It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon in Vienna, Virginia, and Arvind Manocha, the president of Wolf Trap, is expecting some 7,000 music lovers for Sting’s third night at the performing arts center.
The great expanse of National Park Service land that makes Wolf Trap such an appealing concert venue may be soaked, but Manocha is taking the day in stride.
Indeed, there’s a certain serenity to Manocha, who has been at Wolf Trap’s helm for six years, as he looks out on the damp panoramic forest views in his office.
“There are umbrellas,” he says, unfazed. Manocha, it turns out, was right not to worry-within an hour the rain had ceased, the sun peaked through, and the birds started chirping again.
The throngs descended on Wolf Trap’s bucolic setting with their picnic baskets, bottles of wine, and Police t-shirts.
By the time Sting takes the stage after sundown, it’s just another perfect night under the stars at Wolf Trap, which is nearing 50 years as one of the country’s most prominent arts institutions, bringing in a roster of artists as diverse as Reba McEntire and UB40.
But for Manocha, Wolf Trap is more than a destination — it’s an experience.
“You choose your own adventure when you come here,” he explains, listing the many things you can do before the concert starts, like hike a trail, peruse the butterfly garden or dine at the Jose Andres restaurant, Ovations.
Or, like so many, you can BYOD-bring your own dinner, as Wolf Trap allows its guests to cart their own food, beverages, even spirits, into the park.
This flexibility and cost efficiency, Manocha says, makes for family memory-making, something that resonates with him.
“Many people have told me their kids saw their first symphony here,” he says.
Wolf Trap’s 2019 summer included a special night of prima ballerina Misty Copeland performing in “Swan Lake” with the American Ballet Theatre and a rousing evening of opera with “The Barber of Seville.”
Then there’s his favorite, the Avett Brothers.
“There’s something timeless and visceral about music,” he says, noting Wolf Trap’s many educational opportunities for children in challenging circumstances.
Since 1975, Wolf Trap has pulled another unique trick out of its hat by turning its mammoth stage in the middle of a wooded amphitheater into the setting for its annual ball — “the most fun black tie party in the region,” in Manocha’s humble opinion.
Every year, Wolf Trap partners with an embassy and showcases the host country’s culture and cuisine. This year is special for Manocha because of his partnership with the Embassy of Singapore, a country he has visited and appreciates due to its rich palette of colors.
Event planners are busy working on a tropical theme for the ball, with Manocha’s gentle guidance. “Authentic, not Disney Land,” he hastens to add. Expect lots of fabric lanterns and long banquet tables similar to those seen in Singapore’s open air hawker centers.
Wolf Trap recently launched a new affiliate, Singapore Wolf Trap, making this year’s embassy connection so special. The Singapore Repertory Theatre became the very first international affiliate of Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, the 20th of its kind and the first outside the US.
Manocha is expecting 750 guest at his Singaporean soirée on September 14, and it will likely raise one million dollars for his arts education programs.
But, Manocha is ready for the challenge. Rain or shine, it’s always a good night at Wolf Trap for him.