Wolf Trap: New Season, New Leader

Wolf Trap Foundation president and CEO Arvind Manocha and chairman John Lee IV at Wolf Trap's Filene Center
Philip Bermingham
Wolf Trap Foundation president and CEO Arvind Manocha and chairman John Lee IV at Wolf Trap's Filene Center

We are lucky that lovers of the performing arts have so many venues to choose from, especially for outdoor concerts. Wolf Trap, in Vienna, Va, is special for its breadth of programming and sincerity of space. This year, the Wolf Trap Foundation has a new President and CEO. Arvind Manocha has spent the majority of his career with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl.

One of Wolf Trap’s distinguishing characteristics is that “it’s in the company of one,” Manocha said. “There is one national park for the performing arts. There are a lot of great national parks in this country obviously, hundreds if not thousands, but only one that was created expressly to celebrate and nurture the performing arts.”

Manocha grew up in northeast Ohio and graduated with honors from Cornell University. He went on to study literature at Cambridge University in England, where he was a Marshall scholar.

As an arts institution, Wolf Trap creates its season from every musical genre. At The Barns, a week of programming can include artists who play music as varied as zydeco to jazz to folk. Round that out with National Symphony Orchestra, the Wolf Trap Opera Company and musical theater productions, and persons have about any choice they could think of.

“To have a commitment to embracing music across a spectrum was, I think, very forward- minded of Mrs. Shouse and how this place was set up, and very much reflects the reality of how people consume music now,” said Manocha, reflecting upon the legacy of Wolf Trap founder Catherine Filene Shouse.

Manocha has a soft spot for design. In Los Angeles, he was a member of the advisory board of the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design and has served on multiple national design juries for the American Institute of Architects.

“I love architecture,” Manocha said. “You can go to a lot of soulless arenas that are designed to be hockey rinks that now have music in them, and patrons know that. They can tell when it’s not really intended for what it’s being used. When you come here, and you’re in a perfectly naturally beautiful spot with this amazing facility, it’s very clear that this was designed to be enjoyed as a concert venue.”

Driving up to the Filene Center, the wooden amphitheater rises from behind a hill. It has a striking presence on a clear winter’s day — or summer one, for that matter.

“It’s kind of monumental,” said Manocha, who succeeds another kind of Wolf Trap monument, Terre Jones. Jones, who served as president and CEO of Wolf Trap for 17 years, is now president emeritus. He and his wife Polly moved to Santa Fe, N.M.

For such a multifaceted arts operation, a change of leadership could be a difficult change. Wolf Trap’s board chairman John Lee IV is happy with how things have progressed.

“I couldn’t think of anything to do over again,” said Lee, who has been on the board for four years and lives with his wife at the Watergate Apartments. “The whole thing’s been very seamless. The former CEO, Terre Jones, gave us a year’s notice. So, the transition of his leaving and Arvind’s coming in was as smooth as can be.”

The feeling is mutual for the crosscountry transplant. Manocha only arrived in Washington on Dec. 30, and his first day was Jan. 2.

“John is a great partner and turning into a great friend actually,” Manocha said. “He’s a wonderful person, who’s making this transition really smooth.”

In terms of the upcoming summer’s programming, Manocha is most excited for Colombian superstar Juanes.

“He is an unbelievable performer,” Manocha said. “He is one of the most important Latin artists of today. We also have the Wolf Trap debut of Josh Groban, who’s coming later in the summer.”

The photo here with Lee and Manocha were taken on a on a cold, breezy Wednesday. A few were taken in the seats of the amphitheater, and a few, not pictured, were taken on the Filene Center’s stage, the second largest in the country.

Admiring the architecture of the Filene Center from the stage, Lee commented about Manocha’s personal box up in the balcony. “There’ll be time for that,” Manocha. “On a warmer day.” ★

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