Monica Jeffries Hazangeles, president and, since last September, CEO of Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland, credits “five miracles” for the 2005 opening of the 1,976-seat Music Center at Strathmore: the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s desire for a second home, the long tenure of Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan, several years of record state funding, five $1-million corporate gifts and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s plans to build a parking garage at the Grosvenor Metro station.
At Georgetown Media Group’s May 9 Cultural Leadership Breakfast, held at 1310 Kitchen & Bar by Jenn Crovato, she added a sixth miracle: Strathmore founder Eliot Pfanstiehl, her now-retired predecessor, who “created that initial scaffold.”
Of the “very embracing” Music Center, lined in stained white birch, Hazangeles said: “It is, I think, one of the 10 best halls in the world.” Ten years after the Music Center opened — at a cost of roughly $15 million in private contributions and $100 million from the state and county — she was a key player in the creation of AMP (pronounced “amp”) by Strathmore, a venue for live music and dining at Pike & Rose, a Federal Realty development on Rockville Pike. The reasoning? To provide a space for resident artists to perform and “help expand our brand a little bit,” she said.
Named for the former summer home now known as the Mansion (which houses visual arts programming, a music room, a tea room and space for weddings), the nonprofit Strathmore Hall Foundation operates the 11-acre site, owned by Montgomery County. Strathmore is adjacent to a residential development called Symphony Park at Strathmore. The developer of that complex, Streetscape Partners, paid for three years of the highest level of Strathmore membership for each townhome purchaser and recently deeded five acres back to the county as green space.
Hazangeles told attendees Strathmore is now partnering with Streetscape Partners spinoff Fivesquares Development on the Strathmore Square project, on the Grosvenor side, which will include space for arts education.
Arts education countywide has been a priority for Hazangeles, both to meet community needs and to grow the audience of the future, which won’t exist, she said, if organizations fail to convey to young people “the power of the arts and the beauty of the arts.”
Strathmore has six nonprofit arts partners, including Levine Music and CityDance. The Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras program is now run by Strathmore and there is an ensemble for adults with disabilities. Hazangeles pointed out that Strathmore’s Education Center was designed to make classes visible to arriving concert patrons.
In addition, an off-campus program called Bloom operates in schools and at other sites in east and north Montgomery County. “The faith communities are where the arts are happening” in east Montgomery County, she said, also noting that families’ requests for students to learn a musical instrument are up.
More partnerships are on the horizon. Hazangeles mentioned Strathmore’s current partnership with crossover ensemble the New Orchestra of Washington, an expanded partnership with Step Afrika! and new relationships with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown.
Presenting artists with an ethnic-specific audience — such as Goran Bregović, “the Frank Sinatra of the Balkans” — has become a competitive advantage for Strathmore, which makes use of ticket brokers in the Russian and Chinese communities and sells tickets in Korean grocery stores, said Hazangeles. In response to a question, she said that all the region’s venues are competing for artists, including the casinos. “We never anticipated that,” she commented.
Coming this summer, from June 27 to July 7: L’Homme Cirque, a Swiss one-man circus on the grounds. “We want to activate our outdoor site a little more,” said Hazangeles. And while Strathmore has deals with area restaurants, a $10-million addition to the Music Center offering additional dining space (and a long-awaited escalator) will open on June 13.