Presenting and Supporting Folk & Acoustic Music
in the Washington, DC Area

Upcoming Shows

    • Sunday, February 09, 2020
    • 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
    • Island Pride Oasis Restaurant 617 S Frederick Avenue Gaithersburg, MD 20877
    • 64
    Register

    An afternoon of fun, friends, food--and great music!

    It's the Focus annual meeting: your chance to take part in the decision-making behind the local organization that provides the live music you love all year long. 

    We'll start with a quick business meeting to recap the past year and plan for the one ahead.  Meet the people who put on the shows.  Participation is open to all. Feel free to offer opinions, suggestions and insights.  If you'd like, find out how you can get involved throughout the year.  Then it's time for the "open jam:" an informal song circle featuring a host of favorite local singer-songwriters, as well as some up-and-coming performers destined to be featured in future Focus shows.

    There's no admission charge. It's all courtesy of your folky friends of Focus.

    Questions: Contact Herb@FocusMusic.org





    • Sunday, February 09, 2020
    • 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM
    • Tikvat Israel Congregation | 2200 Baltimore Road | Rockville, MD 20851
    Register

    Maine singer/songwriter Jud Caswell has got a keen eye for detail. There’s a magic to the way he draws you in until you’re transported -- to the old farmhouse, the salty shore, a wood full of birdsong. You might just think he’s taking you to visit his home. But there’s the magic. When the words are just right, and the chords are struck just so, and the river of melody pushes and pulls in all the right places, then it’s not his home at all anymore. It’s your home.

    A seventh-generation Mainer, Jud grew up on the farm of his great-grandfather, a poet and humorist who wrote a column for the local paper and kept horses in the old post-and-beam barn to pay the bills. Jud went all the way to New Hampshire to get his degree in music at Dartmouth College, but came home to work for the family business, bringing his college sweetheart back to start a family of their own.

    For a time, it looked like music might just draw Jud out of Maine. In 2006, he burst onto the national scene with wins at the most prestigious songwriting contests in the country, including the Kerrville New Folk competition. His song “The Weight of the World” (cowritten with Amy Speace and Grammy award winner Jon Vezner) was recorded by Judy Collins. It was in Judy Collins’ apartment in Manhattan, looking over the contract that would have signed him to Collins’ record label, that Jud decided it was time to go home.

    “A singer/songwriter does one thing, night after night, in a thousand places,” Caswell said. “I wanted to be in one place. I figured it was time to go home and do a thousand things.” He rolled up his sleeves and got to work, playing up to 7 shows a week locally, teaching songwriting, working with kids, striving to make his music be of service to his community. He built a recording studio in his home, where he produces records for other artists while continuing to write and record his own songs. Most importantly, he was able to be with his young family, nurturing a connection to home and the roots that feed his music and his soul.

    Jud draws inspiration from the land like Mary Oliver, pushing gently into the specific until it unfolds into the universal. He paints his landscapes like Wyeth, with an adoration for humble beauty that approaches reverence. His music rises from the land as well -- with a voice fresh as water over granite and soft as a pine needle bed. His melodies are familiar and surprising as an old sea-captain retired to shore, with a head full of far-away and a heart full of home. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he wields his guitar, banjo, whistle, and cittern with the easy deftness of an old woodsman with an axe.



    • Saturday, February 15, 2020
    • 7:30 PM
    • Community Lutheran Church of Sterling 21014 Whitfield Place Sterling, VA 20165
    Register

    Focus presents premier vocalist Scott Ailing in a special Valentine's Day - themed cabaret-style show with pianist Chris Stiles, bassist Eugenio Ibarz, drummer Darren West and guitarist Jerry Bresee.   This will be a special evening featuring timeless songs, superb musicianship, and a high level of fun.  

    Scott has performed around the world as a solo vocalist and with various companies in notable venues including Lincoln Center and The Town Hall in New York, and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to name a few! A classically trained performer, he made his Lincoln Center debut in "What’s Opera, Doc?” which he co-wrote, co-directed, and toured. His passion for the Great American Songbook led him to perform every Sunday in Times Square, NYC, at Danny’s Broadway Piano Bar for which he received the “New York Nightlife Award” for "Outstanding Cabaret Piano Bar Performer" and “Outstanding Male Vocalist”. He has also performed sold-out solo cabarets receiving critical acclaim from both the press and fans. 

    Pianist Chris Stiles has been a performing musician for over 20 years in the US and in Asia as a solo performer and with a number of artists, including the legendary R&B group The Temptations.  An accomplished jazz pianist, he brings professional training and long experience to the stage.  

    Bassist Eugenio Ibarz was born in Barcelona (Spain). In the 90’s he was a freelance guitar player and teacher, giving lessons and playing electric guitar and bass in different bands. Eugenio moved to the U.S. in 2002, teaches bass and guitar, and performs in jazz, bluegrass, and tango ensembles in the DMV area.

    Drummer Darren West balances an active jazz drumming life with a professional career and a young family.  He's known for his groove, his energy and creativity as a drummer.

    Calling himself a recovering songwriter, Jerry Bresee is active on the DC area jazz scene, performing regularly with the String Theory Jazz  Trio and the Mad Dog Jazz quintet.  


    • Sunday, March 01, 2020
    • 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM
    • Tikvat Israel Congregation | 2200 Baltimore Road | Rockville, MD 20851
    Register

    Matt Nakoa is an award-winning songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist. A modern troubadour, he makes his home on the highways and concert stages of America, and appears regularly with folk music icon Tom Rush. The Boston Globe says of Nakoa, “Between his piano chops and heartfelt originals on guitar, he drops jaws.”

    Born on a small goat farm in New York State, Nakoa trained to be a concert pianist before accepting a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music as a vocalist. He developed his dramatic songwriting style with his college alt-rock band, The Fens, and after the band dissolved, he landed in NYC. It was in Manhattanʼs all-night piano bars that Nakoa developed an uncanny ability to command the attention of any audience. His first solo albums, released in 2012 and 2014, garnered multiple songwriting awards, including a win at Kerrville Folk Festivalʼs New Folk Competition.

    Nakoaʼs newest album, Casting Shadows, is a spellbinding blend of pop, soul, and classical influences that tells a story of childhood dreams crashing headlong into grownup reality. The Ark of Music magazine proclaims, “What we have here is a truly encouraging sign of what pop could once again become …”


    • Saturday, March 14, 2020
    • 7:00 PM
    • St. Aidan's Episcopal Church 8531 Riverside Road Alexandria, VA 22308
    Register
    Anne Hills is one of the most beloved voices of the contemporary folk music scene, receiving awards and recognition for her live performances, her unique solo and collaborative recording projects, and her overall artistry and benefit work. Her song "Follow that Road" was the title cut of the Martha's Vineyard Songwriter Retreat and has been a certified folk classic since the late 1990s. Whether she is singing her own songs, the words of six-year-old Opal Whitely, or her song settings of the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley; accompanied with her guitar, banjo, or simply a Tibetan bell, she puts her whole heart and soul into the moment. You won’t want to miss a chance to hear her songs and stories in person. She tours extensively, winning over audiences with her warm, lively and humorous performances. 

    This show is cosponsored with the World Folk Music Association (WFMA.) WFMA regularly produces great shows. More information about WFMA and their upcoming shows is on their website.

    • Saturday, March 28, 2020
    • 7:30 PM
    • Community Lutheran Church of Sterling 21014 Whitfield Place Sterling, VA 20165
    Register

    A roots balladeer with a rare personal warmth, Alberta's Scott Cook has distilled the stories collected over twelve years touring full-time across Canada, the USA, Europe, Asia, Australia and elsewhere into straight-talking, keenly observant verse.  

    His fourth DIY release, One More Time Around, was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award, and its opening track "Pass It Along" won the Folk and Acoustic category in the 2013 UK Songwriting Contest, with UK magazine Maverick Country naming him "one of Canada's most inspiring and imaginative storytellers". In 2017 he released his sixth studio album, Further Down the Line, which earned him a second Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for English Songwriter of the Year. 

    He's currently touring in support of his 2020 album Tangle of Souls, which comes packaged in a hardcover book of road stories and ruminations.  Cook is one of the hardest-working troubadours on the road today, averaging over 150 shows and a dozen festivals every year since 2007.  All the hard miles notwithstanding, he still believes that songs can change your life, and your life can change the world.

    • Saturday, May 09, 2020
    • 7:00 PM
    • St. Aidan's Episcopal Church 8531 Riverside Road Alexandria, VA 22308
    Register

    Joe Jencks is an international touring musician, award-winning songwriter, and celebrated vocalist known for his performances of musical beauty, social consciousness and spiritual exploration. A 20-year veteran of the international Folk circuit, Jencks has released 15 CDs in that time. Merging conservatory training with his Irish roots and working-class upbringing, Joe delivers engaged musical narratives filled with heart, soul, groove and grit. Blending well-crafted instrumentals and vivid songwriting, Jencks serves it all up with a lyric baritone voice that has the edgy richness of a good sea-salt caramel.

    Joe’s most recent solo CD – The Forgotten: Recovered Treasures From The Pen of Si Kahn - contains 14 previously unrecorded songs from American Folk legend, Si Kahn. Joe recorded the CD in Canada, with famed producer Ken Whiteley, and the collection of songs represents a return to Joe’s more traditional Folk roots in both theme and musical styles. Celebrating the lost legends of hard working people from New England textile mills to Appalachian coal mining towns, from the Civil Rights movement to forgotten industrial towns in the Midwest. The Forgotten shines a welcome light on the lives of people whose experiences still need to be told and remembered.

    Blend a powerful, passionate singer, a crisp, acoustic guitar player and a warm heart and you will have, singer-songwriter, Lynn Hollyfield. From great jazz artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday to the Beatles, Cream and CSNY, Hollyfield launched into her own songwriting infusing these influences to create a diverse repertoire of contemporary folk, pop, blues and jazz.

    • Saturday, May 16, 2020
    • 7:30 PM
    • Community Lutheran Church of Sterling 21014 Whitfield Place Sterling, VA 20165
    Register

    Scott Ainslie is a traditional acoustic Blues singer, guitarist, historian and songwriter with personal roots in the Civil Rights era and a great affection for cross-cultural exchange. 

    Ainslie has received numerous awards and grants to acknowledge and support his work in documenting and presenting traditional music including support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, The Independent Weekly community artist award and the 21st Annual Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award from St. Andrew’s College in Laurinburg, NC. 

    As a traditional musician with expertise in both Southern Appalachian fiddle and banjo traditions, and East Coast and Delta Blues, Ainslie has specialized in performing roots music and presenting programs on the African roots of American music and culture in community and educational settings since he joined the prestigious North Carolina Visiting Artist Program and took his first artist-in-residence position in a racially segregated community in eastern North Carolina in 1986.

    Ainslie has spent decades looking for the right story, the right set of facts, the right bit of history to introduce a song, a personality, a moment in history to give a song a chance to awake and breathe among us. Along the way, he has developed expertise in the many African retentions–musical and cultural–that remain active in our culture today.
    • Sunday, June 28, 2020
    • 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM
    • Tikvat Israel Congregation | 2200 Baltimore Road | Rockville, MD 20851
    Register

    John Flynn is an American singer-songwriter and activist known for his powerful music and tireless efforts on behalf of the lost and the lonely, the shackled and scarred. His career has embodied an authentic troubadour odyssey that moved legendary folk DJ Gene Shay to call Flynn "the most quintessential folk singer in my life", and Deana McCloud, Executive Director of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma to write, "John Flynn is the real deal. His work follows in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, and other social justice troubadours as he speaks the truth and gives a voice to society's disenfranchised. His work fills your heart and opens your eyes as he continues to walk the walk of a true advocate for equality, justice, and peace."

    Over three and a half decades, John Flynn's music has carried him from Jersey shore bars to Nashville's Music Row; from home plate performances in major league ballparks to concerts in maximum-security prisons; from star-studded benefit shows at Tipitina's in New Orleans to appearances at the Walter Reed Military Hospital and the Dover Air Force Base. Along the way Flynn has continued to make new friends and fans as he has given of his defiantly unguarded heart and optimistic spirit from large and small stages, living rooms, pulpits and schools across this country.

    These days John's performances draw widely from a significant body of work, ranging from his early country offerings to story songs, love songs, songs for kids, funny songs, songs of social justice, and meditations on love, loss, presence, forgiveness, and hope. 

    Among the recognitions John has received for his work are the Phill Ochs Award for Music and Social Activism for Political and Social Justice, the Dominican's Shining Star Award, Rotary's Paul Harris Fellow Award, and Pacem in Terris's Peacemaker Among Us Award. Additionally, The American Library Association has recognized John for family recordings; and in 2012 he was a Grammy honoree for his song "Two Wolves' on the anti-bullying compilation, All About Bullies, Big and Small.


See a list of past Focus concerts here.


Monday Open Mic Showcases hosted by Rob Hinkal


Focus sponsors the Teavolve Open Mic every Monday evening with host rob of the band ilyAIMY and we are honored to have a weekly helping of some of the best local and traveling singer/songwriters, musicians, poets and random whathaveyous all in one spot.

We have a featured artist somewhere in the middle of the night (LIKE the Facebook page for constantly updated listings) for whom we pass a tip pitcher (please be generous) but otherwise the show is free. The drinks are great and the food's even better. The night is videoed and recorded and archived on YouTube.

More information here and here

Monday Showcases

  • No upcoming events

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Focus Music is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization.  P.O. Box 4249, Rockville, MD 20849-4249

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