In the course of 10 days in late October, the Strathmore Music Center (5301 Tuckerman Lane) will host five speakers, not musical acts, in its 1,900-seat concert hall.

For the past three years, the staff at the Music Center has attempted to broaden its reach and build its place on the Washington-area cultural scene with a diverse range of events, Artistic Director and Vice President of Programming Shelley Brown said.

It’s also been able to attract larger acts with some creative scheduling and a yearly average of about 100,000 customers.

On Oct. 19, author Fran Lebowitz and former New York Times columnist Frank Rich will discuss the upcoming Presidential election. Humorist David Sedaris will read his favorite writings on Oct. 23. Five days later, poets Billy Collins and Mary Oliver will read their works.

“We have a very sophisticated audience here. They’re very well educated and they have lots of choices,” Brown said. “We built our business as kind of the little engine that could, to fill in the areas that other people aren’t doing.”

The Music Center opened in 2005, the result of almost $100 million in funding from Montgomery County and the state of Maryland.


Brown has worked at Strathmore since the late 1990’s and said it has developed into a brand people respect and that is competitive with similar venues elsewhere in the area.

The 2012-2013 season includes a number of violin performances and what Brown described as “traditional music for music lovers.”

It also features the return of Broadway actress and singer Patti LuPone (Oct. 5), an example of the type of act Brown said demonstrates the growth of the venue.


To spur that, Strathmore officials have attempted to create as “artist-friendly” of an environment as possible.

That means flexible exclusivity clauses that allow acts to perform at other area venues and, of course, any little perks.

“If it’s important for an artist to have silverware and china for their dinner, then we try to have it,” Brown said. “We feel like once we lure somebody over, they will come back.”


For more information on upcoming events at Strathmore, visit its website.

Flickr photo by Bill in DC