Brigette and Marshall Willner are longtime residents of Forest Hills, and they recently opened the Harmonic Music Studios in Chevy Chase. Current Newspapers has given us permission to reprint this article on the Willners from the December 4th issue of The Northwest Current.
ON THE STREET
for The Northwest Current
On a cold Thanksgiving Eve, Marshall Willner led an indoor drum circle in Chevy Chase. Participants varied by age, gender and musical skill, but they all shared the common purpose of rhythmically thumping the night away.
“If you think you made a mistake, just smile and keep on playing,” Willner, a musician and accountant who has played and facilitated drum circles for years, told the group.
Before the session commenced, individuals new to the musical gathering expressed “intrigue” at the concept of a drum circle – a group banging various percussion instruments to the beat of whatever rhythm comes their way.
Others congratulated Marshall and his wife, Brigette, who recently unveiled Harmonic Music Studios inside the Chevy Chase Arcade at 5520 Connecticut Ave.
Since opening on Nov. 18, Harmonic, with 15 teachers currently on the roster, has been offering private lessons for adults, teens and children who want to sing or play musical instruments such as violin, cello, piano, flute and guitar.
Early next year, the studio will begin offering group lessons, instrument rentals and music supplies. It will also continue to host the drum circle every Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. “It’s a cooperative event,” Marshall
Through the studio and the Harmonic Music Foundation it’s named after, the Willners also want to create a community. To do so, they redesigned the space to make it fun and appealing to everyone, said Brigette.
Inside the historic beaux-arts arcade, the Harmonic stands out with its modern minimalist design. The walls of the brightly lit reception area on the main level are decorated with a simple music score and electric drum pads.
The lessons take place downstairs, where there are 10 soundproof studios. Musicians who need a private place to practice can rent a studio from $10 to $15 an hour. Across the hallway is the community area, where the weekly drum circles and group classes will take place.
For teachers, the Willners recruited the staff from their own network, as well as from schools with well-known music programs such as Catholic University and the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Future plans include offering recitals for students, commissioning new works of art, and hosting festivals. A large calendar of events will soon be showcased on the storefront.
Avid music lovers with backgrounds in business, the Willners have always wanted to start a music establishment connected to a foundation. They also saw how much one of their daughters enjoyed learning how to play the classical guitar, and they wanted to share that enjoyment with others.
“It was thinking about improving the [learning] process, and that’s what created this space,” said Brigette.
When they saw a vacancy inside the historic structure located at 5520 Connecticut Ave., near their accounting practice, they got the ball rolling last spring. They incorporated the self-funded Harmonic Music Foundation and, a few months later, the two-level studio component of the same name was constructed.