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Listen Up: Free Fun at Kennedy Center

January 25, 1998|ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Every evening, 250 folding metal chairs are set out in the vast Grand Foyer of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A few hundred people perch on steps; others stand or sit on the floor. Then the music begins on the Millennium Stage: Frank Sinatra Jr. one night, the Howard University jazz band another.

And it's all for free.

For 10 months, the hourlong nightly concerts at the center, where paying customers have shelled out $230 to hear Placido Domingo sing, have been trying to attract some of the same crowds that jam the Smithsonian museums and national monuments. The Kennedy Center is across town from those free attractions. Still, a total of about 100,000 people have attended the free shows, officials said.

Most performers belong to little-known groups from the Washington area. But the programs are diverse. This week's schedule, for instance, includes a storyteller, a boys choir from Florida and bluegrass music.

There are no tickets. The audience just walks in for the show, usually at 6 p.m. Schedules are available one month ahead at the center or by calling (202) 467-4600.

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