Photo by Patrick Nye
“Every community needs a place where the arts can call home.”
If you’ve lived in Warrenton for any significant period of time, you’ve most likely paid a visit or two to Drum & Strum in Old Town for any number of reasons since 1990. Whether it was to take your kids to music lessons, to see a show, to rent an instrument, Drum & Strum Music Center has been a staple of the community for almost 30 years. What you might not know is that there’s so much more to the Drum & Strum story than first meets the eye.
Drum & Strum’s founder Gloria Faye Dingus was born in a small southwestern coal mining town deep in the Appalachian Mountains named Clintwood, Virginia. She grew up in a home rich with love, value, and integrity but little of anything else. They were one of many families trying to make it through the day, unsure of what tomorrow would bring.
Fast forward to many years later after marrying her sweetheart and starting a family, she opened Drum & Strum. What Gloria did not know when she initially opened the store was that she would soon discover the need for arts in this small community in Virginia her and her family called home.
Over the years, Gloria gave away numerous music lessons and instruments to those in need, never expecting anything in return. Always by her side, her son Tim joined her in discussing dreams and aspirations for what their store could grow to be. “We always talked about things we wanted to do and things the community needed,” Tim said. “She was a big philanthropist, into helping people and helping kids and people with music lessons if they couldn’t afford it. If they couldn’t afford an instrument, she would make sure she got them anyway.”
In 2007, Gloria was diagnosed with stage four uterine and ovarian cancer and she ended up having to take a step back from the store in 2009. Tim took over and has continued to honor her legacy since she passed away in 2012. “About a year after she passed away, we formed the Gloria Faye Dingus Music Alliance,” Tim said. “We’re trying to continue her legacy and what she always wanted and what she taught us was to help other people.”
The Gloria Faye Dingus Music Alliance (GFDMA) is a non-profit dedicated to providing instruments and music instruction to children in need. GDFMA serves the community as an entertainment center, art gallery, educational facility, events venue, and community gathering place. Their mission is to enrich the quality of life, cultural diversity, mental wellness, and vitality of our community through music and the performing arts.
In 2018, the GFDMA established Gloria’s, a performing arts center, art gallery, and multi-use space on Main Street in Old Town Warrenton. As the primary fundraising arm of the GDFMA, it has seen many artists since its opening, including both national and international artists of different genres, such as jazz, blues, bluegrass, country, rock, and more. Gloria’s invites collaboration from artists, organizations, schools and the general community to encourage the creation, joy, and understanding of artistic expression.”When we started, we really had a blank canvas,” Tim said. “I always heard from people that they wished they had a place to go to experience music. Most people have never experienced music like this, in a room that is optimized for listening.”
After most shows, people can even go up and meet the musicians. “Years ago, a friend dragged me down to the Prism Coffee House in Charlottesville for shows,” Tim said. “When I went, I was floored. I had no idea that kind of music experience existed. I had never seen anything like that before.”
Gloria’s hosts very well recognized bands, and Tim credits his many years of experience in the industry and the connections he’s made over that time for his ability to bring those big names to Warrenton. He said, “I just have a lot of really talented friends. And that’s what we’re really trying to do for the community. You can drive to Alexandria or D.C. for good music, but now you don’t have to. You can get the same experience here in town and have a nice evening out.”
As for the musicians, once they find out what the GFDMA is all about, they are very excited and supportive of it. Tim said, “Some of them struggled to find affordable instruments and music lessons when they were growing up, so they understand our mission and support it. We’ve even had musicians occasionally donate their performance fee back to the Alliance.”
At Gloria’s, there is something for everyone. There are shows from every genre. There are art galleries featuring local artists. “I want the community to know that this center isn’t just Gloria’s,” Tim said. “It really is the community’s space and I want the community to know that they can get out of it what they put into it. We really do want this to be a cultural hub of the community.”
And it’s not just music; the Gloria Faye Dingus Center for the Arts wants to be a place where local artists can feel welcome and supported. “We’ve got a gallery room setup and a gallery committee that’s going to be working with artists and local artists to do shows and exhibits like that,” Tim said. “Local artists will have a place to hang their art and do showings.”
Over time, the store and the center have evolved so much. Gloria always said, “Every community needs a place where the arts can call home and that everyone can come and feel welcome and not feel like they’re on the spot or being judged, but just a place that everyone can participate.”
Although the community now has this space thanks to Gloria Faye Dingus’ thoughts and vision, there is still so much room for growth. “We’re always looking for volunteers,” Tim said. “We always need help with the different events we’re doing. We want to keep growing and expanding and with that comes the need for more volunteers. We need people for running concessions, helping to run the ticketing, and different things like that. We’re on the PATH volunteer hub and people can look us up there.”
Gloria’s space is designed and sized to be flexible and responsive to the needs of other professional groups, community groups, and individuals who may want to rent it for diverse uses including art and dance classes, presentations, plays, movies, weddings, and receptions.
The Gloria Faye Dingus Music Alliance
92 Main Street, Suite 104, Warrenton