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September 4, 2018

Performing arts center planned in Old Town

Photo/Cassandra Brown
Tim Dingus and his supporters plan to open a “state-of-the-art performance center” in 4,680 square feet of the former Blue Ridge Hardware and Furniture building at 92 Main St. in Warrenton.
Contributed Photo
The foundation continues the legacy of Drum & Strum Music Center founder Gloria Dingus, who “gave away more stuff than we sold . . . instruments, music lessons,” her son Tim says.
Gloria Faye Dingus Center for the Arts
• What: Nonprofit entertainment venue, art gallery, education facility and event hall hosting multiple concerts each week; revenue from concert tickets would be used to provide instruments and music education for those in need.

• Where: Suites 103 and 104 at 92 Main St., Warrenton

• President: Tim Dingus.

• Opening: Possibly December

• Seating: 125 patrons.

• Space: 4,680 square feet

• Investment: $40,000

• Town grant:

• Funds raised: More than $20,000 from private donors

• Facebook page: Click here
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Staff Journalist
The Warrenton music store owner soon will open a nonprofit performing arts center on Main Street.

If all goes well, the Gloria Faye Dingus Center for the Arts will begin hosting high-quality musical performances at 92 Main St. in December. In addition to a couple of concerts per week, the center will host art exhibits, educational programs and movie nights.

Occupying two suites of the former Blue Ridge Hardware and Furniture building, the center will have a 125-seat performance hall, an art gallery and a multipurpose room.

Drum & Strum Music Center owner Tim Dingus created the nonprofit, named for his late mother, who founded the business in 1990.

The 4,680-square-foot space will feature “world-class” sound, lighting and projection systems. Mr. Dingus last month signed a five-year lease for the space.

It will be a “state-of-the-art performance center,” Mr. Dingus said. “We want to create it as a place that’s welcoming for everyone.”

The Gloria Faye Dingus Music Alliance, a nonprofit foundation, already hosts multiple concerts each month in the “Listening Room,” which seats about 30 people, in the back of Drum & Strum’s space, just a couple of doors east on Main Street.

“One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard is, especially when bigger acts come through is, ‘You need a bigger space’,” said Mr. Dingus, 45. “We get people from everywhere.

“It’s a regular occurrence for people to drive from Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland, D.C.”

Mr. Dingus, who serves as president of the foundation, wanted to continue his mother’s vision through the performing arts center. Gloria Dingus died suddenly in 2012.

Regional, national and international musicians have performed at the store since it opened.

“Mom always loved it and bringing the musicians in,” Mr. Dingus said. “She was the biggest ‘people person’ I’ve ever known.”

Starting on Waterloo Street, Drum & Strum moved to East Lee Street and stayed there for 11 years. The store opened at 102 Main St. in 2014.

“Over the years . . . I remember her telling me, ‘This town needs a performance center, where people can play music, hang out, anything arts related,” Mr. Dingus said of this mother. “She said the kids around here don’t have anything to do.”

He founded the nonprofit Gloria Faye Dingus Music Alliance in 2015 to honor her legacy and to help fund instruments and lessons for “those less fortunate, just like Gloria used to do personally,” says the arts center’s business plan.

“She gave away more stuff than we sold . . . instruments, music lessons,” Mr. Dingus added.

Proceeds from each concert will help fund music scholarships for students in need. In its first year of operation, the nonprofit could provide $24,500 in music scholarships, according to its application for a Town of Warrenton business incentive grant.

The nonprofit arts center will rely on grants, donations and rental fees for operation.

Equipment installation and remodeling, estimated to cost $40,000, could start this month.

The nonprofit’s board has raised more than $20,000 so far to fund the project. In July, the center received a $7,500 grant from the town.

“We feel like the impacts are great,” town Economic Development Manager Tom Wisemiller said. “It’s a nonprofit that has commercial character, where they are in the business of attracting patrons to come in and spend money and watch shows.”

Mr. Dingus and Drum & Strum General Manager Dean Honeycutt will continue to book performers, but the center plan calls for hiring a full-time manager to handle daily operations. The effort also will rely on volunteer help.

“The center would book top performers in each genre, drawing audiences from throughout Virginia and surrounding states,” Mr. Dingus wrote in the town grant application.

Popular musicians — including John Cowen, Daryl Davis and The Nighthawks — have performed at Drum & Strum.

“The way we get a lot of the bigger acts is because I know them, and Warrenton is in a great location, because it’s en route to a lot of places . . . D.C., Charlottesville,” Mr. Dingus said.

“He brings in quality musicians who otherwise wouldn’t be seen in a small town,” said local musician and county Commissioner of the Revenue Ross D’Urso. “Every time we’ve gone there, we’ve been wowed by the quality of the entertainment . . . . I can’t see anything bad about making that bigger and bringing more into the greater Washington, D.C., community.

“Bringing people into the Main Street corridor is going to do nothing but help the business there,” said Mr. D’Urso who has participated in two organizational meetings about the new arts center.

With the new space, Mr. Dingus hopes to expand the eclectic range of musical acts the nonprofit already offers.

“We’re going to have everything from classical performances to roots/Americana, blues and bluegrass,” he said.

Local restaurants will provide food at the center’s concession stand during events. The venue also will serve beer and wine.

The hall will be available for other community organizations to rent.

“It’s going to be a space that other groups can use, because right now there’s a limited capacity on what’s available,” Mr. Dingus said. “There’s going to be multiple forms of evening entertainment.”

Moving performances to the new arts center will allow Drum & Strum to reclaim much needed space.

“We outgrew the space the second year we were here,” Mr. Dingus said.

Once the arts center opens later this year, Drum & Strum plans to expand its retail inventory by “opening a new area specializing in rare, boutique and vintage instruments by spring of 2019,” according to the grant application.

The arts center soon will launch its website and complete the organization of its nine-member board of directors.

“I’m excited at all the possibilities this will create. . . . I think it’s much needed and has been for years,” Mr. Dingus said.

“I’m looking forward to this and to helping children who can’t afford the gift of music,” board member Tony Tedeschi said in an interview Thursday. It will “bring some vitality into Main Street . . . . This should be an anchor location.”
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Dennis A. Taylor · September 21, 2018 at 5:04 pm
So happy to see this becoming a reality for our Town!

Tim, your commitment to following through on your Mom's vision is more than impressive. What a great way to honor an amazing woman - she would be very proud of you and your leadership. And you have some incredible and talented people working with you to bring this venue to life. We wish you only the best as the journey continues!

Your community is with you, keep going!

Dennis Taylor
Amelia Stansell · September 4, 2018 at 12:46 pm
This is fantastic news for Warrenton! Besides brining great talent for entertainment, D&S draws their audience from a wide area and this will bring visitors to our town who will hopefully dine in our restaurants before the show and stay for a cocktail on Main Street and perhaps overnight in our various lodging options and have breakfast and maybe shop a little before heading home the next day - all a great boost to our local economy!
brandonj · September 4, 2018 at 10:49 am
This is great news. The town really needs some entertainment options and it's good to see it's funded by a non-profit.
BJ · September 4, 2018 at 10:36 am
Wonderful! Best wishes to your success!

Blaine Johnson
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