence on stage make him one of a kind.

Invincible Czars

Invincible Czars are Phil Davidson, Aaryn Russell, Sarah Jane Hargis and Josh Robins.

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26
$10 in advance, $15 at the door
Doors and Varsity Bar open at 7


Fans of contemporary, art-house cinematic scoring or classic silent films won’t want to miss the Invincible Czars performing live original accompaniment to 1925’s silent film “Phantom of the Opera.” 

The unique group is making a stop at The Varsity on Friday, Oct. 26. This show opens a weekend of Halloween events at The Varsity, and patrons are encouraged to dress for the occasion.

The Austin, Texas-based band makes quirky, bold music and has filled theaters all over the U.S., delivering intricately crafted and precisely performed silent film soundtracks. Using a mix of acoustic and electric instruments, sound effects and vocals, the Invincible Czars have been praised across the country for making old silent classics frightening and entertaining for modern audiences.

Classical Guitar Series

Performances are Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $12 in advance or $14 at the door
Student tickets are $8; children 10 and  younger are admitted free

The Varsity Center and H. Skip Cutting have joined forces to co-produce a Classical Guitar Concert Series for the 2018-19 season. This series is the first of its kind in Southern Illinois and will be produced in conjunction with St. Louis Classical Guitar, the premier classical guitarist organization in the country. 

The featured musicians hold numerous advanced degrees and are nationally known virtuosos and competition winners who will present a wide range of music written or transcribed for this versatile instrument. The name ‘classical guitar’ refers not to the music being played – which can be any music from Bach to Rock and Roll and beyond – but to the type of guitar being played.

Here are the remaining performances on the schedule:

Nov. 17, “From Bach to the Beatles” with the Gateway Classical Guitar Quartet. This group of four has performed regionally and is comprised of the four great guitarists: Paul Kreter, Jeff Sieth, Stephen Rekas and David Henry, all of whom reside in St. Louis and are members of St. Louis Classical Guitar.  The quartet will perform selections from the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods, and the music of countries such as Spain and Brazil. 

March 23 “Debussy, Scarlatti, Rodrigo, Sor and More with Tim Steis.” Tim is not only a phenomenal guitarist; he builds and sells guitarss. Originally from Frenchtown, Maryland, he lives and works in Carbondale. Tim will perform on instruments he made, and his performance will not only delight listeners but also those who appreciate instruments designed and built to meet the needs of the most demanding classical performance artist.

May 18 “From Paganini to Piazzolla with Duo Astoria” This guitar and violin performance features Bailey and Kevin Ginty, who, with these composers, have developed a program of Romances and Tangos that will delight. Bailey and Kevin began playing duets while they were attending the University of Florida at Gainsville as music performance majors, Bailey as a violinist, Kevin as a classical guitarist. In addition to performing, Bailey teaches privately and is and is on the violin faculty of the Community Music School at Webster University. Kevin is the executive director of St. Louis Classical Guitar.