Melvin Simpson

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Trumpet music has become a familiar sound to residents near the NoMa-Gallaudet University Metro station. They’ve heard “Amazing Grace,” “Military Taps,” “When The Saints Go Marching In” and a slew of other traditional American tunes.

The morning accompaniment is courtesy of Melvin Simpson.

He plays a pTrumpet, a brand of plastic trumpet that offers musicians a less expensive alternative to a heavy, brass instrument. This is critical for Simpson, who is homeless.

“I just try to entertain so I can make it through my day until I can find a regular job,” he said. “I needed to do something to bring in some income, so I just play my trumpet.”

Simpson grew up in Southeast D.C. and attended Eastern High School. At the school, he played baritone horn and trombone in the marching band, but hasn’t had any other formal musical training.

He taught himself how to play the trumpet, and all the songs he knows, he learned by ear.

The trumpet was a gift he received after he spent a week or so whistling popular tunes around the block. One day, a local couple approached him.

“I had just met them, and we started talking about my past and what I did,” Simpson said. “We talked a lot about instruments. I told them I was looking to get back into it but didn’t have the money for it. So the woman found this trumpet online for the right price and said she’d foot the bill.”

The instrument came at a small price to Simpson: Play “Happy Birthday” for the woman on her birthday.

“I’m just happy I was able to provide,” he said. “It was such a small task for what they did for me.”

Simpson did not identify the woman who purchased the trumpet.

When he’s not performing, Simpson spends his time at a nearby homeless shelter, where he said he has received a lot of support.

“They’re actually pretty surprised that someone’s actually doing something, but they see the initiative I’m taking,” Simpson said. “It’s hard, but I keep a positive attitude.”

After working on his repertoire around NoMa, Simpson plans to branch out to play at more locations, like Union Station. For now, he said he’s happy to do so while he waits on a Social Security card and can continue the job hunt.

“You could be going through something bad and hearing a song can just lighten up your whole day,” he said. “Music is a just a wonderful thing that speaks to the soul. It’s something this place lacks.”


Stevie Wonder (Photo via Wikimedi)

Stevie Wonder is set to perform for free outdoors near RFK Stadium this morning.

The Grammy award-winning artist is slated to play two to three songs during the pop-up show in the field between RFK and 19th Street, Events DC tweeted today. The first 1,000 concertgoers also will get free doughnuts.

The show starts at 10 a.m.

Photo via Wikimedia


"A Capitol Fourth" in 2010 (Photo via PBS)

Singer Barry Manilow, country music band Alabama and KC and the Sunshine Band will celebrate Independence Day with a free concert on the U.S. Capitol grounds.

The lineup for “A Capitol Fourth” on the Capitol’s West Lawn also includes “The Voice” contestant Meghan Linsey, pianist Lang Lang and the National Symphony Orchestra, among other performers, according to PBS, which will broadcast the concert with NPR.

Manilow, the show’s headliner, will open and close the 35th annual concert with a “special patriotic medley,” a news release from PBS said.

Actor and singer Robert Davi also will perform in honor of Frank Sinatra, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. And canons from the U.S. Army Presidential Salute Battery will blast as part of Peter Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”

The concert is from 8 to 9:30 p.m. on July 4.

A couple miles away, the Foo Fighters and other performers will have a concert on July 4 in celebration of the rock band’s 20th anniversary. The show starts at noon at RFK Stadium.

Tickets cost $78.

Photo via PBS


Mayor Muriel BowserGo-go musicians, a symphony and a performing arts group descended on a Navy Yard park today for a pop-up showcase, as part of a new program to encourage art in D.C. neighborhoods.

Teaching for Change, the Gourmet Symphony and the Atlas Performing Arts Center came to Canal Park to show off projects they’re working on for the Capitol Hill area and other parts of the District. The event launched “District Innovation Zones,” which Mayor Muriel Bowser said will provide a temporary “stage for artists” at Canal Park and other locations across D.C.

“We want to open up the arts to all of the people of the District of Columbia,” she said at a news conference at Canal Park. “We want our city to be known for more than the Congress and the White House and the downtown museums on the Mall. We will make arts a signature activity in the District of Columbia.”

A group of musicians with Teaching for Change performed go-go music, while children danced nearby. Through its “Teach the Beat: Go-Go Goes to School” program, Teaching for Change aims to bring the District’s homegrown music genre to history, language arts and music classes in Ward 6 and other portions of D.C., said Deborah Menkart, the group’s executive director.

Across the park, members of the Gourmet Symphony played near a table of Italian food. The group is working with local social service groups to bring live chamber music to the District’s homeless when they eat.

Atlas Performing Arts Center representatives also showed examples of mobiles it will use in a installation that is set to go on display in September. The organization is looking for the public to help it make more than 50 mobiles for the project.

To help create the mobiles, the arts center will have workshops in its space on the H Street corridor, as well as D.C. community centers and schools.

“We look at these mobiles as a great metaphor of many different parts coming together to create a new whole,” said Douglas Yeuell, the organization’s executive director.

Teaching for Change, the Gourmet Symphony, the Atlas Performing Arts Center and other organizations received grants for their projects earlier this month through the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.


Two veteran D.C. rock musicians are bringing a showcase of global music to the Hill Center

Starting March 15, the Hill Center will host four Sunday afternoon concerts by District musicians from Sierra Leone, Mali and Ethiopia.

Fugazi drummer and producer Brendan Canty and Jim Thomson — who coordinates music for the Capital Fringe Festival and was a drummer for Gwar — created the series to highlight D.C.’s lively global music scene, Thomson said. Its name, “Dounouya: Global Sounds on the Hill,” references a West African word for “the whole world,” organizers said.

“We’re going to focus on the international, cultural side of Washington, D.C.,” Thomson said. “This is a federal city, but it has a massive population of immigrants.”

The musicians will be Janka Nabay & The Bubu Gang, which makes traditionally Muslim music with drum machines, and Cheick Hamala Diabate, a Malian griot and string instrument-player who has performed with American banjo players. Also on the lineup are the Feedel Band, which mixes Ethiopian music and American sounds, and Amadou Kouyate, a kora player and drummer.

The musicians all combine sounds from their families’ countries, the U.S. and elsewhere, Thomson said.

“They’re doing funk music influenced by James Brown, and jazz influenced by Duke Ellington,” Thomson, 49, said about the Feedel Band.

You might not hear Canty’s or Thomson’s punk roots in the sounds of the concerts, but they’ll be there in the shows’ “philosophy,” Thomson said.

“Exposure to punk rock was really always about attitude, not really style,” he said. “Punk rock opened another door to possibilities.”

The concerts at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE will be held March 15, April 12, May 10 and June 28. Tickets cost $12 each online and $15 at the door. Craft beer and wine will be sold.

Photos courtesy of Hill Center/Michael Crook, John Shore


John Devlin (Photo courtesy of Gourmet Symphony)While classical musicians play Tchaikovsky, you can sip a vodka cocktail. During a selection from an Italian opera, you can dine on a dish from Vendetta. The music is designed to enhance the meal, and the meal is designed to enhance the music.

That’s the experience “Gourmet Symphony” will try to create on H Street NE later this month. Musicians, chefs and mixologists are teaming up to create a music and food pairing event on Valentine’s Day at the Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St. NE).

“We’re looking for people to have an experience where all their senses are excited,” Gourmet Symphony co-founder John Devlin said about the first in a series of events he will create this year.

Gourmet Symphony will provide an aural and gustatory tour of Europe, said Devlin, an Alexandria resident who is a conductor for the Capital City Symphony, among other groups.

Dessert will pair “light, meringue-y” sweets with the 1899 Maurice Ravel piece “Pavane for a Dead Princess.”

“We’re hoping that the lightness of the music — the strings and the harp — will enhance the taste of the food you’re eating,” Devlin, 29, said.

The remainder of the dishes on the four-course menu will be a surprise, but will match the nationality of each composer. The dishes will be prepared by restaurants including Smith Commons, Vendetta and Beuchert’s Saloon.

Devlin created the event with food operations director John Coco, who he previously worked with at The Kennedy Center. Over lunch at the H Street location of Taylor Gourmet, they talked about research they had seen about how perception of sound can affect perception of taste.

“We thought, Why don’t we develop a process to enhance the experience of music for people?” Devlin said.

He recalled having his own food/sound experience at Rock & Roll Hotel. He ate a hamburger and drank a Pabst Blue Ribbon as classical musicians played rock songs.

“I remember sitting there and thinking there was something really authentic about the experience,” Devlin said.

Tickets for the event 7 p.m. Feb. 14 cost $125 each and are available online.


Christylez Bacon and Nistha Raj (Photo via Facebook/Atlas Arts)D.C. concertgoers can hear a mashup of hip-hop and Indian music this weekend.

The hip-hop musician Christylez Bacon and Indian classical violinist Nistha Raj will play at The Atlas Performing Arts Center on Saturday and Sunday. Attendees can expect a mix of music and dance traditions in the latest installment of the “Washington Sound Museum” series.

“Washington Sound Museum is an extension of my personal artistic goal to promote cultural acceptance and unification through music,” Christylez Bacon told DCist. “Through these musical collaborations, we celebrate our differences and connect through our similarities, ultimately learning from each other.”

The shows are scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $25 each. An Indian tea reception will be held in the theater’s lobby at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. A dance class with hip-hop and Indian steps will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Photo via Facebook/Atlas Arts


Navy Band clarinet players (Photo via who love the clarinet or want to visit the Navy Yard complex are in luck — the Navy Band’s third annual Clarinet Day will be held Saturday.

The event for players and fans of the woodwind offers a full day of free recitals, plus workshops for high school and college students, the band’s website says. Participants include National Symphony Orchestra clarinetist Eugene Mondie and University of Florida professor of clarinet Mitchell Estrin.

Recitals and master classes will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 pm. in the historic Sail Loft building at 617 Warrington Ave. SE. For more information or to register for youth classes, see the band’s website.

Photo via


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