President and CEO, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts
Wolf Trap kicked off its summer season with a lineup spanning from Sting and the Beach Boys to Jennifer Hudson and Kacey Musgraves. In his sixth year at the helm of this foundation for the performing arts, Arvind Manocha is focused on continuing to make Wolf Trap an inclusive part of the community. Growing up in Ohio, with limited access to the arts, Manocha reveals his go-to’s in the District when he slips away from the 117-acre park. >>
WASHINGTON LIFE: YOU’VE DESCRIBED WOLF TRAP AS A “SUMMER TRADITION” FOR MANY. HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE TO COME OUT AND KEEP COMING BACK?
ARVIND MANOCHA: The biggest drivers are the artists we are fortunate to welcome to our stage. But what motivates people to return year after year is that we really work hard at creating a holistic experience. Coming to Wolf Trap is a bit like a “choose your own adventure” book: you can plan your visit just around the concert experience, or you can come early and hike the trails and enjoy the 100 acres of green space. You can pack a picnic or grab dinner at our restaurant or concession stands. I think that when people see Wolf Trap as an experience, and not just a destination, it creates a bond that lasts for years.
WL: EXPLAIN FIRST-TIMER’S REACTIONS TO WOLF TRAP.
AM: It’s always a treat to talk to someone on their first visit. The incredible bucolic setting, beautifully maintained by the National Park Service, is always surprising to newcomers. And when they see the Filene Center, with its incredibly contemporary architecture, they get an immediate sense that the place was built with an artist’s sensibility. It’s not faceless or anodyne; it’s lovingly crafted to welcome artists and music lovers. The fact that you can bring in your own food and wine is also an eye-opener. Where else can you curate your own dining experience and also cut down on expenses?
WL: HOW HAVE YOU WORKED TO ENTICE A DIVERSE AUDIENCE THROUGH MUSIC?
AM: My team and I are constantly thinking about inclusion, diversity and authenticity. Our summer venue is quite literally owned by the community; it belongs to everyone. It’s important that everyone seems themselves at Wolf Trap. The beauty of being in the world of the performing arts is that we have the arts to help make those connections. So, it comes via thinking broadly about who is on stage and how we can continually expand that universe.
WL: WHAT ARTISTS/BANDS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF BRINGING TO PERFORM?
AM: There are so many, really. Robyn and Royskopp were unforgettable. Sufjan Stevens a few years ago was breathtaking. The beauty of this kind of work is that there is no shortage of jaw-dropping musical moments.
WL: YOU HAVE BEEN AT WOLF TRAP FOR SIX YEARS. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT?
AM: Redefining and broadening the Wolf Trap community of artists and patrons was high on my list of priorities when I first moved here. Since then we’ve seen growth in concert attendance and in our philanthropic base. Our education programs have also expanded dramatically. Metrics like these are really important because they are indicators of our ability to fulfill our mission and also have national impact.
WL: WHAT IS ONE THE HORIZON FOR THE ORGANIZATION?
AM: Continuing to diversify and grow and make new connections is always a priority. We’re approaching our 50th anniversary season and we are working very hard behind the scenes to make sure that milestone is celebrated in the most exciting ways possible.
WL: TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BEHIND THE SCENES MOMENT.
AM: The most memorable are the ones you can never talk about.
MY TOP SPOTS
Restaurant 2941 is the whole package: incredible food, impressive surroundings, fantastic art and professional service. It never disappoints.
It’s hard not to have a good time with friends at Nellie’s Sports Bar. A great vibe is the most important quality of any bar.
Most Sundays my husband and I are at Amma, in Vienna, for a most tasty and unpretentious South Indian brunch.
The Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery is where I destress. There are so many layers of intricate beauty in one space, it clears the mind taking it all in.
The Jefferson Memorial is my favorite site for grandeur but especially for the Southern inscriptions, which are timeless.
I like to take all visitors to the Udvar Hazy Museum. Seeing a space shuttle in person is an unforgettable experience.