About Neal

Neal Learner has had a life-long love for music. A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, his work draws on many influences, from classical and musical theater to bluegrass and rock. Outside of his day job as a reporter and communications professional, Neal has taught violin and voice at the Del Ray School of Music, and cohosted the monthly Great Del Ray Poetry Reading in Alexandria, VA. In October 2021, Neal debuted a series of his violin compositions with Alexandria Poet Laureate KaNikki Jakarta in a performance called Poetry With Strings Attached. His recent musical theater work includes Get Me Home, which premiered online in April 2020 by Taphouse Theatre in Fort Worth, TX. He also wrote the critically praised sung-through musical "LIFE: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts," which premiered at the 2017 Capital Fringe Festival, and music and lyrics for "Soul Redeemer," book by playwright Paul Handy, which premiered at the 2019 Capital Fringe Festival. In 2010 he released Would You Like to Be a Mermaid, a CD of songs for and about children. Neal performs his music and poetry throughout the Washington, D.C., area, and lives with his wife in Alexandria. 

Life, Love, Loss, & Everything Else

Saturday, November 12, 1 pm | The Athenaeum Gallery, 201 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Join musician-poets Neal Learner and Martin Graff at the Athenaeum in Old Town for an entirely unique, moving, and inspiring multimedia experience of opera, piano, spoken word, and projected artwork to move your soul and light your imagination. 

Free Admission

Program First Half 

The Face Zone: Surreal Daydreams to Trip Your Imagination... 

Martin Graff performs his solo, multimedia spoken-word act of poetic-prose vignettes with matching artwork about every topic from the stigma of liking scrapple to the meaning of life. What connects the pieces is that they each start with a projected image of a face—human, animal, alien, abstract—to prompt reaction and thought, and to act as a catalyst for the material that follows. The show is punctuated by original piano compositions from his album Trips for Piano to further deepen the experience. Graff’s imaginative humor, insightful commentary, unconventional artwork, and compelling music offer a uniquely engaging respite that cuts through the noise of our information-age lives with concise, essential truths certain to entertain and inspire lasting reflection. 

For more: thefacezone.comtripsforpiano.com 

Program Second Half 

World premiere live staged reading. 

Get Me Home: A Travel Opera in Three Acts   

Music and libretto by Neal Learner 

Maxine T. Heart lives overseas but needs to get back to America immediately. Her beloved father is hovering between life and death after being hit by a falling tree branch while riding his bike. Maxine has bought her ticket and is ready to jump on the plane. There’s only one problem: in her shock at the family news, she gave the foreign travel agent her nickname, rather than full name, and failed to clearly enunciate her “ts” and “ds.” On her passport, she’s “Maxine T. Heart.” But on her ticket, she’s “Max D. Heard.” Problems ensue. 

Director: Ruben Vellekoop 
Cast: Neal Learner, Cathy McCoskey, Marissa Papatola, and Eric Yeh 
Accompanist: Paige Rammelkamp

LIVE MUSIC HAS RETURNED to Evening Star Cafe's No. 9 Lounge!

Join Del Ray singer/guitarist Neal Learner in the Evening Star Cafe's No. 9 Lounge (2000 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA) each Thursday from 7-10pm for an evening of hits from across the decades!  

Check out the song list!

'A masterpiece': Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Gives Brand New Performance 

...Inside the Athenaeum, the words and melodies and harmonies made the art-covered walls come to life; the lines moved across canvas, the colors jumped out of frames. When Learner first reached out to Jakarta with this dual-performance idea, he might not have anticipated such a masterpiece. But that is what it was. A masterpiece, free to witness...

view video

Thrilled to be selected for Taphouse Theater's Shelter in Place virtual new play festival.

My 10-minute opera, Get Me Home, was performed April 19, 2020. The work featured Brian Hathaway, Antony J. Ortega, Elisa Danielle James and Caroline Rivera. Directed by Sienna Riehle and Benjamin Brown. See video interview below after premiere.

Neal Learner's Music to be Featured June 22 at LaTiDo DC Cabaret 

I'm thrilled to present an evening of my music on June 22, 2020, at LaTiDo. I have some great singers lined up who will perform a dozen-plus songs from my recent shows. 

Whisk and Quill Review: Soul Redeemer 

July 8, 2019, Whisk & Quill: ...Handy conceived the show and Learner wrote all eight of the period songs giving the cast free rein to interpret his music and context resulting in a vibrant collaboration and a convincing freshness to his material. Both Monroe and Williams have strong, soulful voices and hot chops that put this one on your must-see Fringe list...

DC Metro Theater Arts: 2019 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Soul Redeemer’ 

July 10, 2019, DC Metro Theater Arts: ...With over a half dozen songs and standout acting performances, Soul Redeemer is a musical potpourri for ears and hearts...

DC Metro Theater Arts: 2017 Capital Fringe Review: ‘LIFE: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts’ 

July 10, 2017, DC Metro Theater Arts: ...LIFE is appropriately named, showing us not just a glimpse of a story, but the way that one person’s story grows into the next’s. And it is brought to life with humor, with wit, and with great energy by this talented cast.

Neal Learner’s “Life: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts” Will Surprise You at D.C.’s Fringe Festival 

July 10, 2917, The Zebra Theater Review: ...The genius of what Neal Learner has achieved here is combining the various styles of music, the complex rhythms and harmonies, and pairing them with beautiful, interesting voices.  He has also kept the story line simple, and for the most part all the characters behave in pretty much normal ways, just going about their unremarkable lives.  However, through the magic of Learner’s music and brilliant lyrics...we become caught up in their everyday lives and hope for the best outcome possible in each situation.  This show mirrors real life, not a fairy tale, so things pretty much go along without any dreadful tragedies or horrible struggles, just a witty and sometimes moving celebration of the beauty of the arc of life from its beginning to its end.

DC Metro Theater Arts: A Report on ‘Life: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts’ at Monumental Theatre Company 

May 18, 2016 DC Metro Theater Arts Review: "...Thank you to Monumental Theatre Company for producing the reading of this impressive new material, and thank you to the creator of the musical, Neal Learner, for highlighting the beauty in the simplicity of this thing called life. I look forward to seeing what comes next for the production and for Monumental."