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TRAILBLAZERS. It’s the first Friday in September, and I’m standing with my team on the top floor of the Naval Lodge in Capitol Hill, watching the dynamic duo behind multidisciplinary creative agency Studio Sonic set up for our October cover shoot. For the first time in six-and-a-half years, I’ve relinquished the bulk of my creative control during a cover shoot and trusted Studio Sonic’s Pierre Edwards and Eliud Arbelo II completely with their vision. In collaboration with photographer Shaughn Cooper, they crafted the most meta cover we’ve had to-date by having Cooper capture them in their element as creators — setting up and adjusting lighting, reviewing the set, communicating about what to tweak or focus on — and then, striking power poses in the freshest of outfits while lounging in vintage teal auditorium-style seats. Cooper ingeniously combined some of his strongest images for our cover. He depicted Edwards and Arbelo exuding hustle as the always-in-motion artists they are, overlayed with images of them front and center in the antique blue seats, looking at the camera with a fierceness that commands attention and respect. On our shoot day, I’m joined by my editorial team and writer Colleen Kennedy, who penned a stunning cover story on Studio Sonic. We’re taking in the sounds of the duo’s “The Tail End of Summer” mix along with the visuals of the eccentric cover location that, in Kennedy’s words, is “saturated with Masonic symbolism.” It’s the perfect setting for contemplation, and acknowledgment of the trailblazing entrepreneurs in the District making, doing and creating around the clock.

But our coverage of trailblazers didn’t end with Studio Sonic. We rounded up 52 locals, a mix of up-and-coming and well-established professionals who’ve carved out a niche for each of their respective hustles. I had the joy of speaking with the very understated, humble queen of D.C. theatre, actress and director Holly Twyford, about her upcoming production of “Becoming Dr. Ruth” at Theater J — as well as a myriad of fangirl questions I’ve been saving for two decades. I also chatted with Folger Theatre’s brand-new artistic director, the forward-thinking and multitalented Karen Ann Daniels. Amanda Weisbrod picked indie darling and Richmond native Lucy Dacus’ brain, Trent Johnson waxed poetic about The Barns at Wolf Trap’s 40th anniversary and Rina Rapuano gave us her fall foodie forecast. Plus, outdoor workout classes to enjoy in the coming months, our friends and collaborators Inner Loop’s annual writing contest winners, new cocktail bar Jane Jane, another epic illustration from my favorite artist E$, and much more. Cheers to all of the trailblazers making waves in this city. I look up to you all and can’t wait to share more of your stories. 

Monica Alford