Strathmore is like that. Yes, the Music Center is an acoustically fine second home for the Baltimore Symphony. Yes, there’s also the Mansion on the North Bethesda campus with its own history.
But right under our noses Strathmore has added a state-of-the-art cabaret-style concert venue that’s becoming an anchor of its Pike & Rose neighborhood.
Amp by Strathmore , which opened in March, is the latest addition to the Montgomery County-owned nonprofit cultural arts complex. And the new kid on the block is trying to hit just the right note.
It’s an intimate space for live music and a meal. There are 240 seats, plus pub tables and a standing drink rail. The live shows encompass blues, soul, rock-and-roll, folk, bluegrass, Broadway and Sinatra tributes and comedy.
“For some acts, the Music Center is too big, and the Mansion is too small. Amp is a very suitable space for a more esoteric direction for Strathmore,” says Sam Brumbaugh, Strathmore’s director of programming. “We want to appeal to younger generations and build the audience with that, to meet change and not have change pass us by.”
In a bit of cultural cross-pollination, the facility is teaming with Potomac’s Glenstone modern art museum for a free concert series. In the series, dubbed Counterpoint, musicians first perform at Amp and the next day play an acoustic show at Glenstone that’s inspired by the art there. The first Counterpoint shows took place Oct. 2 and 3 and featured D.C. native Hamilton Leithauser, former frontman of the Walkmen. The second and third installments are scheduled for winter and spring.
Amp’s slogan is “Audible. Edible.” Visitors can dine on fare such as roasted olives; burrata and heirloom tomato salad; and roasted salmon with asparagus, and zucchini and fennel couscous. Cocktails are named for music festivals, and the beer list is heavy on IPAs.
In good weather, Amp brings the outdoors in by opening floor-to-ceiling windows. And it sends the music out, to passersby near the iPic Theaters and to residents across the street.
Strathmore’s main campus — with the Music Center and Mansion — is one Metro stop away (Grosvenor). Its unique touches aren’t dimmed in the wake of Amp’s arrival.
If traveling by Metro to the main campus, look up so that you don’t miss “Hearts Beat,” the light installation along the sky bridge, where LED tubes match the rhythms of a male and a female heart.
At the Music Center’s concert hall, motorized panels allow for fast adjustments to suit the acoustics for any genre of music.
The mansion’s history, since 1902 — from summer home to dairy farm to convent/school to headquarters for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association — is recalled in stained-glass panels near the gift shop.
Key to making sure it all lasts, says Brumbaugh, is a cross-generational appeal that Amp is meant to help build.