Cecily Bumbray, a DC-based singer and songwriter, originally wanted to move to New York after graduating from Swarthmore College in 2012. But financially, it was not feasible and she decided to move back to her hometown to pursue music instead.

What a lucky break that was for DC residents who got to enjoy her concert, the third annual “Cecily Salutes DC,” at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Nov. 20.

As a DC local, Bumbray noticed how much the landscape, culture and scene was changing in the city after returning. Hoping to remind residents – new and old – about what makes this city special, she orchestrated a yearly show called “Cecily Salutes DC,” where she covers songs by DC-based musicians, narrating their history and contributions to the nation’s capital.

Some of the artists she covered were Duke Ellington, Chuck Brown and Roberta Flack. With a sultry voice tinged with both soul and sweetness, Bumbray is a force to be reckoned with on stage.

She particularly shines on “I’m Lazy, That’s All,” by Pearl Bailey and the rousing “It don’t mean a thing,” by Duke Ellington.

Before each song, Bumbray would introduce the artist, their contributions to the city and key highlights of their musical careers as images of national monuments looped in the background.

Given that the city is surrounded by political turmoil, Bumbray thought it was important that the city featured a concert that highlighted what makes the city special – a compilation of some of the country’s greatest culture, art and musicians.   

“I thought of this show as an opportunity to talk about DC -- all residents, citizens and native Washingtonians can learn more about this city and rediscover it,” Bumbray said.

But the show also featured a panel that discussed how gentrification has impacted DC’s arts scene and what can be done about it. It featured Deputy Mayor Courtney Snowden, Ariana Austin (the leader of Art All Nught) and musician and activist Aaron Myers.  

Douglas Yeuell, the executive director of the Atlas Performing Arts Center believes the biggest solution to solving some of gentrification’s complexities is finding a link between the private and public sectors.

“There is a connection between the private and public to be connected that must be mindful of the development of DC that allows artists to thrive,” Yeuell said.

Yeuell, a proponent of maintaining DC’s vibrant arts scene, believes that finding a solution will be difficult but is necessary.

“Trying to creatively problem solve this issue is a challenge,” Yeuell said. “But Atlas is an example of the success of the marriage between public and private. It has a purpose for community and economic development and is a catalyst for neighborhood growth and change.”

Bumbray is hopeful shows like hers will give the two different sects of DC – the younger, new residents and the older, native Washingtonians a chance to interact and communicate more in the same space.

And despite all its changes, Bumbray remains optimistic about her beloved hometown.

“It is home,” she said.

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Photo credit: Sarah O'Halloran

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