When two civic-minded rock ‘n’ rollers found themselves serving together on a local United Way council, the idea of a benefit concert was something of a no-brainer.
Add in one of the coolest venues around, and you’ve got the perfect setting for the inaugural Loudoun Live! fundraiser for local charities.
Loudoun Live! is slated for Saturday, Sept. 10, at Leesburg’s Paxton Campus, offering an afternoon of music, fun, fundraising, and a chance for local nonprofits to connect with the community.
The concert is the brainchild of United Way council members (and musicians) Ara Bagdasarian and Amy Bobchek, with support from Paxton Campus Executive Director Jennifer Lassiter and her team.
“The best ideas always come from a place of real passion,” Bobchek said. “Ara came to me and said, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking: Loudoun is such a musical community and there’s always great energy around music festivals. We could fit one of those in and do some good for our community along the way.’”
Bagdasarian, a Leesburg-based tech entrepreneur and founder of the communications company Omnilert (he’s the creator of the RainedOut alert system that local sports parents know and love for field condition reports), is also the guitarist/multi-instrumentalist with Frayed Knots—a Leesburg eclectic rock band. Bobcheck, a Leesburg resident and advertising director for Comcast, is a vocalist for DC-based rock/funk band Big Bad Juju. The two have known each other for years through philanthropic circles, but when Bagdasarian joined the local council for the United Way of the National Capital Area (where Bobchek is finishing her third term as chair), the idea for a benefit concert began to gel.
Paxton, with its 17-acre campus and 19th century Carlheim Mansion, was the perfect venue. Paxton Campus, an organization with multiple programs serving children and adults with disabilities, gets funding from the United Way’s Community Impact Fund. And Paxton’s leadership had already launched several creative initiatives to combine fundraising with bringing members of the community to the campus—including the wildly popular Shocktober haunted house event every fall and the Music at the Manor outdoor concert series.
“We were thinking of ways to increase the amount of money that we can contribute to nonprofits in Loudoun County,” Bagdasarian said. “Everyone thinks we’ve got the wealthiest county, that we don’t have students that are hungry and we don’t have illiteracy, but these things do exist in the community. We need to raise awareness of that and raise money. Those were really the two core objectives.”
The other objective, of course, was to create a fun event with a great lineup of bands. Both Frayed Knots and Big Bad Juju will perform, along with internationally acclaimed songwriter and Loudoun resident Todd Wright and the headliner, Canadian alt-rock superstars Lowest of the Low.
Wright is well known for his enthusiasm for performing for good causes. The main act may be less well known to Loudouners: Lowest of the Low is one of the most popular alt-rock bands in Canada with a following in the northern U.S. but has yet to make inroads below the Mason Dixon Line. Bagdasarian, a native of Buffalo, NY, got to know the band during his days playing music in upstate New York and Toronto and saw an opportunity to get a big name for the benefit while creating a mid-Atlantic launching pad for the Canadian rockers. The festival will also feature a second stage spotlighting emerging local musicians.
In addition to raising money for the United Way and its grantees, the festival is designed to give some of those nonprofits more visibility and a way to connect with potential volunteers. A “Non-Profit Village” made up of United Way grant recipients includes Friends of Loudoun County Mental Health, Good Shepherd Alliance, Help for Others, Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter, Loudoun Cares, Loudoun Interfaith Relief, Loudoun Literacy Council and Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers. And of course, the concert will showcase the amazing things going on at Paxton.
“It is an absolute gem. It’s a hidden treasure in the area,” Bagdasarian said of the campus. “Most people don’t even realize that you have this gorgeous campus right in town. What I think is remarkable is how Jennifer and the folks at Paxton utilize that space to do good in the community. … That’s something they do to raise funds by offering something of value to the community.”
And Lassiter was ready to jump in with both feet. The house and grounds were donated to the community by philanthropist Rachel Paxton, and Lassiter believes bringing members of the community onto the campus in fun and creative ways honors Paxton’s memory.
“Whenever you’re given an opportunity with a campus like this, and it has a wonderful house like Carlheim on it, then it’s just our responsibility to maximize that in the spirit of what [Rachel Paxton] wanted to do,” Lassiter said. “We have been really creative with it, and I think she likes it because all of these things seem to have her supernatural blessing.”
Loudoun Live! takes place Saturday, Sept. 10 from 2 to 8 p.m. at Paxton Campus, 601 Catoctin Circle NE in Leesburg. Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door. Food and beverages will be available for sale. Guests are asked to leave picnics and coolers at home, but blankets and lawn chairs are welcome. For tickets and information, go to loudounlive.org.