Picture this: It’s Saturday night and you’re ready for a night out. You pack up your things and drive to Sidney Harman Hall where free parking awaits, head up to the cocktail reception featuring high-end food and then proceed to a live concert—featuring icons like Tony Bennett and Diana Ross—before closing the night with an after-party at a designated restaurant in the area.
And the best part is, you get to do this three times a year without ever pulling out your wallet throughout the evening.
This is what a typical night would look like for a member of Music With Friends DC, the newly launched concert series that has been thriving in Charlotte and Houston for over a decade. The DC branch of the concept is spearheaded by two entrepreneurs from the Northern Virginia region, Alex Obuchowski and Barry Feil.
Prior to taking a leap and welcoming the concert series to the District, Feil served as CEO of nonprofit Celebrate Fairfax for nearly 15 years, where he ran major festivals, led community outreach programs and grew his love for the arts scene in this region. But Feil didn’t just dive into this idea, he had been thinking about it for a long time.
“I first heard about it 10 years ago while I was at Celebrate Fairfax,” says Feil. “I was working with my agent and he casually mentioned this program he was working with in North Carolina and I instantly fell in love with it. I thought, what a perfect way for people like me, who love live music but don’t want the hustle and crowds, to enjoy the art.”
For Feil, the series is about experiencing music in its truest form. Every concert will take place at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall, which was specifically chosen for its architecture and size, fitting a capacity of 760 people. Yet for Music With Friends, each performance will cap at 600 seats in order to keep the events intimate and comfortable.
“The key was finding the right venue that had all the boxes checked,” says Feil, referring to elements of size that weren’t too large or small, good acoustics and a little bit of history. “There had to be character to it. The stage is large with great sites for every seat, the roof is high, making for great sound, and it’s in a populated area. It’s the perfect venue.”
Feil expects members will span in personality, ranging from corporate teams to DC couples, but the underlying similarity will be a love for the arts.
“The event is something people can look forward to for months, and in reality it doesn’t really matter who is performing because the experience is always going to be special,” says Feil.
But of course, the stars who will make their debut on the Sidney Harman Hall stage are recognizable names, as the members will have a say in who performs. Each year, the team will send a list of musicians, ranging in genre from classic rock to pop, for members to choose from. As for who Feil would like to see? The Doobie Brothers, The Pretenders and Elvis Costello come to mind.
Obuchowski and Feil are currently wrapping up the branding phase of the project, and are starting to work with local businesses, corporations and law firms to promote the concept. Over the course of the next few months, they will be inviting individuals to come in for dinner or brunch events to continue spreading the word about Music With Friends. While all of this behind-the-scenes action is happening, applications for membership for the inaugural 2020 season are now open. Cost for membership start with an initiation fee that runs from $800 to $1,000, followed by a membership fee of $2,000.
“I want to attract people like me who love music and who are just going to cherish what this is all about,” says Feil. “We know there’s an audience for this, it’s just a matter of bringing them on board.”
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