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First Person Singular: Birchmere promoter Michael Jaworek

Michael Jaworek, Birchmere Music Promoter.
Name: Michael Jaworek
Occupation: Promoter, the Birchmere music hall
Age: 57 | Home: Falls Church (Benjamin C. Tankersley)
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

My father was fairly strict about pop music; he just didn't care for it, and he wouldn't let me listen to it in the car when he was driving. So I didn't really get a chance to listen to it until, I think, I was a junior in high school. I went to the local thrift store and bought a radio for $3, so I was able to listen to the stations at the time. The first song I remember hearing, of all things, was "Sky Pilot," by Eric Burdon and the Animals, and the second song was "Piece of My Heart," by Janis. And at that point the levee broke.

I've been promoting since I was in college. Myself and three other guys formed a student group called Blues Power; we went to the University of Illinois, which was about 3? hours south of Chicago, and no one at that time was bringing in blues acts that we all liked, so we figured we'd do it ourselves. Our first show was with Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers, with Blind Jim Brewer to support, which we did in the student union ballroom. More than a thousand people showed up. So we all kind of felt, gee, this is easy. Little did I know.

It was somewhat difficult for my father, who was a teacher all his life, to understand what exactly I did for a living. But I remember a moment of epiphany: I went to see the Persuasions in New York, I guess about 1980, and I came back after the show, and he was up reading, and he said, "Well, how was it?" And I responded not just in a musical sense but from the business side of it, and a look went across his face that I knew something he didn't. And that was a moment when I think I was perceived more as an adult because I knew what I was doing and knew a business he did not.

I've been booking the club for over 20 years. It's a challenge to see if I can connect an artist with an audience successfully, both aesthetically and financially. It's an extremely dynamic field, and B does not always follow A. Things happen. There are times when the research you've done indicates that a certain show will be successful, and sometimes that's not the case, for whatever reasons. Every so often, people ask me, "How do you do it?" And I say, "Well, if you can take $25,000 to $50,000 and either flush it down the toilet or burn it up, and then can do that without flinching, then we can talk."

Interview by Amanda Abrams


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