Barbershop in the Community
An important mission of the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation is educating the public about the acoustic blues traditions that enrich our culture, and especially the unique, syncopated style of Piedmont blues that originated in this region of the country. Since the beginning, Archie’s Barbershop has been bringing traditional blues artists and ensembles to festivals, schools, hospitals, senior centers, and community events -- delighting old fans and growing new ones. Barbershop representatives also present educational programs and exhibits at schools and community events.
Washington Folk Festival
Many of the musicians who come to the Barbershop first learned about the organization through one of these public events.
Every year, “regulars” from the Saturday jams participate in the Washington Folk Festival, sponsored by the Folklore Society of Greater Washington at historic Glen Echo Park. Any Barbershop jam musician can sign up to perform as part of the group as a song leader or side person, depending on his or her comfort level. For some, it is their first time performing on stage, while others are seasoned professionals. The varied skill levels among the group highlight the Barbershop’s welcoming and supporting environment for those who come to the jam. At the Folklore Society’s midwinter festival, which features all manner of traditional musicians, everyone is invited to join in the rollicking Barbershop blues jam.
Folklore Society Midwinter Festival
A rotating ensemble of musicians from Archie’s Barbershop is always part of acoustic stage program at the Silver Spring Blues Festival, now entering its second decade. Over the years, the Barbershop has been part of the DC Blues Festival, sometimes presenting an ensemble performance or conducting a workshop where attendees can learn to play an instrument such as the harmonica.
In 2018, the Folklife Center of the Library of Congress invited Phil Wiggins and Archie’s Barbershop to lead an open acoustic blues jam as part of a program to bring informal, live music jams to the Library. During the summer of 2017, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival invited Archie’s Barbershop to lead an open blues jam on the National Mall. Each of these events drew many musicians outside the Barbershop family as well as large, enthusiastic audiences.
During its 2016-17 season, the Strathmore celebrated the blues in a series of Shades of Blues concerts and educational events. Ensembles from Archie’s Barbershop performed in the lobby where concert-goers gathered and socialized before the concerts.
For several years, leaders from Archie’s Barbershop organized blues shows for the veterans living at the Old Soldiers Home in Washington, DC. These monthly shows featured acoustic and electric blues musicians from the area.
Other examples of community outreach events where ensembles have performed include African American Day in Accokeek, Eastern Market Music, Greenbelt Blues Festival, Riverdale Festival, and Arlington’s Make Music Day.
DC Blues Festival