Reston Residents Accuse Local ‘Music Man’ of Repeated Overcharging

Two Reston families said they’ve been waiting months to get their money back after suing a music school for “random” credit card charges.

Michele Chesser said that she learned about District Music Academy from a parent-teacher association event last June at a Reston school and signed up her daughter, who “loves music and trying new things,” for a free lesson.

“It was a good lesson,” Chesser said. “What I liked about District Music Academy is they come to the house. We don’t have to go anywhere.”

At first, she said she communicated mostly with the piano teacher who would come to the house. Then the business owner reached out later in the fall to let her know that the teacher had left and would be replaced by a new one.

A couple of months later, she noticed the company was double-billing her credit card for the lessons, charging her at the beginning and end of the month. In total, according to court documents, District Music Academy overcharged her $1,260.

Chesser said she contacted business owner Jeffrey Levin in November, and he took her credit card off of automatic billing, telling her that it was a billing mistake that was taking care of caused the issue.

In December, he offered to give her credit toward future classes, but Chesser declined, saying the amount he offered was incorrect.

At that point, Chesser said there was one lesson left that she had paid for. When that lesson came around on Dec. 28 at 3:10 p.m., Chesser said that the teacher never showed up — upsetting both her and her daughter.

“After a month of emailing and calling him, I realized he wasn’t going to do anything about it,” she said, so she contacted her credit card company, which was able to credit her two out of the five months of double billing. She decided to try to recover the rest of the money in court.

Earlier this year, she tried to serve Levin his court summons three times, finally resorting to a process server, according to court records. The judge heard the case in May and ordered Levin to pay the full amount.

But as of August, Chesser said she hasn’t gotten the money back.

“I don’t think I’ll ever see my money again,” she said.

The Breakdown

District Music Academy offers private in-home lessons, after school programs, entertainment for retirement communities in the D.C. area and other services, according to its website.

Chesser is not the only one in Reston who has sued Levin’s company for unwanted credit card charges in small claims court.

Anjia Nicolaidis told Reston Now that her daughter started ukulele and voice lessons once a month in February 2018 and the family scheduled lessons through August.

For a family with two full-time working parents, she said that District Music Academy seemed like a convenient solution, adding there are “not a lot of companies offering that in-home instruction in the immediate area.”

But by July of that year, Nicolaidis noticed double charges and “random charges.” When she reached out to Levin, “first there was some delay in getting him to acknowledge that our records and the teacher’s record were consistent,” she said.

“We asked for that reimbursement and gave him a number of opportunities to give it to us,” Nicolaidis told Reston Now, adding that Levin at first offered to make up the amount with credits to future lessons. After she declined the offer, the discussion over repayment broke down.

According to court records, Nicolaidis emailed Levin back on Sept. 10, writing:

As of this morning, September 10, 2018 you have not refunded the money you owe us. It has been a week since we received your email indicating you would process the refund. We have been corresponding about this issue for nearly two months…

We feel victimized and are in contact with other families that have had the same experience with District Music Academy.

Levin responded via email the same day, saying, “We have resolved all issues with our credit card system, but the process to refund the money is taking longer than expected. If it is acceptable to you, I can mail you a check today for the money due so that you can receive the fund more quickly.”

Nicolaidis said Levin never sent the check and she hasn’t heard from him since.

Taking Levin to Court

Early this year, Nicolaidis took Levin to court and the judge ordered him to pay to $1,526 with 6% interest starting Feb. 15.

“We still have no compensation to date,” she said as of Friday.

Records from the General District Courts for Fairfax and Loudoun counties indicate that 11 other people have individually sued Jeff Levin, District Music Academy, or Sebbie Enterprises — a limited liability company started by Levin — since 2014 for alleged unpaid debts.

The judges sided with the plaintiffs in two cases in Loudoun and four in Fairfax — totaling $11,842 in damages. One case in the Loudoun General District Court is still pending.

In one of the Fairfax cases, a judge sided with a Great Falls family suing Levin for $960 after the business owner wrote them on Nov. 5 that he was “waiting on long overdue vendor payments from our retirement communities and it has put us in a tight spot” and offered to pay back the money by hand-delivering a check for the $960 on Nov. 9, per court records.

Levin told Reston Now that the Nicolaidis and Chesser families and one in Great Falls have all been repaid.

“Also, we no longer process credit cards in house,” Levin said. “More than 90% of our clients pay by check and the remaining clients use our online system to input their own payments after receiving and approving an invoice.”

Today, there are about 30 former contractors and families are sharing their experiences with the company and its owner in a private Facebook group called District Music.

“Part of the reason the Facebook group has been such an important resource for everybody who is on it [is] we can compare notes and learn from each other,” Nicolaidis said.

Disharmony Within District Music Academy

Five former contractors spoke to Reston Now on the condition of anonymity, citing a non-disparagement clause in their contracts. The workers alleged that District Music Academy paid them less than it promised, paid late, and in some cases didn’t pay at all.

“I was never objecting to how much I was getting paid,” one former contractor told Reston Now. “I was objecting to not getting paid.”

The contractor alleged that Levin has yet to pay wages for three months of work over the summer of 2018.

Another former contractor who played gigs at retirement communities said that Levin would blame payroll problems on complex invoices and the retirement communities not paying on time.

A third contractor told Reston Now that Levin still hasn’t paid the several hundred dollars owed from their brief work with the company.

“I smelled the BS almost immediately,” the contractor said, adding that the lack of lesson plans and the “promise of ‘next week it would change'” concerned them.

“Regarding the contractors, I’d be happy to review their invoices with them,” Levin said, in response to a question from Reston Now about the allegations. “We now pay our contractors the day of their events or lessons so that there are no issues regarding payments.”

“We do great work in [the] community and my intent is [to] continue to build good relationships and to mend any fences where needed with past customers and contractors,” Levin said.

The contractors who spoke with Reston Now said that Levin ran his music business from two separate apartments in Reston. Today, District Music Academy lists an Ashburn address.

Levin is also the founder of Bach to Rock, a chain of musical schools that lists 39 locations across 18 states and D.C. on its website.

“Jeff Levin started the original Bethesda school that we acquired and used to launch our Bach to Rock business,” Angela Sakell, the vice president of marketing and operations for Bach to Rock, told Reston Now. “He was involved in the business in the early years before moving on to other interests and isn’t currently involved in running the business today.”

Image via District Music Academy/YouTube

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Lake Anne Jazz and Blues Festival Set for August 31

The 13th annual Lake Anne Jazz and Blues Music Festival returns to Lake Anne Plaza on August 31.

The event, which takes from place 2-8 p.m., brings together several bands and artists. Beer will be provided by Ornery Beer Company and tacos will be provided by Lake Anne Deli.

The following groups and individuals are scheduled to perform:

  • BIG Whitson
  • Shacara Rogers
  • The Vaughan
  • Ambrose Octet
  • Jamal A. Brown, Feedel Band
  • Michael Pavone
  • VMC!

The event is hosted by the Friends of Lake Anne and is sponsored by Lake Anne, Reston Community Center, Friends of Lake Anne and Foxes Music Company.

Photos via Charlotte Geary Photography

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‘Hunter Mill Melodies’ Come to Frying Pan Farm Park

Frying Pan Farm Park will come to life with music from around the world this summer.

The series, “Hunter Mill Melodies,” kicks off tomorrow (Thursday) and runs through Aug. 22. It aims to celebrate the county’s commitment to diversity and community spirit.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic, blanket and chairs. So far, the schedule, which is subject to change, is below:

  • June 27: Scythian (Irish Rock)
  • July 11: The Reunion Jazz Orchestra (Big Band)
  • July 18: Whiskey Wildfire (New Country)
  • July 25: Bumper Jacksons (Americana, Country, Bluegrass)
  • August 1: Incendio (Latin)
  • August 8: Chopteeth (Afrofunk)
  • August 15: Veronneau (World Jazz)
  • August 22: The United States Navy ‘Cruisers’ (Pop Rock)

For last minute performance cancellations due to inclement weather, call 703-324-7469 one hour prior to the program start time.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority‎/Facebook

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Pride of Herndon Returns from D-Day Celebrations in France

Herndon High School’s band took part in the 75th anniversary of D-Day celebrations in Normandy — returning with enhanced appreciation of the crew members who served on the USS Herndon during the invasion.

Several students dressed in original uniforms worn by USS Herndon sailors and the band also took a flag that flew on the USS Herndon.

Band members marched through the American Cemeteries in Brittany and Omaha Beach and performed in the D-Day Musical Salute to Liberation.

Varun Natarajan, a Herndon High School junior and a member of the band, said the experience increased his appreciation for those who sacrificed their lives during the invasion, as well as the unique role the USS Herndon played.

“We heard some very impactful speeches by people who participated in D-Day. Hearing the veterans describe D-Day gave me a new sense of perspective on what the invasion was like, and how intense the fighting was. Three students from our school also got to speak about what this means to them,” Natarajan said.

Photo via Herndon Band/Facebook

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Kalypso’s Kicks Off Friday Music Series

Kalypso’s Sports Tavern is kicking off a live music series this week.

The business, which is located on historic Lake Anne, released its lineup of bands, which will play on a dedicated stage from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. every Friday through July 28.

The complete line up is below:

  • May 10: Free Soul
  • May 17: Bobby Thompson & Friends
  • May 24: Full Plate
  • May 31: Something’s Brewing
  • June 7: The Jones
  • June 14: The Vandelays
  • June 28: Holly Montgomery Band
  • July 5: Chris Timbers Band
  • July 12: Sista Pat’s One Vibe
  • July 19Free Soul
  • July 28: Run For Cover

“Spring and summer is the best time of the year on Lake Anne,” says Kalypso’s owner Vicky Hadjikyriakou. “We look forward to welcoming guests, familiar and new, to enjoy this great free music lineup and our menu of flavorful Greek and Italian food.”

The tavern already offers acoustic music on the lakefront patio on most weekend afternoons and evenings. Reston Community Center’s Take a Break Concert Series also returns on Thursdays.

File photo

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Pianist Luke Frazier Coming to CenterStage Tomorrow

Luke Frazier, a pianist and founder of the American Pops Orchestra, is set to take part in a program featuring the music of Irving Berlin tomorrow (April 11) at CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road).

The program, which is part of CenterStage’s “Meet the Artists” series, will also feature other musicians. The event is made possible through a partnership between Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University and Reston Community Center.

Berlin was an American composer and lyricist who produced ballads, dance numbers, novelty tunes and love songs. His work forms a major part of the Great American Songbook.

The event, which will take place from 2:15-3:30 p.m., is free and open to all ages.

Photo via Reston Community Center

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Husband and Wife Duo to Perform Friday for Deepwood Sessions

A husband and wife singer-songwriter team is set to perform at the Deepwood Sessions, a series of house concerts hosted in Reston, this Friday (April 5).

Chris and Jenna Badeker, who met and began singing together in college, formed Wild Harbors in 2017, according to their website. The duo describes their sound as alternative pop with “gutsy, lyric-driven songs laced with intricate vocal harmonies.”

They recently released their first full-length album, “Monument,” on March 15.

The 7 p.m. show asks attendees each for $10. Each concert for the Deepwood Sessions has a suggested minimum donation, which goes to directly to the artist.

According to the website, the series hosts acoustic and unplugged concerts featuring independent artists with a variety of styles and musical genres.

RSVP-ing in advance is strongly recommended.

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Pianists to Reunite in Reston for Four-Hand Piano Recital

 

The Reston Community Center (RCC) is planning a concert and meet-and-greet with acclaimed pianist George Fu.

The event is set for Thursday, April 4, from 2:15-3:30 p.m at the CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Rd). The concert will be free and appropriate for all ages.

A Facebook post for the event says Fu will be joined by Chelsea Wang, a classmate from the Curtis Institute of Music, for a four-hand piano recital.

The concert is part of the RCC’s ongoing Meet the Artists series. Fu was previously featured in the RCC’s Meet the Artists series in 2016.

Fu has worked with a variety of orchestras, including performing as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, and is returning to Reston following a stint at the London Conservatory of Music.

Photo via Facebook

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Where to Watch Live Music and Grab a Bite to Eat Around Reston

Several restaurants around Reston regularly offer performance venues for DJs, touring artists and local bands.

Reston Now rounded up some spots offering a range of food and live music.

Lake Anne 

Kalypso’s Sports Tavern (1617 Washington Plaza N.)

What’s on the menu: Greek, Italian and American fare on the menu. Happy hour is from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays.

Live music: Kalypso’s hosts live bands and DJs from 9:30 p.m.-1 a.m. on Fridays. Diners on Wednesdays and Saturdays can partake in karaoke from 9:30 p.m.-1:3- p.m. All of the events are free, according to Kalypso’s website.

Cafe Montmartre (1625 Washington Plaza N.)

What’s on the menu: French and Vietnamese cuisine for lunch, brunch and dinner.

Live music: Tom Saputo & Friends perform the second Friday of every month, letting diners enjoy singing and dancing from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Other upcoming shows include The Get Down Band from 5-8 p.m. on March 29 and New Blue Soul Band from 7-10 p.m. with a $10 cover charge on April 5.

Lake Anne Coffee House and Wine Bar (1612 Washington Plaza N.)

What’s on the menu: Locally sourced American fare and coffee.

Live music: The live music usually takes place upstairs by the wine bar Wednesdays-Saturdays. Until May, locals can listen to jazz with half-priced bottles of wine on Thursdays and music ranging from classical guitar to jazz on Saturdays.

Reston Town Center

Crafthouse (1888 Explorer Street)

What’s on the menu: American pub food: burgers, sandwiches, salon, steak. Happy hour is from 3-9 p.m. on weekdays.

Live music: The growing beer-centric restaurant chain usually has a live band or DJ playing at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Karaoke starts at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.

South Lakes Village Center

Red’s Table (11150 South Lakes Drive)

What’s on the menu: American fare with a focus on meat and seafood. Happy hour is from 3:30-7 p.m. every day, featuring $4 for the daily beer on tap and $5 cocktail of the day.

Live music: Red’s Table hosts weekly live music performances. Upcoming ones include Bad Influence Band on March 30 and singer and musician Ted Garber on April 19.

Did we miss a spot? Let us know in the comments. Check back next week for our roundup for places with live music and food in Herndon.

Photo via Ted Garber/Facebook

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Jazz Singer Jazzmeia Horn Talks Upcoming Album Ahead of CenterStage Show

Ahead of her tour stop at Reston Community Center, Grammy-nominated jazz singer and songwriter Jazzmeia Horn shared with Reston Now details on her upcoming album and when Restonians can expect to see her again.

Horn told Reston Now her 2017 album “A Social Call,” which earned her a Grammy nomination in 2018, was a bold, political statement. Her next album “Love and Liberation” will explore how the act of love is a liberating choice, adding that listeners can expect some love songs.

Horn’s own self-love story came from accepting her deeper voice. Now, she wants to encourage her daughters to embrace their individuality.

The album is set to debut this summer.

Horn is also working on plans for a world tour. While she said she doesn’t think she’ll back at RCC this year, Restonians might see her next year on the second half of her tour.

She is set to perform on CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road) at 8 p.m. on Saturday (March 30). Tickets cost $20 for Restonians and $30 for everyone else.

“I want everyone to have a great experience — to have an openness and to enjoy the music and be free,” Horn said.

Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff

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Musician Luke Brindley to Perform Friday for Deepwood Sessions

Luke Brindley will bring folk rock and acoustic guitar music to the Deepwood Sessions, a series of house concerts hosted in Reston, this Friday (March 8).

Based in Virginia, Brindley is a fingerstyle guitarist and singer-songwriter. He also runs with his brothers a music venue, bar and cafe in Vienna called Jammin Java.

He released the “Dream Songs EP” in 2018.

The 7 p.m. show asks attendees each for a $15 minimum donation. Each concert for the Deepwood Sessions has a suggested minimum donation, which goes to directly to the artist.

According to the website, the series hosts its acoustic and unplugged concerts featuring independent artists with a variety of styles and musical genres.

RSVP-ing in advance is strongly recommended.

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Singer Ted Garber to Bring Blues, Rock to Reston on Friday

Singer and musician Ted Garber is bringing his blues, Americana and rock music back to Reston later this week.

Garber started his career by performing covers on the streets of New Orleans before heading to the 9:30 Club, Blues Alley and the Strathmore in the D.C.-area, according to his bio.

Now, Garber is a well-known musician around the Northern Virginia area, who often stops by Reston on his tours and for community events.

Garber is set to perform on Friday (Feb. 22) at 9 p.m. at Red’s Table (11150 South Lakes Drive), an American eatery by Lake Thoreau that was started by three siblings who grew up in Reston. The event does not have a cover charge.

Photo via Ted Garber/Facebook

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CenterStage Event Set to Fuse Indian, Japanese Musical Traditions

The musical traditions of Japan and India will combine in a performance by Yumi Kurosawa and Anubrata Chatterjee at the Reston Community Center later this week.

Kurosawa is set to play the koto, a Japanese stringed musical instrument, while Chatterjee will play the tabla — a pair of small drums common in North Indian classical music.

“This collaboration highlights their affinity and respect for one another as virtuosic performers while furthering their own timeless musical tradition,” the event description says, adding that the performance by Kurosawa and Chatterjee will focus on creating “musical tales.”

They are set to perform on CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road) at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13. Tickets cost $15 for Restonians and $20 for everyone else.

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Herndon House Concert Set to Challenge Zoning Citation Next Week

A Herndon house concert series that features independent artists is set to challenge a zoning violation at the Board of Zoning Appeals next week.

Chris Devine, the host of The Crib, received a violation notice taped to his front door from the Town of Herndon for a concert on Nov. 17 in his home, the Herndon Connection reported last week.

Dated Dec. 13, the citation says that 44 people were observed entering the home between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. for a Gina Venier and Lexie Hayden concert.

“[This] activity constitutes an Indoor Entertainment use and is not a permitted use on the subject property pursuant to the Town of Herndon Zoning Ordination,” the citation said. It gave Devine 15 days to resolve the violation to avoid incurring fines.

Instead, Devine decided to appeal the violation.

“We firmly believe The Crib house concert does not meet that definition, and further believe the citation arose from a lack of understanding of the house concert concept,” The Crib’s blog says.

At the public comment period during the Town Council public session last night (Jan. 15), Devine said that he met with town staff after receiving the citation.

“In that meeting, I learned that the town had very little understanding of that activity, which is house concerts, and as a result were very vague on how my activity tripped the wire as a commercial use,” he said.

Devine slammed Town of Herndon’s leadership, saying that he was denied access to basic information about the situation after he tried to ask follow-up questions after the meeting.

A Herndon town attorney told Mayor Lisa Merkel that the appeal never goes to the Town Council. Instead, it goes to the Board of Zoning Appeals and then to the circuit court.

“There is a role in the Town Council in looking at our code if there were a change to be made in the future,” Merkel said.

As Devine tackles the appeals process, a GoFundMe page created on Dec. 20 is helping to cover the fines.

The campaign says the following:

It will take a while to work through the appeals process — possibly as long as three months — and we don’t know at this point what the outcome will be.

During this time we have five fantastic artists already scheduled to perform and we will incur fines for each event we choose to hold, but we want to continue with the events in order to keep our commitments to both the artists and our guests who have made advance donations.

During normal times, each house show we hold costs The Crib between $100-$200; we do this because we have a passion for connecting incredible artists with deserving and appreciative guests.

But we can’t absorb the fines on top of the costs we already incur as part of our mission to the arts and the community.

Our fundraising goal will allow us to pay the fines over the next several months ($200 for the first event and $500 per subsequent event). We are also seeking a small amount to cover any legal fees we may incur during the appeals process.

Any residual funds will be used to create an even better experience for artists and audiences and/or donated to our non-profit partner, The Warrior Music Foundation.

The campaign has already hit its fundraising goal of $3,200. In 26 days, 32 people donated $3,335.

Since launching in 2015, The Crib has hosted nearly 50 house shows with 28 different artists, according to its website.

Each show lets the artist perform two 45-minute sets of original music. Seating is on a first-come basis with a capacity of roughly 40 people. Attendees are encouraged to make a donation in advance — all of the donations go to the artist.

A public hearing notice indicates that the Board of Zoning Appeals will take up the matter next Thursday (Jan. 24) at 7:30 p.m. at 765 Lynn Street.

Photo via The Crib/Facebook

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Musician Shawna Caspi to Perform in Herndon Next Week

Toronto-based singer-songwriter Shawna Caspi is coming to Herndon for a performance next Tuesday.

Caspi is set to perform on Jan. 15 as a part of The Folk Club of Reston/Herndon, a volunteer organization that meets on Tuesday evenings at 7:15 p.m. at Amphora’s Diner Deluxe (1151 Elden Street).

Classically trained, Caspi shifted to folk singing, which she pairs with a fingerpicking guitar style.

In September 2017, she released her fourth album, “Forest Fire,” which delves into “burning things down and building them up again” with bluegrass instrumentation.

Her song “Not So Silent” from her 2014 album “Apartments for Lovers” was selected for the Silver Award in the folk acoustic category of the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest presented by the Songwriters’ Association of Washington, she wrote on her website on Tuesday (Jan 8).

Her travels as a musician inspired Caspi to paint. “Shawna loves the landscapes of her travels, and while weaving them into her songs, she has also been portraying them on canvases, painting one-of-a-kind works of art inspired by the rich scenery she sees on tour,” according to her bio. So far, she has sold more than 100 original paintings.

The upcoming Herndon show has a suggested donation of $10 for members of the Folk Club and $11 for nonmembers.

Image via World One Video on YouTube

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