From its inception in 1965 to its leap into the 21st century, the Friends of the Kennedy Center volunteers have provided invaluable service to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—eleven hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the year. The results of a Friends survey show that the Friends are a diverse, educated, and arts-loving group who impart a wonderful spirit of volunteerism and selfless participation that make them a model for the entire country.
When the Washington National Opera (WNO) became an affiliate of the Kennedy Center in July 2011, WNO volunteers joined forces with the Friends organization. For almost four decades, volunteers have been essential to the operation of the opera, and Friends volunteers will continue to utilize their talents to assist the opera in various capacities, such as auditions, the costume studio, transportation of artists, and the annual Opera in the Outfield.
NexGenFriends are individuals age 35 and under who volunteer at the Kennedy Center either on a weekly basis, as members of the Festival/Event volunteer program, or as individuals who actively support the NexGenFriends mission of advocating volunteer support in the arts and promoting Kennedy Center performances. This fledgling group works closely with the Gen X and Millennial populations in Washington, D.C. to achieve these goals. NexGenFriends also love to volunteer to with individuals with all generations is one of the defining traits that makes being a NexGenFriend an rewarding experience.
The spirit of volunteerism is thriving at the Kennedy Center, proving that there are still many women and men who are willing to volunteer their time for the good of the community. In addition to the satisfaction of being able to contribute to this institution, our volunteers have a lot of fun as well!
Why Be a Friend?
"I like being a Friend for the reasons most often mentioned among us — involvement with a world-class institution, the chance to meet people from all over the world as a tour guide, and relationships with other Friends that expand my horizons in multiple ways – not to mention access to the best of the performing arts. Plus, when I am volunteering, I save money and lots of calories, since I am not eating or shopping to fill up all that extra time that I give to the Kennedy Center.
"It’s a win-win situation to be a Friend of the Kennedy Center."
- Bob Bahr
"The arts have always been a passion of mine. I remember going with my grandmother to the Detroit Opera House and the Fox Theater and being absolutely enthralled by the musicals and ballets, and later, when I moved to Washington, D.C. as an adult, I fell in love with opera. Volunteering at the Kennedy Center is one of my favorite weekly routines, as it gives me the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for this magical place with everyone who walks through the doors. As a NexGenFriend, I love to share the many benefits of volunteering for this exceptional organization with my peers. So please visit me on Wednesday evenings in the gift shop and I'll be happy to tell you more!"
- Katie Boothroyd
Being a Friend of the Kennedy Center comes with its share of perks.
- Occasional ticket discounts and complementary ticket offers
- 30% discount at the KC Café
- 25% discount on all purchases in the Kennedy Center Gift Shops
- Use of the Kennedy Center employee canteen which offers a salad and sandwich bar, as well as reasonably-priced entrees
- $3 parking rate when volunteering or attending a performance at the Kennedy Center
- A subscription to FriendScript, our monthly newsletter
Requirements for Participation as an Active Friend
New volunteer orientations are held twice a year, generally in late March and September.
All qualified candidates must meet the following requirements:
- Must be at least 18 years of age and out of school.*
- Must be willing to commit to one year.
- Must be able to perform the required duties for preferred volunteer job.
- Must be willing to complete all aspects of the orientation and training cycle.
- Must be willing to commit to one weekly three or four hour shift of service.**
*We do not accept high school or college students for the regular Friends program. See our site for other volunteer opportunities.
**There is a special Flex schedule available —Friday afternoon through Monday evening — after six months on a regular shift.
Support the Friends
One way to find out more about the Friends—both the organization and its volunteers—is to buy our book, Curtain Up on the Friends, A History of the Friends of the Kennedy Center Volunteers, offers the reader a rich history about the Friends since our inception in 1965. Curtain Up can be found in the Kennedy Center Gift Shops.
Another special item featured in the Kennedy Center Gift Shops that reflects the spirit of volunteerism at the Kennedy Center is a beautiful collection of notecards produced in honor of the Friends volunteers.
Each card features a stunning photograph of the Kennedy Center, as well as information about the Friends Program. To purchase, visit the Kennedy Center Gift Shops!