Play (Lists)

Down In The Reeds Festival in Washington DC Highlights The Healing Power of Music

Down In The Reeds Festival returns to The Parks at Walter Reed in Washington D.C. on Saturday, October 8, 2022. The day-long Fall celebration brings together a mosaic of entertainment and activations reflective of DC’s cultural diversity. This year the universal power of drumming and rhythm will resonate throughout the festival with the inclusion of Bhangra, Eastern Indigenous Powwow Drumming, Go Go, Funk, West African Drumming, Traditional Bolivian Dance, Jazz, and World Folk. 

A combination of performances and workshops will be led by Red Baraat, Medicine Singers with Yonatan Gat, Mary-El, Sound of the City, Project Locrea, Alison Crockett, Bele Bele Rhythm Collective, IMKA, FFC Morenada Bolivia USA Washington Jazz Arts Institute Youth Ensemble, Lucid District, Hands on Drums Workshops, House of Musical Traditions Workshops and more.

The Parks at Walter Reed
The Parks at Walter Reed - Photo by Albert Ting

“How can I have the biggest impact?”

That’s the question posed by Down In The Reeds Festival founder Chris Naoum, whose festival work through Listen Local First contributes to Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival as well as DC Funk Parade. Additionally, there is strong advocacy for policies within the District that lift up individual artists and performers while encouraging ongoing conversation and collaboration between artists and event organizers and venues.

“Celebrating music and celebrating local is super important. In the day and age where you have local venues going under (in the past couple of years) and you have local musicians struggling,” Naoum considers, “How do you create sustainable events and things that continue to draw artists and raise attention to artists?”

The result is Down In The Reeds Festival, whose primary message is one that evokes the healing power of music, not only in the broader sense but also on an individual level, and especially on behalf of the community. The event website describes “the ability of music to heal at the micro and macro level is one of music’s fundamental characteristics, bridging race, culture, and socio-economic status across all Wards.” Naoum witnessed the effect music had on his father who suffers from aphasia, observing how his father has trouble speaking but no difficulty singing his favorite song lyrics. He also points out that American husband and wife duo Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter of The War and Treaty also met at Walter Reed and became something of an inspiration for the first year of Down In The Reeds Festival as a result of their own experiences around the healing power of music after Michael returned from military service overseas. Neotraditional country multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Dom Flemons also contributed significantly toward the planning and execution of the first year of the event.

Drum workshop at Down In the Reeds Festival
Drum workship at Down In the Reeds Festival - Photo by Albert Ting

Community Involvement at Down In The Reeds

If Chris Naoum is the music, Paige Muller, the founder of Curious Caravan, is everything else. Curious Caravan is a boutique trip planning service that curates custom experiences and itineraries for curious explorers seeking the unexpected side of Washington, DC. One of Paige’s cousins is songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Eddie Grant, and another cousin wrote for Billboard. Her family’s military background creates an even stronger connection for Paige. “My mom taught for the military so I have a personal connection to military hospitals.”

“That kind of brings this all home for me. I’ve seen up close – music in different cultures, how people center music in their cultures, how music really does bring people together. You might speak a different language, but you all can understand rhythm. You all can understand a beat; you don’t need the words.” “I love that that is the center point for this festival. It’s so many different types of music which I think really highlights how dynamic the music scene is here in DC; it’s not just go-go, it’s not just jazz, which are tremendous and awesome and fantastic, but there are so many other types of music and I love that they are present at this festival.

Naoum “What Paige does with Curious Caravan and the number of people she touches on a regular basis, to learn about different artists, different collectives; that is essentially what creating a dynamic local event is about. It’s bringing in the music and the vendors and all these other experiences.” The magic may lie with Paige’s ability to bring out the history of events at the location by developing activities like a hand-curated scavenger hunt creating a framework for exploring the grounds, the music, and the local vendors and organizations involved.

Kids playing on the lawn at the Parks at Walter Reed
Kids playing on the lawn at the Parks at Walter Reed - Photo by Albert Ting
Kids playing hand drums at Down In The Reeds Festival
Kids playing hand drums at Down In The Reeds Festival - Photo by Albert Ting

A History of Healing at Walter Reed

The history of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the grounds is certainly one of the attractions for the artists who perform at the Down In The Reeds Festival. For Alison Crocket, just driving by the location on regular basis brings back memories.

“It’s a place I passed by, and saw, and went through my entire life. I remember as a young person going to Walter Reed and seeing the little museum of really weird medical stuff,” she laughs. “I liked that.” She continues, “My hairdresser wasn’t too far from there. My grandmother didn’t live too far from there. My parents were physicians; actually, my father was in the military for a while, so he practiced there. My mother used to be pro-life and changed to pro-choice because of her time there.” [Down In The Reeds] is a place where I’d be interested in being a part of…I will enjoy being a part of a festival that celebrates this place.”

“I have family in the military,” says Biscuit of Sound of the City, who recently performed at Pharrell’s Something In The Water festival. “I have some cousins who were at Walter Reed. Just what that place symbolizes for the military, the community, the people; that community and people, it’s incredibly significant.” Vocalist for Sound of the City, Precious, notes that the music of the band retains a timelessness because “whenever we create we think about not just how present it in the studio from speakers to the ears but also the live experience. Our goal every single time is jut to create this connection, and if we’ve done that, mission accomplished. So, it’s great to be amongst all the cast of people performing in their various ways, reaching people. We’re looking forward to that.”

“I write about a lot of things that I feel are experiences or feelings or thoughts that I think are universal, and that a lot of people have either experienced, or heard of, or going through at that moment,” says renowned DC vocalist Mary-El, who has shared stages with Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band, Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), and Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins). “Whether it be struggles – good, bad, funny, awkward; whatever that may be it’s a universal kind of way of being able to connect with people. I think with music, you can use it to heal people, you can use it to help relate to people, or put things in a way that people can relate to. Sometimes you can put music on to just remind you of an emotion you had or to get rid of an emotion you’re having. I think that’s an experience that happens for you yourself personally as well as for everyone. Bringing everyone together from different types of genres of music, and different walks of life, and different areas of the DMV [for Down In The Reeds] is cool because we’re showing that all of our music is helpful and we all are relating to music on any level, whether that’s personally or as one whole group of people. I think it’s pretty awesome to be included with that. Mary-El will be performing an original set with her band, a hand-picked selection of talented local musicians like Mike Tony Echols, Mike Shade, and David Suggs. “These are all guys that I was like, ‘This could be an interesting mix people; let’s see what this sounds like,’” she exclaims.

 It feels like a perfect match that Wammie Award winning Project Locrea be involved with Down in the Reeds Festival given their overlapping beliefs around connecting communities and cultures. “We are trying to keep an open instrumentation,” says band leader Yana Nikol. “My goal is always to meet new people and welcome new people into the ensemble, especially people from different cultures.” Project Locrea lifts up the individual artist, not just the culture, or the traditional music of a particular country. “I like to get to know people, musicians, better and better – I would even say even that some of them are my closest friends at this point – show their best sides,  show their music, and connect with audiences that way.” Yana points out that personal wellness “We often get together and share food and coversations like any friends. I’ve never been one to separate work from personal relationships, so I think that’s the deeper message of the music. It’s not just playing the gig. It’s getting together and building that music. If someone brings a song then we work it out together. It’s a lot of hanging out, really, a lot of laughter, and the main goal is, of course,  to build those friendships and build that little community that transfers that message to bigger community, hopefully.”

Once you begin exploring what a rich community of creators are present in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area whose intentions with every release are to heal and bring communities together there is no going back.

Bele Bele Rhythm Collective at Down In The Reeds Festival
Bele Bele Rhythm Collective at Down In The Reeds Festival - Photo by Albert King
Performers at Down In The Reeds Festival
Performers at Down In The Reeds Festival - Photo by Albert King

Event Sponsors and Volunteers

Presented by Local First DMV and CNDB LLC with support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Listen Local First DC, The Parks at Walter Reed, DC Fray, Georgia Avenue Main Street, The Levine School, DC Department of Energy and the Environment, Hotel Zena, Compass Realtor Eddie Suarez, The Ven at Embassy Row, Chuck Levins, Zen Renovations, Topo Chico, Eaton DC, Supreme Window, Atlas Brew Works, ANXO DC, Studio One Printing, Down In the Reeds Festival is truly been a community supported effort. Alchemical Records is proud to be an official Media Sponsor of this year’s event, along with WPFW, WOWD-LP, DC Music Review and SongPoTV.

Attending, enjoying, and appreciating the music and activities taking place at Down In The Reeds is simple, with free advanced registration available Donations can be made directly to the organization, or attendees can order a commemorative shirt that helps to support the event as well. If you have ever wanted to be a part of a grassroots community-driven music festival, event organizers are seeking help with the day of with festival set up, production runners, entrance and registration and breakdown and clean up.

However you choose to participate, your participation will inspire you personally and contribute to bringing more of the DMV community together. Down In The Reeds festival is an excellent example of how the music of the region, combined with businesses, venues, and organizers contributes to the greater well-being of its residents.

Join us at The Parks at Walter Reed, and be sure to stop by the Alchemical Records booth at the event and share your experiences about the event, and the healing power of music.

Details, tickets, and more can be found at

Down In the Reeds Festival with Atlas Brew Works
Down In the Reeds Festival with Atlas Brew Works - Photo by Albert Ting

Daniel Warren Hill

Daniel Warren Hill is an American musician, writer, and motivational speaker. He is best known as the frontman for Washington DC area Alternative Rock band YellowTieGuy, as co-founder of Capitol Groove Collective, and increasing the exposure of artists on a global scale through his work with Alchemical Records. 

Subscribe to Alchemical Records today to support our efforts online and in print. 

Join the Alchemical Records Street Team to promote these and other artists, live music, and music community organizations & events while receiving cool perks from artists throughout the region.

More to explore