The first public event at the Music Center at Strathmore is Monday's 19th annual Washington Area Music Awards. After starting out at Lisner Auditorium, the so-called Wammies have been held at various venues, including in recent years at the State Theatre in Falls Church.
Though the concert hall is brand-new, the relationship between Strathmore and the Washington Area Music Association has been blossoming for some time, most obviously in the Washington Area Timeline Concert Series, presented every Wednesday night since September 2003 in either the Mansion or outdoors at the Gudelsky Gazebo. Arranged roughly chronologically, the 65 concerts highlighted the region's considerable musical history, hiring local musicians to pay homage to their predecessors (some of the honored artists participated themselves, including John Eaton, Hazel Dickens and the Orioles). Most of the Mansion concerts drew full houses, while an outdoor Nils Lofgren tribute featuring Lofgren and a score of his fellow musicians attracted almost 8,000 people last August.
Shelley Brown, Strathmore's director of music programming, who is also on the WAMA board, says that "our large number of very talented musicians is a resource not always properly utilized by local presenters. One of the roles an arts center can play is to lift up and advance performers throughout their career." Local musicians performing at the Music Center in the coming months include the Nighthawks (opening for Dr. John on Tuesday), Bonnie Rideout with the City of Washington Pipe Band, the Seldom Scene, and Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.
Along with loads of Wammies, Monday's program will feature a lot of fine music. Scheduled performers include the Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band, Ellis Paul, EU featuring Sugar Bear, Hillbilly Jazz, Jennifer Cutting's Ocean Orchestra, Pat McGee Band, Tom Principato and the Root Boy Slim Tribute Band. EU and Root Boy Slim will receive Hall of Fame awards with "Mama" Cass Elliot, while Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer will receive the Spotlight Award. Billy Hancock will get a Special Recognition Award.
Reserve tickets range from $50 box seats and $25 for non-WAMA members to $15 for WAMA members and $10 for nominees. To purchase tickets online, visit wamadc.com/wama/waminfo.html or www.strathmore.org. To charge tickets by phone, call 703-368-3300 or 888-843-0933. Or call the Strathmore ticket office at 301-581-5100.
-- Richard Harrington