It’s a familiar sight: Healy’s Gaston Hall filled to capacity with students, staff and members of the D.C. community assembled to listen to an American politician, a foreign dignitary or even the occasional celebrity. Students count such experiences among the high points of life at Georgetown, complementing academic work that in many cases focuses on politics or international affairs.
On Friday afternoons since 2003, McNeir Auditorium — though smaller than Gaston — has also found itself packed with students, faculty members and community members looking for something a little different.
They’re assembled to listen to world-class performers who come to campus as part of the Friday Music Series. This fall, installments of the Friday Music Series encompass genres as diverse as the Great American Songbook, medieval music and 17th- and 18-century Italian music.
“We’re standing room only,” professor Anthony DelDonna said. DelDonna, a professor in Georgetown’s music department, has coordinated the Friday Music Series for the last five years and points to a great deal of expansion during that time.
“It’s definitely grown exponentially,” he said.
DelDonna has sought to integrate the programming of the Friday Music Series with the curriculum of the music department, an academic institution that, he is quick to note, has existed since the beginning of Georgetown’s existence as a university and today offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in American musical culture as well as a music minor and opportunities for students to participate in musical performance ensembles.
“There’s a lot of music being made here,” he said.
The debut of this year’s concert series on Sept. 21, a collaboration with the Lauinger Library Special Collections unit, will feature pianist and singer Steve Ross, performing selections from the Great American Songbook. The Friday Music Series has also collaborated with the Center for Latin American Studies to bring Brazilian guitarist Rogério Souza and his band to campus Sept. 28.
In the past, similar collaborations have served to draw in audience members from outside the Georgetown community. The first concert of the spring semester will feature members of the Washington National Opera. Though the majority of the audience at Friday Music Series concerts are typically Georgetown students, faculty and staff, DelDonna expects the opera’s appearance toattract D.C. residents who do not have any connection to the university or community and who have begun to make up an increasingly large portion of the audience at Friday Music Series concerts.
DelDonna attributes the program’s recent success partly to increased publicity, which includes outreach to media publications and partly to the development of a quality program over several years. Though working with popular musicians to find time in their schedules is never easy, he believes that a reputation for quality has also aided in attracting performers. “I think word has spread among artists,” he said.
With attendance rising and a steady stream of talented artists giving concerts through the Friday Music Series and also, in some cases, continuing their work with the music department through collaborations with student groups, the series has begun moving out of its initial home in McNeir Auditorium and into larger venues for some shows, such as Dahlgren Chapel. DelDonna hopes that a Friday Music Series performance will someday be able to grace Healy Hall.
“I’d love to fill Gaston,” he said.