Noisy Neighbors: Adjoining Performance Space Kindles Diverse Music Scene for Retailers
On any given Friday night, a harmonious cloud of energy makes its way to Haymarket, Virginia’s well-known performance space. Modeled after some of the most notorious American clubs, 4410 quickly made its mark as an exclusive venue. Adjacent to Contemporary Music Center (CMC) and located at 4410 Costello Way, the unique community-based establishment welcomes recreational musicians and students of all ages to a family friendly, state-of-the-art environment.
“Build it and they will come,” says founder Menzie Pittman, owner and director of CMC. After opening June 2013, 4410 began hosting open mic events every Friday evening. Local teenagers wasted no time in spreading word of the space through social media, and meeting their friends there. “It caught fire right away,” Pittman adds. “The open mic nights have gone viral to an amazing level.”
Known for its summer rock camps, CMC has found many uses for the space, from holistic workshops to modern music theory classes. One thing Pittman noticed about the camps was that having a performance experience brought closure and clarity to why students were learning. Plus, it established a connection between the students.
“Often musicians will get together to practice, but there’s no real deadline or sense of urgency to have anything other than a loose jam,” Pittman explains. “If you know you’re going to do an open mic night, then you’ll really work on the aspects of making great music.”
The People’s Place
4410 continues to attract interest from local recreational musicians as well. Many parents and adult performers avidly attend open mic nights on a regular basis. “It gives everybody the opportunity,” says recreational drummer Rigg Wagner. “If you’ve got something going and you want to throw it out there, you call and schedule it.”
The 57-year-old grandfather of three feels comfortable bringing his family to 4410’s safe and fun atmosphere. As director of special operations for a construction company and general contractor for 4410, Wagner spends his spare time with a few local bands. And with 4410 bringing together a variety of people, he’s benefitted by receiving feedback.
“Everybody that goes in there finds something they like, whether it’s a solo artist or a kid coming out of a guitar class,” Wagner says. “There’s no negativity about it. Nothing else in the area seems to have the impact 4410 is having.” Wagner’s grandson attended CMC’s summer rock camp for several years.
According to Pittman, previously there wasn’t a place for his own students to debut their music. Now that they have a venue, he sees them putting increased effort into their music.
Having a small-town venue for the community is important, according to Tracy Williams, 54, recreational bassist and father of two. Especially when many parents are concerned about keeping music and the arts part of the public school curriculum, he adds. Music brought him and his wife together and has always been an activity he shared with his son. “It caused us to bond tightly,” he says.
The retired Army colonel, now working as chief of law enforcement at the Pentagon, moonlights as a musician in several bands with Wagner. The social chain 4410 creates is more than coincidence. Williams’ son, Alex, teaches lessons to Wagner’s grandson at CMC. “This venue really provides an opportunity to transcend multiple generations,” Williams says.
“I really appreciate 4410 because the feel of it is so warm,” says 24-year-old piano instructor Monica We. “There’s not the kind of pressure you would have at a bigger venue. It’s a community getting together and appreciating music for what it really is.”
We’s inside perspective leads her to believe the space is what truly breeds motivation and inspiration among her students, and the drive to share what they have been working on. It gives them a chance to strive toward a goal and perform publicly. As a classical musician, she really appreciates people showing up at the space just to listen.
“The part where it takes on its own life, is that it’s a listening room,” Pittman explains. “When people come in they stop talking, they all automatically turn off their cell phones, and they sit and really listen.”
We admits to hearing a lot of different styles of music she never heard live before. After working for CMC for over a year, she identifies with students who play music simply for leisure, but hold a passion to discover. Even We’s former adult students were able to find a creative outlet.
“I think that it’s great that people can discover things even after the usual age they begin to learn an instrument,” she says.
One afternoon Pittman received a phone call from a woman recovering from a brain injury looking for a place to rekindle her abilities and eventually perform again. Although the space has morphed into a teenage haven, the melting pot breeds diversity, including one particular family wheeling their grandmother directly in front of the stage every Friday night.
“All this culture interacts because it wants to,” Pittman says. “People want to be there because they enjoy the quality of the music so much.”
With such a mixed crowd, 4410 is open for rent to the public for music events as well as scheduled CMC workshops, including dance fitness training and bluegrass instruction. Singer songwriter Tiffany Thompson, 27, found 4410 made it possible to provide group dynamic classes and writing exercises for her songwriting workshops.
“It’s great giving people a chance to perform, because most of the people that come to the classes have never done anything like it before,” Thompson says. Writers have personal rooms to compose in right next door at the CMC. Thompson’s workshops attract students aged nine to their late 50s for various sessions that last hours or days.
After majoring in political science and working full-time for many years, what once was Thompson’s hobby, has now flourished into a career. With 4410 performance space in full bloom, she resigned from her full-time job in August to focus on music.
“It’s just a really vibrant community out in that area and there are not that many places providing the access and services that 4410 does,” she adds. “I think that’s what is generating the local interest and obviously now a broader interest, which is great.”
Thompson says she is always crossing paths with people from the community who would like to learn “recreational” songwriting, but never had the opportunity. Most of them latch onto the idea of communicating something truthful, she adds. For example, one middle-aged woman serving in the US Air Force came to a workshop interested in singing. She loved the idea of songwriting, but had never done it.
The design and aesthetics of 4410 are geared toward strategically and creatively attracting a broad audience, according to Pittman. The interior décor, without a doubt, helps plant a positive first impression when someone walks into the room, he adds.
Exposed red brick supports large murals that span the perimeter of the room. An arch behind the stage that’s peppered with band logos pays tribute notable musicians. Another playful touch is a three-dimensional keyboard protruding from the wall. A glowing @4410 logo rests high above a slightly elevated stage that sits only about six inches from the floor and in direct contact with the audience. “The crowd’s reverberation and reception of a performance is always extremely clear when playing on that stage because it’s such an intimate venue,” Williams explains.
“The layout feels very accessible,” Thompson says. “I don’t think the space is intimidating. A lot of the clientele is drawn from the music school there. I think the room has a youthful quality but not in a childish way—just in a way that has a lot of color and spirit.”
The venue’s vibrance attracts all kinds of freethinkers from the greater art community, according to Pittman. One local artist decided to crank out his favorite music from 4410’s top-end sound system, while catapulting himself onstage and painting sporadically on a giant piece of canvas. A lucky audience member won his painting by a ticket drawing. Half the proceeds went to a predetermined charity.
Pittman says he is trying to keep everything they do at the highest possible level. There is no alcohol served, so it is family friendly. Because of this, teens are becoming more involved and adults are rekindling old passions. The generations are meeting up because they want to be there, he adds. Currently several universities and music colleges are in step with this and working collaboratively, including former students who return to teach at 4410.
“Seeing parents, teens, and musicians of all kinds is eclectic and inspirational,” Pittman says. “If the room is empty it’s not worth anything. We need to fill that room.”
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