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Sitar Stories

Jazz and Entrepreneurship: Behind the Scenes with Omrao Brown

On April 10, 2024, Sitar Arts Center hosted its second engagement in its “Artists at Work” series. Charis Gomez, the executive producer and host of “Living Local DMV,” moderated the conversation with the guest speaker, Omrao Brown, founder of Shine On Me Productions.

Omrao Brown, known for his work in producing events such as the DC Jazz Festival, shared personal anecdotes and insights throughout the conversation. Reflecting on his upbringing, Brown credited his early exposure to music at home for igniting his passion for the arts. He reminisced, “I grew up in a house where my father was a musician and a professor of music. … We would wake up to loud music in the house.”

Discussing the significance of arts education and accessibility, Brown underscored the importance of organizations like Sitar when it comes to exposing youth to the arts early in their development. He also highlighted the ability of the arts to foster understanding and engagement across cultures. “It’s critical,” he emphasized, “not that it’s important necessarily in terms of creating more musicians or dancers, or actors … you’d be hard pressed to find a through line across all cultures outside of the arts.”

As the conversation delved into Brown’s journey from childhood to adulthood, he shared pivotal moments that shaped his path. From his exploration of different musical instruments to his eventual pursuit of engineering, Brown’s story underscored the intersection of creativity and technical expertise. “I got my degree in electrical engineering and computer design and matriculated through into a career in designing computers,” he recounted, ” … in that time I also picked back up some of the arts, I started DJing and producing.”

Brown’s entrepreneurial spirit came to the forefront as he discussed his role in co-owning Bohemian Caverns, a renowned jazz club in Washington, DC. Reflecting on the challenges and triumphs of running the club, he emphasized the importance of perseverance and humility in navigating the business landscape. “Start small, be humble, work hard, and ask questions,” he advised aspiring entrepreneurs.

The conversation also touched on Brown’s partnership with the DC Jazz Festival, spanning nearly two decades. Praising the festival’s impact on the local arts scene, Brown commended the organization’s commitment to promoting jazz and fostering community engagement. He noted how DC Jazz Fest provides year-round programming, including an embassy series and arts education programs and highlighted its contribution to the cultural vibrancy of the city.

In closing, Brown shared words of encouragement for aspiring artists and entrepreneurs, urging them to pursue their passions with dedication and resilience. “Create what you want to be around you,” he emphasized, encapsulating his belief in the power of artistic vision and perseverance.

Overall, the evening served as a celebration of creativity, resilience, and community, echoing Sitar Arts Center’s commitment to nurturing artistic talent and enriching lives through the arts.

The “Artists at Work” series aims to provide a platform for the diverse voices and artistic disciplines that contribute to D.C.’s vibrant cultural landscape. Audiences learn about the inner workings of performing, visual, and digital arts companies through the personal stories of their career journeys and current roles.

For more information about “Artists at Work” visit