A world of music—at your fingertips

The entertainment group at Ashby Ponds sets the stage for year-round performances

Created date

March 10th, 2020
The 16 young people on stage here are the George Mason University Cabaret singers. Everyone is wearing black dresses or suits and singing.

The George Mason University Cabaret is just one of the numerous performance groups invited by the entertainment committee to showcase their talents.

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”—Plato

According to research conducted at Johns Hopkins University, “There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does.” The study reports that listening to music will keep the brain engaged throughout the aging process; reduce anxiety and blood pressure; and improve sleep quality, mood, and memory.

Fortunately, for community members at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living-managed community in Ashburn, Va., proximity to Washington D.C.’s internationally renowned entertainment provides the unique opportunity to host world-class musicians on campus.

Ashby Pond’s resident-run entertainment committee, with the support of community resources, invites, plans, and hosts more than 50 live, musical performances each year, averaging three to four performances a month. This dedicated group of residents also supports the community’s resident entertainment groups, including the Songbirds, drama club, and Ashby Chimers. 

“These performances are important to Ashby Ponds because they are now a part of our culture,” says committee member Charles Duggan. “The committee has developed a program that the residents find culturally fulfilling. As a result, residents simply accept that there will be a steady flow of quality entertainment.”

Budding relationship

The purpose of the Ashby Ponds entertainment committee is to select and procure professional and semi-professional entertainers for the ongoing entertainment programming at Ashby Ponds.

Thanks to the solid relationship two of the committee members Charles Duggan and Bob Warakomsky maintain with George Mason University’s School of Music, Ashby Ponds enjoys sought-after, monthly performances by members of the school, including the renowned Mason Cabaret.

“As a former board member of the Friends of Music, the volunteer arm of the university’s school of music, when I moved to Ashby Ponds, I saw an opportunity for residents to witness and benefit from the high-quality student performers,” says Bob. 

In February, the Mason Cabaret visited Ashby Ponds for two sold-out shows at the community’s performing arts theater. 

In addition to performances from students and faculty at George Mason, Ashby Ponds benefits from associations with numerous local artists. 

“Most performances are musical and range from classical to jazz to cabaret to folk,” says Charles. “[They also] range from a single pianist or a storyteller to full orchestras or choral groups.”

This month, the community will host the 19-member U.S. Navy Band Commodores, the Navy’s premier jazz ensemble. 

“Performances that end with the audience giving standing ovations are my favorites,” says Bob. “We had a jazz performance last year where the performers bonded with each other and with the audience, and the audience bonded with the performers in return. It is these types of performances that nourish my hunger for high-quality entertainment.”

Best deal in town

Not only do members of the Ashby Ponds community enjoy top-notch entertainment right on campus, but they do so at a fraction of the cost of seeing the same show elsewhere in the Washington, D.C., area. The ticket price, regardless of performer, costs $5 a resident.

“More than ever, Ashby Pond community members are enthusiastic about participating in a variety of on-campus activities, especially live music performances,” says Olga Ivanova, Ashby Ponds’ resident services coordinator. “The affordability of the tickets and the convenience of inviting the performers to our campus only helps to foster that connection.”

“Many of our residents have a broad cultural background, whether it’s in the fine arts or the performing arts,” says Bob. “There is a core group of residents who attend every performance that George Mason musicians provide. Likewise, there are other groups that won’t miss a piano concert or a jazz concert or a choral concert. As the entertainment committee, we select performances that appeal to all tastes.”

Giving back

Due to the popularity of the performances, the entertainment committee gives back to their neighbors with contributions to the Ashby Ponds Benevolent Care Fund. As one of Ashby Pond’s biggest philanthropy efforts, the Benevolent Care Fund provides support to residents who, despite careful planning, outlive their financial resources (full details are in the Residence and Care Agreement). 

“Once a year, we review our financial status, and if funds are available, we make a contribution to the Benevolent Care Fund,” says Charles. “In 2019, we were able to contribute $10,000 and expect to increase that contribution in 2020.”

But the most important way the entertainment committee gives to their neighbors is through the gift of music.

“Music is soothing, relaxing, energizing, and healing, among a host of other things that make individuals happy and comfortable,” says Bob. “In addition, other forms of entertainment further engage members of our community, whether it be comedy or drama. The availability of professional entertainment on campus plays a significant role in the variety of amenities Ashby Ponds offers residents. It is a part of our culture.”