Chesapeake Music is on the move, expanding its offerings in new and exciting ways. The organization was renamed in 2015 to better reflect its overall focus of being a source for live performing arts with year-round concerts. In addition to individual concerts, Chesapeake Music exports something of the Chesapeake’s uniqueness to audiences and to musicians worldwide who take part in its annual Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival every June, the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival every Labor Day weekend, a biennial international Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition, and the new Jazz on the Chesapeake concert series. Chesapeake Music’s YouthReach Program works with area schools to bring a greater exposure of classical and jazz music to area students and its First Strings Program continues to inspire and excite 3rd and 4th graders in area schools by introducing them to the violin.According to Courtney Kane, President of Chesapeake Music, who moved to Easton with her husband Scott from Chevy Chase, MD in 2010, “What astonished me was the quality of music the organization provides – internationally-recognized musicians performing here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The quality has to do with the recognition of the performers who come here. They play in the great halls of music around the world.”
A number of renowned musicians have graced the stages of Chesapeake Music’s concerts and festivals. Among them are Kim Kashkashian, violist, who performs regularly at Chesapeake Music’s Chamber Music Festival each year. She received a Grammy Award in 2012 for Best Classical Solo Instrumental and in 2016 was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Another talented performer at Chesapeake Music’s Monty Alexander Jazz Festival is vocalist René Marie, who in both 2013 and 2017 had Grammy nominated songs.
Kane, who was born and raised in New Orleans, home of Mardi Gras, Dixieland Jazz and Creole cooking, grew up loving music. Her mother took her children to the symphony programs for children, introducing them to classical music. In addition, her exposure to Dixieland led her to her love of jazz music. Kane comments, “The city has a musical background. I thought living there that what we had was what everyone had.”
Kane, who enjoyed a long career in information technology sales management with IBM and Digital Equipment (DEC), also has managed individual VIP tours in France and for a time lectured on Impressionist art on riverboat tours on the Seine and Rhone rivers. She adds, “It was happenstance that we met friends who were active in Chesapeake Chamber Music. I got involved with it and the more involved I got, the more attached I got. I served as the Gala Chair and Treasurer before becoming Board President in 2016.”
Chesapeake Music is dependent on its volunteers, sponsors, donors, and committed supporters. The organization is always looking for volunteers with experience. Kane comments, “Arts volunteers are about passion. It takes faith and money to grow an arts organization. We have a rich source of volunteers in the communities we serve, but with our expanded offerings, we are always looking for new volunteers.”
In addition to its volunteers, what is unique about Chesapeake Music is the intimacy of its venues. Easton’s vibrant arts community lends itself well to the concerts we provide. These small halls, like the Academy Art Museum, The Avalon Theatre, and local churches, enable the audience to sit a few feet from the performers to take in the concert. Kane credits Executive Director Don Buxton who knows and works with every outstanding production technician within a day’s drive. She adds, “Our promise is to give our audience reliably the best in live performances, delivered locally, and at a reasonable cost. What we hope is that you will make an occasion of every event.”
The organization’s growth began when the annual Chamber Music Festival grew from a one-day festival in 1985 into a two-week event held in early June each year. Today, the Festival includes 13 concerts, recitals and open rehearsals in venues ranging from concert halls to churches, museums and waterfront estates. In 1997, the Festival established the concept of a satellite concert outside its base in Talbot County. Satellite concerts have been held in Oxford, St. Michaels, and more recently Queenstown.
In 2002, the organization expanded its operation to include the Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition, a competition for young emerging chamber music ensembles. In 2004, the first biennial Competition became international in scope, drawing from international conservatories. In 2006, the organization was approached by musician Merideth Buxton, Don Buxton’s wife, to create an outreach program, now institutionalized as First Strings. The short-term goals of First Strings Program are to help elementary school students in third or fourth grade to improve listening, gain self-confidence in performing, use teamwork to exhibit cooperation and self-control, and to have fun while learning the skills needed to play the violin. The program also offers YouthReach concerts featuring world-class musicians demonstrating and discussing their instruments with young musicians.
In July 2008, Eastern Shore Chamber Music Festival became Chesapeake Chamber Music, Inc., to better reflect the organization’s geographic location and scope near the Chesapeake Bay. That same year, Executive Director Don Buxton attended the Chamber Music America’s Annual Meeting in New York City where jazz had been a regular part of the programming. After discussing the idea among board members about introducing jazz to the organization’s repertory, the following year, in 2009, Chesapeake Chamber Music offered a single concert featuring the renowned jazz pianist Monty Alexander and his trio to test the waters. Since then, that one concert has grown into the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, featuring seven jazz events over Labor Day weekend each year, and drawing enthusiastic audiences from throughout the region. Most recently, Jazz on the Chesapeake expanded its programs by creating a jazz concert series to be held throughout the calendar year.
Kane reflects, “As we look to our future, our new name reflects the vision of Chesapeake Music – to continue to grow as the premier provider of professional live music performances. We continue to look for ways to be relevant in our diverse community.” She adds, “In the future, we plan to keep our programming fresh with new artists coming every year. We are planning farther out with our events. We also continue to collaborate with the Talbot County Arts Council and other organizations, as we are doing this year with our Artists-in-Residence program with the local schools.”
Chesapeake Music’s upcoming international Chamber Music Competition in April is one of the best competitions for young musicians in the world. Many great artists’ careers have been launched after receiving awards at the Competition, like the Harlem Quartet, who won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition in 2013, along with The Calidore String Quartet, who received the 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artists Award.
For further information about Chesapeake Music and upcoming events, visit chesapeakemusic.org or call 410-819-0380.