C'mon over Beethoven we've got a new home!
By Tracey F. Johns
If Chesapeake Music’s location over its 36-year history was part of a music score, you would hear a cacophony of chords bouncing everywhere. Chesapeake Music now has reached a cadence with a new residency and permanent home at The Ebenezer Theater, located in the Prager Family Center for the Arts in historic downtown Easton, Md. Formerly “The Prager Family Auditorium,” the theater has been renamed The Ebenezer as a tribute to the building’s history. Built in 1856, the theater was originally home to the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church.
Chesapeake Music announced the Bluepoint Hospitality Group agreement for its Auditorium residency in November 2020. Bluepoint owns the building and also owns and operates several boutique restaurants and businesses in Talbot County including The Wardroom, Sunflowers & Greens, Flying Cloud Booksellers, and more.
The agreement guarantees a year-round, state-of-the-art concert facility and administrative offices for Chesapeake Music, enabling the organization to expand its offerings and audiences for its internationally acclaimed lineup of instrumentalists and vocalists. An extensive theater restoration, in keeping with the building’s storied past, is currently underway. When not in use by Chesapeake Music, Bluepoint Hospitality intends to use the theater to draw other culturally enriching performances to Easton.
“I feel like we’ve finally landed,” said Chesapeake Music Executive Director Don Buxton. “The move has truly been transformational, especially regarding the acoustics, new sound technology, and more.
“Bluepoint has been great in making sure we have the dates needed for all the performances and education programs we want to stage,” continued Buxton. “We can now book artists around schedules that fit their calendars. We’ll be able to attract more artists, which means ultimately engaging larger audiences with more concerts.”
The auditorium has played a role in Chesapeake Music’s history since its beginnings and is fitting to be the organization’s physical home. The residency also brings a nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano to the Chesapeake Music family and The Ebenezer Theater stage. Generous donors make the Steinway’s purchase and installation possible.
“Our local art scene has grown both because of and alongside Chesapeake Music,” said Buxton, referring to the residency as a show of commitment to Talbot County and Easton. “Today we’re grateful to continue as part of a premier arts destination that draws audiences from the entire Mid-Atlantic.”
Chesapeake Music began in 1985 after a dedicated group of chamber music lovers, led by the late Ralph Bloom, invested a year and a half of planning to present the inaugural Eastern Shore Music Festival, which was a single, ticketed concert held in a private, waterfront home at the end of Cedar Point. More than 100 people attended that first festival, which continues annually today with multiple performances, and draws thousands to Talbot County from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
While Chesapeake Music has evolved over its history, some things about the organization have remained consistent. Executive Director Donald Buxton has been with the organization since its beginnings, and Artistic Directors J. Lawrie Bloom (recently retired) and Marcy Rosen have been with the organization for more than 30 years. Catherine Cho has taken over the Artistic duties of Lawrie Bloom and has been a long time artist at Chesapeake Music
Now the non-profit organization hosts a number of annual concert series, competitions, and programs, including Jazz, the International Chamber Music Competition for Young Professionals, Rising Stars Concerts, numerous ensembles, YouthReach public and private school outreach music education, and more.
Plans for the future include continuing to collaborate with the Talbot County Arts Council, University of Maryland Music School, and Easton Middle School to create an Artist-in-Residence Program — where music doctoral candidates will work individually and in groups with local students, along with program building of current programs.
“The University of Maryland program is such a tremendous asset to our students,” says Buxton. “These artists will inspire children by teaching new ways to do more with their instruments, and increase their knowledge of the classical music art form.”
One big thing Buxton said is that having a home for the YouthReach program’s violins means they will be stored at the office. “For years, we’ve been sleeping on or over those little violins tucked everywhere in our house — under the bed, in the nooks and crannies — like lost socks in the laundry,” said Buxton. “Now, those 30 violins also have a place to live and Chesapeake Music has finally found its home.”
17 S. Washington Street, Unit B