- The Washington Times - Monday, April 14, 2008

“Concert Hall” and “jammin’ ” aren’t words that usually show up in the same sentence. Yet they came together Saturday night at Strathmore Music Center’s third annual gala, Strathmore Swings, when more than 350 music lovers gathered to dine, dance and honor Giant Foods exec Barry Scher for his long-time commitment to arts and education.

“Music lets us come together as a people,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who played in an Irish band for 19 years. “It’s the thing that keeps us here.” Turns out, Mr. O’Malley wasn’t the only one who thought that way. Strathmore Hall Foundation President and CEO Eliot Pfanstiehl had his own band experiences at Montgomery Blair High School that helped shape his life as an adult. Former Maryland state Sen. Ida Ruben, resplendent in purple with matching heels higher than those of most of the women in the room, had fond memories of performances in high school operettas in the District. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett remembered his first magical music moment — when an opera singer performed at his college — as he greeted other political notables, including former Rep. Connie Morella, Sen. Ben Cardin and various members of the Montgomery County Council.

Between the classy black-and-white aesthetic inside and the gorgeous weather outside, the night was prime time for great music making — especially with Grammy Award winner Patti Austin and the Count Basie Orchestra providing the evening’s entertainment. The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra offered the perfect exclamation point and plenty of reason to dance at an after-party where gala guests mingled with other concertgoers.

“It’s such a creative place,” said Carol Trawick, who donated $1 million to Strathmore arts and education programs with her husband, Jim Trawick. “The wonderful thing is that you are exposed to so many different types of music here.” Thanks to recent donations, including another $1 million from Jeffrey and Carolyn Leonard of Chevy Chase, Montgomery County youngsters, including 20,000 from its public schools, can participate in workshops on choral singing, opera and dance.

“We want people who can think creatively. The arts can help you do that,” Mr. Leggett said, noting other Strathmore programs designed for family members to do together.

“I just love this place,” one woman said as she made her way to her car at evening’s end. “It’s just ‘jammin’ all the time.”

Lisa Rauschart

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