At Wolf Trap, employees take a break with in-office music recitals

Organization: Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

Location: Vienna.

Employees: 78.

Employees at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts spend their days bringing arts performances and education programs to their community. But once a week during summer months, the entertainment comes to them.

Wolf Trap Opera Co., the nonprofit’s resident troupe of performers, puts on a series of brief recitals for their colleagues as part of a program known as “Little Lunch Music.” The musicians gather in an office atrium around lunchtime, and staffers come together to hear them perform everything from arias to show tunes to contemporary music.

Even workers who are hunkered down at their desks can enjoy the show, because the building’s open setup allows sound to travel through its offices.

Kim P. Witman, director of the Wolf Trap Opera and one of the concerts’ organizers, said she worried at the outset that employees would be annoyed by the interruption to their workday.

“I was terrified. I said, ‘What if people don’t like it? What if people just want to be working?’” she said.

But the events have continued for six years because they were received with enthusiasm. Wolf Trap’s staff is full of arts aficionados, Witman said, and many employees have welcomed the concerts as energizing, not distracting.

Witman said the performances serve as a “weekly reminder of ‘This is why we do what we do.’ ”

Rebecca Proch, the Vienna-based organization’s manager of education technology and resources, said she has found that stopping to enjoy the concerts has helped spark some creativity.

“It engages a whole different part of your brain,” Proch said. And when listeners return to their desks, “You can deal with your work in a refreshed frame of mind.”

Proch also said the strong attendance at the recitals reflects the seriousness of Wolf Trap’s commitment to immersion in the arts. Proch said she’d expect many other employers might discourage employees from watching a performance when they were on the clock.

But at Wolf Trap, she said, “‘I would expect my boss to be like, ‘Why aren’t you out there listening to the music?’ ”

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.

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