Jamming in Adams Morgan

Founded in 1998, the Sitar Arts Center had humble beginnings in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Located in the basement of an apartment building their music programs reached about 50 kids from the neighborhood. Demand quickly grew as word of their program spread and they needed to find a bigger space.

Committed to staying in the neighborhood, in 2003 Sitar purchased 10,700 square feet of ground floor space at 1700 Kalorama Rd. NW. The following year after renovations were complete they moved in to their new permanent home.

LISC worked with Sitar early in the process, providing guidance and a financial guarantee for the City who financed the renovation of the space. We also provided an operating support grant during the renovation period to help stabilize the organization.

Today, according to Ed Spitzberg, the Executive Director, Sitar serves about 480 kids. Their programs range from digital arts and dance, to music instruction and acting. Even though the Adams Morgan neighborhood has become one of the priciest in the City, the need for programs like the ones Sitar offers remains high. Says Spitzberg, “about 80% of our kids come from low income families in the immediate community.” They offer a sliding fee schedule and will never turn anyone away because of inability to pay.

He also points out that there is still gang activity just down the street from Sitar. “The gangs are out there recruiting – our center gives these kids an alternative”. Sitar has been intentional about increasing the number of teens they serve. They started a teen jam band which named themselves “still pending”. “It is by far our biggest growth area” says Spitzberg.

“We are fortunate”, says Spitzberg, “despite the downturn in the market our supporters have stayed with us and people have stretched”. Though it remains a challenge to find new supporters, he finds that once people visit the center and see firsthand how engaged and alive the space is they will sign on.

This past summer, their profile grew even more as 25 Sitar students were selected to participate in the opening session of the White House Music Series. (Pictured to the right) There, Sitar students got to entertain First lady Michelle Obama and numerous others who had gathered to pay tribute to the American jazz tradition.