loudoun county

Wakefield School Celebrates 50 Years

Written by Kaitlin Hill / Photos courtesy of Wakefield School 

“It has been a labor of love for everyone that has been involved, all the way back to our beginning,” shares Wakefield School Board Chair Eileen Quenell of the school’s 50th Anniversary celebration in early February, and more broadly the Wakefield experience overall. 

Opened in 1972, the school was originally called the Wakefield Country Day School and located in Huntly, Virginia. Over the past half-century, the school has seen its share of changes, enhancements, and innovations. In 1982, the name was officially changed to Wakefield School. In 1996, it moved to its new home in The Plains, Virginia. From there, the school set its sights on expansion, completing construction on an upper school in 1999 and various campus add-ons including a Science and Technology Building in 2006, squash and golf facilities in 2010, and an Arts and Music Building in 2022. In 2018, Ashley Harper was inducted as Head of School, a position she still holds today. 

Like Quenell, for Harper, 50 years is a marker of the school’s successful mission of “Virtus et Sapientia” or “Virtue and Wisdom.” Harper shares, “Over the course of the past 50 years, I think what really strikes me is the commitment to excellence in education. Both the education of our minds and the education of our hearts is incredibly important at Wakefield.” 

“Our mission is to build character and foster curiosity in our students, building on our values of respect, empathy, and integrity,” explains Quenell. Dedication to this mission has helped the faculty and staff of the school produce well-rounded alumni ready to take on the world, many of whom came back to enjoy the 50th festivities or participate in organizing the weekend. 

Wakefield alum and Middleburg Life photographer Gracie Withers is on the school’s Board of Trustees and Alumni Committee. A 2010 graduate, Withers was instrumental in the planning of the weekend to honor the school’s legacy. “A big goal of mine was to increase alumni engagement however that looks, whether it’s virtual or in person,” explains Withers. She continues, “We were really happy with the turnout that we had for the 50th Anniversary.” 

In addition to numerous Wakefield staff, Withers worked with fellow alum and Board of Trustees member Brenton Lewis (’09) to conceptualize celebratory events with broad appeal for past and present students. On Friday, February 3, Wakefield hosted a celebratory trivia night at The Farm Brewery at Broad Run to the delight of many. “The turnout was awesome. The trivia was hosted by Matthew Zontine, who has been an English teacher at Wakefield for so many years. He was the perfect person to have as host because everyone knows him and so many alumni were taught by him.” Withers says, “The [school] really turned to Brenton and me to come up with different events that would encourage people to join.” 

Many of the activities had the added excitement of attracting students and staff representing the whole life cycle of Wakefield. “On Friday, when we had the all-school birthday party, we had an assembly and three of our ‘lifers’ led the entire school through their memories. It was so sweet to see junior kindergarteners hearing stories of traditions that have been around for years and seeing themselves in these 18-year-old students standing in front of them.” Harper continues, “Former faculty and current faculty were in the room on Saturday with alumni. Imagine being 35 years old and seeing your fifth-grade teacher. What an amazing experience.” 

The Cocktails & Conversations event at the new George L. Ohrstrom Jr. Theater & Auditorium saw the return of former Head of School Peter Quinn, who shared a trip down memory lane via Q&A with Harper, now in her fifth year of leadership. 

Though more than fun, games, and long-awaited reunions of students and staff, for Harper, Quenell, and Withers, the 50th Anniversary celebration offered the opportunity to reflect on the school’s past and look forward to its future. 

“I think Wakefield, especially at our 50th Anniversary, represents this idea of legacy. There is a legacy on this beautiful hill that means people are connected to something larger than themselves,” shares Harper. “We are proud of our last 50 years and the foundation it has created for us.” Quenell adds, “We work hard every single day to think about the value we bring in education and character building and the support we provide to families… To me, [the 50th] is evidence that our mission is on point. … It’s a great punctuation to all we’ve worked toward.” 

As for the future? Quenell says, “You can’t always see around the corner [in terms] of what the world has in store for the future, so our challenge is to be ready and agile for whatever that may be and be able to prepare our students for whatever lies ahead. And, most importantly, we need to teach our students how to be agile and resilient in the face of change. … How do we help them have the conviction, the confidence, and the voice to articulate themselves? Because that’s what the world really needs, right?” 

Harper finishes, “It is a really special time to be a part of the school as we look toward the next 50 years. I think the growth and change we’re going to see [will be] in really positive ways as we become more aspirational. It’s going to be exciting.” ML

Published in the March 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Hunt Country

Written by Kaitlin Hill 

Between a whiskey cake at Salamander Resort & Spa and Irish dancing at Oatlands, there is a little bit of something for everyone this St. Patrick’s Day in Hunt Country. Check out a few local events we’re excited about over the holiday weekend!

Live Music and Green Mimosas at Lost Barrel Brewing 

Natalie Femia at Lost Barrel Brewing says, “We will be open Thursday through Sunday that weekend with fun all weekend long! There is really something for everyone. We would love to see you!” Throughout the weekend, Lost Barrel will host multiple bands for St. Pat’s Live Music. Visitors to the brewery will enjoy the musical stylings of Robert Mabe & Friends on Friday, the Derek Kretzer Band on Saturday, and the weekend will conclude with Mo & Mary on Sunday afternoon. Ashley Castellano will also be on-site Sunday, March 19, offering family photo mini-sessions that should be booked in advance. Finally, if you forget to wear green, just order a green mimosa, which will be offered in addition to the regular menu, or stick around for the release of LBB’s Irish red ale. For more information visit: lostbarrel.com/calendar

Lost Barrel Brewing
36138 John Mosby Highway
Middleburg, Virginia 20117

Irish Dancing and Traditional Tea at Oatlands 

Stop by Oatlands Historic House & Gardens for a weekend of St. Patrick’s Day festivities for everyone in the family. From 12 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, Oatlands will hold its St. Patrick’s Day Festival with traditional Irish dance performances from Misneach Irish Dance Academy and Irish-themed vendors, food, and beverages. Admission is $10 per person and free for children under 12. Come back on Sunday for a St. Patrick’s Day Tea held in the historic Carriage House. The menu will feature all the classics like scones, Devon cream, tea sandwiches, bite-sized sweets, and Oatlands’ own tea blend. There will be three time slots (10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.), and reservations are required to facilitate social distancing. For more information on St Patrick’s Day weekend at Oatlands please visit: oatlands.org/events

Oatlands Historic House & Gardens
20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane
Leesburg, Virginia 20175

Rock Out at Shamrock Music Shoppe 

Shamrock Music Shoppe in Purcellville is any music lover’s dream with the added benefit of owner Scott Kinney’s focus on Irish music. Kinney, who was born on St. Patrick’s Day, offers everything from music lessons, rentals, repairs, and an awe-inspiring selection of instruments from renowned brands like PRS, Fender, Squire, Roland, Boss, and Yamaha. For St. Patrick’s Day, the shop will bring back its “Lucky You” discounts, and those looking for lessons can learn everything from cèilidh and folk to The Pogues and Dropkick Murphys from one of Shamrock’s many instructors. Kinny shares, “Whether a pure beginner or wanting to sharpen your musical chops, Shamrock can help! New students enrolling in lesson slots between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will receive a 10% discount!” 

Shamrock Music Shoppe
160 W Main Street
Purcellville, Virginia 20132

Shamrock 5k and 10k in Bluemont 

Get your green fix as you run through the gorgeous rolling hills of Bluemont, Virginia, by celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at the 9th annual Bluemont Shamrock 5k and 10k on March 18. The 10k will begin at 9 a.m. and the 5k at 9:05 a.m. Great Country Farms is the starting point for both races and will also serve as the location for the awards presentation. There will be awards for the top three male and female finishers in each race. Visit bluemontshamrockrace.com for race day information and to register. 

Great Country Farms
34345 Snickersville Turnpike
Bluemont, Virginia 20135

Whiskey Cake and More at Salamander Resort & Spa 

For the month of March, Salamander Resort & Spa has a variety of Irish-themed activities to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with family and friends. Visitors to the resort are invited to kick off St. Patrick’s Day with beer yoga on Saturday, March 11, and a special menu at Gold Cup Wine Bar on March 17. The menu will include corned beef and cabbage, Scotch eggs, shepherd’s pie, and, of course, plenty of whiskey and Guinness. End the holiday with a sweet treat from executive pastry chef Jason Reaves, who will offer a cooking class on his Irish whiskey cake. Reaves says, “While I’m not a whiskey drinker, I absolutely love it with chocolate! The class will start out with a tasting of different types of chocolate, each paired with Irish whiskey. Then, I’ll lead a demonstration on how to create the most decadent chocolate cake (with whiskey) that you’ve ever had!” More event and ticket information can be found by visiting: salamanderresort.com

Salamander Resort & Spa
500 N Pendleton Street
Middleburg, Virginia 20117

Published in the March 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Thoughts On Film with Tom Davenport

Written by Will Thompson / Photos by Callie Broaddus

The streets of Middleburg hovered between 20 degrees and just below freezing on a wind-chilled February evening. Even as the sun began to set on Washington Street, a warm light glowed welcomingly from the Middleburg Community Center. Inside, a crowd had gathered from across Hunt Country and beyond to share in experiencing films by local filmmaker Tom Davenport. The screening celebrated the golden anniversary of the production of Davenport’s film, “Thoughts on Fox Hunting,” while raising funds for Friends of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in nearby Delaplane. 

Since the early 1970s, Davenport, who was raised in Fauquier County, has been making films in which the folk cultures of the Piedmont play the leading role. Davenport’s films include documentaries portraying families, communities, and local cultural institutions such as fox hunting, rabbit hunting with beagles, and country music. He has also made scripted films based on folktales set in Hunt Country. Some of his best known are his adaptations of Grimm’s fairy tales set among the Piedmont landscape and culture.

The octogenarian filmmaker first came to live in Northern Virginia in the 1950s when his father purchased a run-down farm on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains which he renamed Hollin. After growing up working and living on Hollin Farms, Davenport traveled out of Hunt Country, receiving a degree from Yale University in 1961, teaching English and studying Chinese in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and working as an apprentice to documentary filmmakers Richard Leacock and Don Pennebaker in New York City. Davenport returned to Hollin Farms in 1970 and founded the independent film company, Davenport Films, in partnership with his wife, co-producer, and designer, Mimi Davenport. These days Davenport is not making new films but directs videos for Folkstreams.net, a non-profit focused on preserving American folklife through documentary film. He also helps out on the farm, managing the Hollin Farms natural beef sales.        

After five decades of documenting and telling stories of life in Hunt Country, Davenport’s films have themselves become part of the community’s culture. It’s not uncommon for viewers to recognize their families, neighbors, or favorite landmarks in his films. And his works, particularly his adaptations of Grimm’s fairy tales, have become educational bulwarks in area libraries, classrooms, and on public broadcasting stations.

Following the screening of his films at the Community Center, Davenport talked conversationally and joked with the audience which included current members of the fox hunting community and family members of Melvin Poe, the subject of “Thoughts on Fox Hunting.” “This is a bit like attending my own funeral,” he said with a smile while looking out over a crowd of his friends, neighbors, and colleagues of past and present. Davenport’s anecdotes bubbled over with such enthusiastic detail that his audience was transported to late 20th-century fox hunts, scrambling alongside the filmmakers as they chased a pack of baying hounds and galloping horses while carrying heavy 16 mm film cameras. Davenport also passed around one of the actual cameras used to capture the film: a World War II-era Bell & Howell windup camera weighing nearly 20 pounds that the filmmakers ran with or carried on horseback. 

“You don’t have to go to some fancy tourist place to find something wonderful; you can find it in your backyard,” Davenport shared. “You can find something wonderful in your family or your local community that is worth documenting and you do it in a way that gives it honor, and beauty, and meaning.” 

Recognizing the need for American folklife stories to reach wider audiences, Davenport founded Folkstreams.net in 2002 in partnership with Dr. Daniel Patterson of the University of North Chapel Hill. The American Folklore Society described their work as a visionary project, started at a time when streaming films on the web was in its infancy. It has gone on to become an extraordinary democratic initiative in public folklore and education, exponentially increasing the visibility of the field and giving grassroots communities across the U.S. access to their own traditions, folklore, and cultural history.

“Telling stories is a profoundly human act,” said Davenport. “It’s an attempt to transcend our human limitations of distance, time, and even death. We may pass on, but the best of us, our lessons, values, and heroes, lives on in our stories and reaches generations far beyond our own.”

Davenport’s films, as well as those by other filmmakers, are available to stream free of charge at folkstreams.net. ML

Published in the March 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.

Art In The Burg: Middleburg’s Town-Wide Arts Celebration

What: On Saturday, May 13, the Middleburg Arts Council and the Town of Middleburg will host the spring installment of its biannual arts celebration, Art in the Burg: Celebrate the Arts. Artwork from local and regional artists of different styles, forms, and subject matter will be on display on South Madison Street and Federal Street from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This year’s event will also feature live music, a fashion show, cooking demonstrations, art activities for kids, and a special Mother’s Day-themed Wine Garden.

Where: The Town of Middleburg
South Madison Street and Federal Street
Middleburg, VA 20117       

When: Art in the Burg on Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Additional Information: For additional information, please visit middleburgva.gov/art or email [email protected]. Follow Middleburg Arts Council on Facebook for updates.

Directions: Middleburg is located approximately 45 minutes from Washington, D.C., and is in close proximity to Dulles International Airport. To get there from metropolitan Washington, take I-66 West to Route 50 West (Exit 57B) toward Winchester. Drive approximately 25 miles to Middleburg.

Posted on: February 28, 2023

Al Grey: Loudoun’s Ties to a Jazz Great

Written by Diane Helentjaris

Although his name — Albert Thornton Grey — is not often heard, his music is ubiquitous. His distinctive jazz trombone, with its trademark plunger muting, wafts through the music of Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Frank Sinatra, and The Color Purple. With over one hundred recordings — more than thirty in his own name — the Loudoun-born musician left a hefty legacy when he died in 2000 at age 74. 

Out west, Grey’s life is boiled down to 85 cubic feet of boxes at the University of Idaho’s International Jazz Collection. The cartons hold photographs of him standing alongside an impossibly young Ella Fitzgerald, playing his trombone, and playing cards in his swim trunks with Dizzy Gillespie. There’s an old trombone, a thank-you note from Bill Clinton, and a silver box from Tony Bennet. 

Poignantly, a white baby gown circa 1925 is packed with a safety pin and a handwritten inscription, “The Sweet Baby Boy Albert Thornton Grey.” Grey always gave his birthplace as Aldie, Virginia. Most likely Aldie was the local post office, and he was born at home, south of Aldie, in the African American community of Bowmantown or in the adjacent hamlet of Levy on Bull Run stream. 

Like many Southern African American families, the Greys eventually migrated north. His grandparents paved the way. They moved to Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in the 1890s where his mother Lucy Anna Green was born. Though born in Pottstown, Green was raised near Aldie, and she married Leesburg native Richard E. Grey. A veteran of World War I, he had played the bugle in the Army and would be remembered as a “fine musician.” From 1920 to 1923, Lucy Anna Grey taught school at Bull Run, a one-room school for African American children in Bowmantown. 

When Al was three months old, the family permanently relocated to Pottstown. Al was repeatedly in trouble for tinkering with his father’s trumpet. His mother took a job cleaning at Lamb’s Music House so she could buy him an instrument. By age four, he was playing the horn in the Goodwill Boys and Girls Band led by his father. Al played whatever horn was available to him, eventually settling on the trombone. As a teen, he sneaked into a backroom to listen to Count Basie.

Al Grey enlisted at age 18 during World War II and served as a musician in a Navy band. After his discharge, he quickly found employment with the Benny Carter orchestra. Within a few years, he was hired by Count Basie and would play with this orchestra off and on for twenty years.

Grey became a mainstay of the American jazz world. He was all jazz, all the time — playing with ensembles, in orchestras, on cruises, and at jazz festivals before audiences around the world. He was especially valued for his ability to sensitively back up vocalists. 

“…You have to have feelings for playing jazz,” Grey said at a 1990 University of Pennsylvania program. The New York Times noted in his obituary, “His signature was the plunger mute, and he used it swaggeringly, making his malingering, behind-the-beat notes plump and juicy. He knew how to insinuate slyness into standards and ballads, but he was probably at his best on the blues…” 

Grey developed this technique of changing the tone with a “plumber’s friend” plunger. He readily shared his innovation. With his son, he published the manual Plunger Techniques: The Al Grey Plunger Method for Trombone and Trumpet.

He created a jazz summer camp in Pottstown and brought in jazz greats to teach local high school students. He also taught other professionals, including Wynton and Delafayo Marsalis.

The Philadelphia Inquirer in noting his passing in 2000 quoted fellow musician Milt Hinton as saying he was among the best of his generation. His son Albert Jr. elaborated, “He wasn’t always about getting paid. He would just come in. If he knew some other players in a club, he would just pull out his horn and play.”

Albert Thornton Grey is buried at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Annville, Pennsylvania. His music can be found online, in CDs and vinyl, and at the collection of the University of Idaho. ML

Posted on: February 15, 2023