Leesburg First Friday offers audiences for budding musicians


Olivia Dewan, a junior, poses with her guitar in front of Mocatinas, an ice cream parlor and bakery where she performs during First Fridays.

Junior Olivia DeWan plucks the opening notes of Cigarette Daydreams and then her voice harmonizes with the airy first notes, drawing the attention of the diners around her who fill the outdoor tables set up on the sidewalks and streets of Leesburg.

First Friday, a time where the community comes together to enjoy food and fun in downtown Leesburg, with roads closed to allow outdoor dining, is also a place where musicians like DeWan display their musical talents.

DeWan, who played at Mocatinas where she also works, started playing guitar just before the quarantine hit, using her father’s Fender guitar.

“I was just sitting there and I was like, you know what, why not,” DeWan said.

Instead of finding a teacher, DeWan decided to teach herself using the internet at home. Due to being self-taught, DeWan said her playing has been influenced by rock music since it is her favorite genre of music.

“I watched a couple of videos from [musicians such as] Jimmy Hendrix and Tom Morello, and then they were just too good. So I had to take a couple steps back, and I started watching videos by Marty Schwartz, and he was really good about teaching the beginner steps.”

DeWan had wanted to start performing music for a while, but none of her previous attempts were successful. So when the opportunity came to play First Fridays, she was excited.

“I tried to start a band a couple of times, and that always fell through,” DeWan said. “Playing music is something I really want to do. But the people I was dependent on couldn’t really come through. So I was like I might as well do it myself.” 

In fact, DeWan originally began playing First Fridays through a series of events she refers to as comedic.

“My boss was complaining about needing a musician because if you don’t have a musician, you’re not listed in the pamphlet that’s used to advertise for First Friday,” DeWan said. “Mocatinas is already a newer establishment because we kind of began selling stuff during COVID. So a lot of people weren’t out yet, and we really needed advertising. And I was like: well, you know, if you need a musician. I can play, I can sing as well. And my boss was like: Wait, you can? Why wasn’t that on your resume? Bring your guitar or whatever. I’ll set you up, you’re coming.”

DeWan’s set up for playing inside Mocatinas consists of a microphone, an amplifier, and of course her guitar. When she plays on Mocatinas’ outside patio, she uses a smaller clip-on mic and turns her amplifier up to project the sound better.

Luckily for DeWan she had most of the equipment she needed for her set up before beginning to play at Mocatinas.

DeWan uses an amplifier she got for Christmas last year and has owned several guitars but got her newest one last summer.

“I bought a Paul Reed Smith, which practically rendered me broke,” DeWan said.

DeWan usually starts playing at six pm, working through a set list she creates a few weeks in advance of her performances. She sets up her equipment fifteen minutes beforehand and will play through a couple songs to practice. Then she’ll sing ten to fifteen songs, take a break from singing for fifteen minutes and sing for another hour afterward.

In all her setlist usually takes two to two and a half to play through. In her performances, she plays a diverse range of songs.

“I play a bit of everything. I’ll play some rock because that’s my favorite genre, I’ll play some of the more popular pop songs,” DeWan says. “This time I played a couple of folk songs by Of Monsters and Men. I really like their stuff, and it really just depends on the mood I’m in for that week.”

At Mocatinas, DeWan keeps her songs “family friendly” due to Mocatinas customer base.

So far DeWan has played four times for First Fridays, and believes she has benefitted both financially and socially from it.

When performing, she gets her pay as an employee and gets to keep any tips she makes, which usually equal around thirty five dollars. She also believes she has grown in popularity as an artist from performing for First Friday, gaining her first request to play outside of her job at another store in downtown Leesburg, Very Virginia.

DeWan exhibits nothing but positive feelings toward playing First Fridays. “Every single bit about it is my favorite thing. I can’t pick one part,” she said.

There have been a few times when playing that especially stand out to DeWan, however.

“The first time I played, I had this one family who had a couple kids who were special needs,” DeWan said. “And they sat in front of me for an hour and just listened. All their ice cream ran out, and they were just sitting there watching me. It was the best feeling ever: Like, oh, my gosh. These people are just here to listen to me play. I didn’t even know who they were. I didn’t know their names or anything.”

Another First Friday performer is Kelsan Giamporcaro, a Freshman and pianist who both plays on the street, which during First Fridays is open for any artist to set up and perform on, and inside stores like Georgetown Cafe and Bakery, and Misguided Angels, a clothing boutique, which require an invitation to play in.

Giamporcaro has played five First Fridays so far, each for about an hour, although he took a hiatus from performing during the COVID-19 quarantine. 

Giamporcaro started learning piano at the age of five, then took a break and began learning again a few years later. He has always had a teacher throughout those years and in fact, his first music teacher eventually retired and became the manager of the band Giamporcaro participates in as part of his attendance at the Catoctin School of Music, a school that offers both private and group lessons as well as ensembles and special events.

Giampocaro’s participation in his band, which consists of a drummer, bassist, and another pianist, and the events they attended, indirectly resulted in him playing First Fridays.

“I played on the street before, but it had to do with Catoctin School of Music because I was in the Combo [his band] at the time,” Giampocaro said. At a local farmers market, Giampocoro played as part of a pianist showcase in an event recommended by his director.

It was through participating in events like these that Giampocaro believes the first store owner heard of him and asked him to play First Fridays.

Giampocaro has an eclectic taste in music which he believes influences his musical style, as well as the music selection he plays for First Fridays.

“I wouldn’t really say I have a favorite [genre of music],” Giampocaro said. “I love jazz. I suppose I like 80s music. Also, and this is pretty weird, but North Korean propaganda [music]. It sounds pretty cool. I mean, it’s messed up, but it’s good music. Most of the piano that I play is jazz. You know, I haven’t really learned classical music that much. It just hasn’t been my interest.”

Of individuals who have influenced Giampocaro he named, “McCoy Tyne, a jazz pianist in the John Coltrane quartet.”

From playing First Fridays, Giampocaro estimates he gets twenty to forty dollars a night. 

In fact getting the chance to earn money from doing something he enjoys is one of his favorite things about performing at First Fridays.

“It’s fun, you know, I like playing piano, I like getting the money,” Giampocaro said.

One thing Giampocaro sometimes finds uncomfortable, however, is interacting with his audience.

“I’m not good with people,” Giampocaro said. 

Giampocaro’s favorite memory from playing, however, was when an audience member tipped him forty dollars at once. Giampocaro liked the money, and he liked the fact that his audience admired his musical talent.

First Fridays not only provide entertainment for many teenagers, but Leesburg’s First Fridays provide a venue for teenagers to showcase their musical talent and to express their diverse personalities, while giving them the chance to earn a little money as well, all while benefiting the many small businesses located in our downtown — a musical win-win for everyone.