CORRECTION: The caption in the photo to go along with this article has been corrected. Originally it said that the concerts was on Saturday, Sept. 25, but the concerts are on Sunday, Sept. 25.
It will be the concert heard around the nation this Sunday when thousands of performers, including George Mason High School’s jazz ensemble, play throughout the U.S. at free “End Gun Violence” shows, including four at Falls Church locations.
Musicians are donating their talents and restaurants are donating their venues to raise awareness of gun violence which is out of control, says Carol Luten, the Falls Church coordinator and passionate advocate for the “End Gun Violence” movement.
At Argia’s, Mason teacher Josh Walker will join the F.C. school’s jazz ensemble and play guitar, singer and guitarist Andrew Acosta will perform at Applebee’s, vocalist Ramon Camarillo will play at Clare and Don’s Beach Shack, and the Yeonas Brothers Band will be at Lil City Creamery.
“This is not ‘anti-gun,’” Luten emphasized in an interview at her Falls Church home last week. “It’s designed to create awareness and a movement for change. We need to come together and stop gun violence. I’ve never had any gun violence in my life.”
Haunted by the murders of 26 students and staff members in Newtown in 2012, Luten’s passion to stop gun violence intensified the following year when the Navy Yard shooter killed 12 here in D.C. “I had to do something,” she said.
Luten founded “I Draw Guns,” an artistic boon to unleash her gun violence emotions and display her talents, using chalk to illustrate the movement in public places. And she joined others on the mission.
Every week Luten, a retired microbiologist, spends hours working with local groups, designing art for events, writing news releases, communicating, promoting the message and attending rallies like the one held monthly at National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax.
Argia’s owner Salina Rana says “gun violence is one of the major problems happening in America, especially among the young. I am very happy that Argia’s is participating to help create this awareness. I really appreciate Carol. It’s a great message. So many innocent lives have been lost.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33,000 die every year in the U.S. from gun violence.
“When Carol presented the idea, we got very excited to participate in this worthy cause,” said Jeff Goldberg, owner of Lil City Creamery, “We have to do something about gun violence. It’s an honor for a small shop like us to be a part of this, and it’s a nice way to have some community involvement.”
Over at Clare & Don’s, Ramon Camarillo will play a ukulele and sing “happy” (Don Ho) Hawaiian music where he’ll be joined by a bass player. “We need to make it harder for the wrong people to get guns,” Camarillo said “I don’t know what we can do besides get stronger legislation and have background checks.” According to a CNN/ORC poll, more than 91 percent of Americans favor background checks.
At Applebee’s, Andrew Acosta will be accompanied by bass player Harold Richmond. Acosta is happy he was invited to play. “I love to play music, and it’s a good cause, and I am happy to contribute to a good cause,” he said.
The George Mason Jazz Ensemble has 22 students who play seven different instruments, said Mary Jo West, the school’s director of music who’s been teaching for 33 years.
“We feel very positive about supporting a good cause,” she said. West continued. ”I feel strongly how important it is for the students to understand the impact of music, and how music can impact a cause.”
The Yeonas Brothers Band has been playing together about 15 years, ever since identical twins, Paul and Dimitri, launched their musical careers at age seven. The brothers’ dad, Dean, is a member of the band, too. “Paul and I play the acoustic guitar, and Dimitri, the bass guitar,” said their proud papa who co-owns Northern Virginia’s Yeonas & Shafran Real Estate in McLean.
The elder Yeonas says they were asked to play 60s music so they’ll be doing songs by Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, among others. “This is a really great event to raise awareness. It’s not anti-gun,” Yeonas said. “We love to play music and hope to add some positive energy to the whole event. We’re not there to take a political position.”
Local legislators supporting the movement include U.S. Congressman Don Beyer and Virginia General Assembly members, Marcus Simon and Dick Saslaw.
All the concerts last from 5 – 8 p.m., are free and donations to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence will be accepted at the venues. In addition, there will be a petition for a new gun violence license plate, the latest project for Luten.
Drumming up support for the special car tag is not easy since 450 signatures are required. “We have 200 [signatures] now, but it’s really hard to get them,” Despite the challenge, Luten remains confident.
“I will do it,” she says.