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D.C. public school faculty turn music room into soul music sanctuary

The multi-instrumentalists of Adamare headline a show at DC9 on Saturday

Adamare is, from left, Joe Robinson, Alex Baron, Nate Harris, Claire Tucker, Ben Byrd and Giavanti Greenaugh. (Khanh Le)
3 min

It’s 4 p.m. on a Thursday at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School. Over 350 kids, ages 3 to 10, buzz in the hallway, stuffing tiny backpacks with crumpled papers and jostling one another to be first in line for the exit. Six school employees converge in the elementary school music room, where tambourines and xylophones hang from the wall. They strap guitars to their bodies, take their place behind drum sets and keyboards. Alex Baron writes a set list on the whiteboard. Adamare’s weekly rehearsal begins.

“The school goes from being a really chaotic environment to us being in a place of deep peace and connection to a passion. And that is therapeutic,” says Baron, the drummer, who during the day serves as a teacher trainer. “We need it.”

The group formed slowly, member by member. It started ahead of a student performance around 2018, when Giavanti Greenaugh (bassist and math coach) and Ben Byrd (guitarist and music teacher) opted to perform a live — rather than recorded — backing track. Other E.L. Haynes teachers wanted in on the collaboration. The last Adamare member, Nate Harris (keys player and art teacher), joined in early 2020, just before the pandemic reimagined their professions and stole their rehearsal space. What emerged once the group felt comfortable reconvening mid-pandemic was something Greenaugh describes as “sacred.”

Adamare’s sound is soul. Adamare’s sound is jazz, rock and psychedelic. But ultimately, Adamare’s sound is uniquely Claire Tucker — the school’s culture coach, who happens to be in possession of gripping, gorgeous vocals that unify a hodgepodge of styles.

“Claire is both the centerpiece and the glue,” says Harris during a group Zoom interview. Tucker’s range “makes us be able to switch from a song that has more soul to one that has more rock, sometimes within the same song. … Her voice grounds all of that.”

Take the band’s first single, “Anticipation,” released in late March. It traverses a rich stylistic landscape in its five minutes, heavy with percussion and dripping in harmonies. It builds slowly to a — yes, anticipated — powerful bridge and dives into a soulful guitar serenade. Tucker’s voice floats above it all: “Tell me how you’re feeling / I wanna help you let it go / Despite our isolation / You should never have to feel alone.”

It’s this notion of interpersonal connection and community that fuels the group’s musical and professional work.

“It speaks to our band name,” Tucker says of Adamare, a word with Latin roots. “It means to add love to everything we do, from how we create music, to how we show up in the classroom, to how we care for our families.”

Five of the six Adamare members are parents of young children — Joe Robinson (guitarist and pre-K teacher) sat with his infant on his lap for much of our Zoom call — but despite busy schedules, Tucker says, prioritizing a musical outlet helps her “rejuvenate and connect to the things that bring [her] joy.”

Their community is responding. They were hired to play a school staff event. Their principal attends almost every show. And, they say, it’s rubbing off on their students.

“Teaching is so far beyond what you say and do in a classroom,” Baron says. “To model for the kids what it looks like to be deeply passionate and committed, to be striving toward other pursuits outside of math and reading. … We hope for the kids to be well-rounded, and strive to be excellent in multiple areas of life.”

April 8 at 7:30 p.m. at DC9, 1940 Ninth St. NW. $20.