Founder of Coastal Heritage Alliance On Saving Wooden Boats and Watermen Culture

Mike Vlahovich

Mike Vlahovich

Mike Vlahovich, the founder and former director of the Coastal Heritage Alliance, will share his life-long appreciation for wooden boats and the watermen’s culture when he visits Washington College on Tuesday, November 4. Hosted by the Center for Environment & Society, he will speak in Hynson Lounge at 6:00 p.m. with a reception to follow.

Vlahovich founded the non-profit Coastal Heritage Alliance (CHA) in 2003 to help preserve the vessels, skills and stories of fishing communities in the United States. Based in St. Michael’s, Maryland, and Gig Harbor, Washington, the CHA leads restoration efforts, conducts research on watermen — their boats and their culture — and offers educational programs for the public.

Vlahovich grew up on the Pacific Northwest coast, where he would eventually work on commercial fishing boats and study to become a master boat builder and restorer. He co-founded the Foss Waterway Seaport in Tacoma in 1994 and five years later received a Washington State Governor’s Art and Heritage Award for his work preserving that state’s commercial fishing heritage and folklore and its traditional craft of wooden boat building.

In Maryland, Vhalovich worked for several years as boatyard manager and director of special projects at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. He played a pivotal role in the restoration of the last remaining boats in Maryland’s working skipjack fleet, the last commercial sailing fleet in the country. Having stepped down as director of the CHA, he now  divides his time between Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Gig Harbor, where he captains the 65-foot charter boat Commencement onnatural heritage cruises in Puget Sound, British Columbia, and Southeast Alaska.

Chestertown Playwright and Composer Collaborate to Create a New Musical


A theatrical concert performance premiering songs from a new musical, Red Devil Moon, inspired by Jean Toomer’s Cane, will be presented on Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 8PM and Sunday, November 16 at 3PM at the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre in Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Composer and bandleader Pam Ortiz has written 16 songs for the production, and poet/playwright Robert Earl Price has written narration and dialog that connect songs and story. Price’s book for the full-length musical is inspired by the novel, Cane, by Jean Toomer, originally published in 1923.

Music in the show will be performed by the Gospel trio Sombarkin, and the Pam Ortiz Band. Sombarkin, whose members include Karen Somerville, Lester Barrett Jr., and Jerome McKinney, is well known and admired for their deeply layered and finely wrought sound and vocal arrangements. The Pam Ortiz Band, whose members include Nevin Dawson (viola, violin and vocals), Philip Dutton (piano, keyboards and vocals), Ford Schumann (guitar and vocals), Bob Ortiz (percussion and vocals), and Pam Ortiz (guitar and vocals), will be joined by Tom Anthony on bass and Ray Anthony on drums.

Jean Toomer’s Cane is widely considered the first major text of the Harlem Renaissance. The novel has long been an inspiration for playwright Robert Earl Price, who approached Ortiz, after hearing her 2012 album of original tunes, with the idea of collaborating on a new piece of musical theatre.

Red Devil Moon, inspired by Jean Toomer’s Cane tells the story of events that unfold on the night of the full moon during the sugarcane harvest in South Georgia. The enveloping scent of boiling cane syrup, the observant creatures of the night, the provocative moon, and conflicted characters conspire to set the backdrop for a love story that is both personal and universal.

This performance is being funded in part by grants from the Kent County Arts Council and the GAR Charles Sumner Post #25 with special sponsorship by the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre.

Advance tickets and reservations are recommended and may be obtained at The Garfield Center for the Arts, 210 High St., Chestertown, MD 21620

(410) 810 – 2060 or by visiting


Banjo Man (and Bill) at Music Life for Downrigging


“Songs of the River, Songs of the Seas” will fill the air as The Mainstay brings Banjo Man and Bill with Tom Anthony to Music Life, Bill Drazga’s music store at 214 High Street in Chestertown, MD for a concert of old blues, early jazz and classic folk songs, all with a maritime theme, on Sunday November 2 at 7:00 p.m. The concert is part of Sultana Education Foundation’s Downrigging Weekend. Admission is $15.

Banjo Man and Bill2Once again the Mainstay comes to Downrigging, bringing a bit of Rock Hall to Chestertown. Tom McHugh, founder and director of the Mainstay, said, “We had such a good time last year presenting a concert as part of Downrigging that we wanted to do it again. Bill Drazga was a wonderful host and his upstairs space was terrific for a Mainstay-style concert. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”

Banjo Man and Bill are Tom McHugh, who is the composer of a number of songs about life along the Chesapeake, on banjo, blues harmonica, kazoo and vocals and Bill Matthews who plays a very bluesy guitar and also sings. Both are experts on blues and old jazz tunes. Their music is a blend of classic old jazz, some obscure blues, a sprinkling of folk classics, stories and nonsense. These old friends have been playing together for more than fifteen years and their performances are always entertaining. For Downrigging, they have chosen songs and tunes with a maritime theme. They will be joined by Tom Anthony on bass.

The Mainstay (Home of Musical Magic) is the friendly informal storefront performing arts center on Rock Hall’s old time Main Street.

Bill Drazga opened Music Life in Chestertown because he believed Chestertown needed a music store that could sell instruments and accessories and offer lessons. The upstairs space used for this concert can also be used as studio or rehearsal space.

For information and reservations call the Mainstay at 410-639-9133. More information is also available at the Mainstay’s website

100-Voice Choir Plans Nov. 22 Concert As Fundraiser for Hynson Scholars

Vincent Hynson

Vincent Hynson

The 100-Voice Choir, Kent County’s celebrated gospel group, will perform its final benefit concert for the Vincent Hynson ’87 Scholarship Fund on Saturday afternoon, November 22, 2014 at Kent County High School in Worton. The concert is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.; doors will open at 3:15 p.m.

Choir organizers Sylvia and Bill Frazier, owners of S&B Productions, founded the choir in 2005 and produced the first 100-Voice concert that year as a fundraiser for the Vincent Hynson ’87 Scholarship. Named in memory of a beloved teacher, coach, pastor and community leader in Kent County, the scholarship is awarded to a Kent County resident from an underserved population who is an outstanding scholar and who emulates Hynson’s personal qualities and values. The College remains committed to the scholarship in Hynson’s name and to continuing to grow its endowment.

Sylvia Frazier says this will, indeed, be one of the last performances by the 100-Voice Choir. “It’s just time to bring it to end,” she says. “It’s been a very good 10 years, and I’m going to miss it, but health concerns have slowed us down and many of the original choir members have passed on.” Membership, which had started at 102, has diminished over the years to today’s 48 active singers.


Frazier is proud of both the quality of music the 100-Voice Choir has offered over the years and the way it has brought the community together. “It had been a dream of mine, a vision,” she says. “We had a lot of seekers. And I always told them, if you want to sing the gospel, this is the place to come.” That open door policy brought a diverse group together. “We have teachers, preachers, professors, people from all walks of life,” says Frazier.

This year’s 100-Voice Concert is co-sponsored by Washington College and the Kent County Arts Council. Advance tickets ($5) for the concert will go on sale November 1 at local retail outlets including Big Mixx’s Salon, Twigs & Teacups, The Bookplate, and Music Life. Admission at the door will be $7.

Out of town guest artists who will appear with the choir include The Sisters in Song (Delaware), Purpose (Grasonville) and The Second Generation Choir (Federalsburg). Kent County talent will include members of the Chester River Chorale, Serenity, The Sensational Stars, and God’s Wealth. Brother Clark Kennard, of Emmanuel U. M. Church, will serve as master of ceremonies.

For more information on the concert, contact S&B Productions at 410-778-6006. To learn more about the scholarship fund, visit the Office of Financial Aid page on the Washington College Web site:


Ronny Cox & Friends at The Mainstay, Oct. 30


Ronny Cox, a singer and songwriter who is also an actor, will appear at the Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday October 30. Admission is $20. He will be backed by Radoslav Lorkovic on accordion and keyboards and T. Bruce Bowers on fiddle & mandolin.

Ronny Cox

Ronny Cox

If Ronny Cox looks a little familiar it’s because he is a Hollywood actor known for playing the villain in films like “RoboCop” and “Total Recall.” He was also guitar player in “Deliverance,” his first role before a camera. Perhaps better known as an actor, he devotes about half of his time to his craft as a singer and songwriter traveling the country performing in clubs, performing arts centers and festivals.

As a singer-songwriter, he is a study in unforced charisma. He may wear a variety of hats, but if there is one common thread that pulls it all together it’s the “real” person that wears each hat and the warmth his craft brings to the audience. His musical style is eclectic and he confesses that he has no set-in-stone criteria for picking or writing songs. “I enjoy all kinds of music and I try to bring that eclectic approach to the music I play,” Cox says. “I’m interested in weaving a tapestry of songs and stories with an over-all arc that eventually comes together and tells us something about ‘the human condition’. I know that sounds kinda pompous… but that’s what I’m trying to do….. and to have a few laughs along the way.”

Cox grew up in New Mexico listening to Texas Swing tunes, but then played rock & roll in high school, and was eventually drawn to folk music after graduating from college. His music is a smart mix of witty ditties, bluesy swing tunes, heart-on-sleeve romances, and real-life anthems. His craft as a singer/songwriter is a testament to his life on the Southwestern desert. The third of five children and a father to two sons of his own, he combines his experiences and his expansive view of life into a magnetic, likeable, onstage persona.

With a career that spans over a hundred and twenty-five films and television shows, Ronny Cox is often ironically identified with the villains he has played in movies like “Total Recall” and “Robocop” and the ruthless politician in the hit science fiction TV series “Stargate.” But music was always a part of his life.… his first time acting in front of a camera was as the guitarist in the famous “dueling banjos” scene in “Deliverance.” His second big film was “Bound for Glory,” Hal Ashby’s film about Woody Guthrie. The truth is that Cox has been writing songs and telling stories for over four decades. It is only in the last 15 years that the world seen him evolve from being an “actor who sings” into knowing him as a “singer who happens to have a pretty fair career acting.”

His first album, titled “Ronny Cox,” was released in 1993 for Mercury Records in Nashville and, according to Cox, was “pretty much a country record –– at least it seemed so to me.” For his next album, “Acoustic Eclectricity,” (2000) he wanted a more “folkie” approach, so he turned to his son, John, to produce it. “Cowboy Savant” (2002) was a studio album produced by Wendy Waldman and his next two albums, “Ronny Cox Live” (2004) and “At the Sebastiani” (2006), were recorded live with almost no over dubs or corrections, “The idea was to capture that spontaneous magic, to give people a real sense of what we do in a live performance.”

For his next release, in 2007 his friend, producer and musician Jack Williams encouraged Cox do a tribute album to the great Mickey Newbury, one of the great Texas songwriters. “How I Love Them Old Songs” (2007) was dedicated to his wife Mary and re-released in February of 2010. He met Mary when he was 14 and she was his only love. Mary Cox passed away in 2006, 50 years to the day of their first date. He often talks about her in performance and confesses that one of the ways he has dealt her loss has been through his music.

His most recent recording, “Ronny Cox – Songs with Repercussions,” is a personal studio collection of songs that are mostly selected from other sources with three originals. Cox says, “The truly great thing about music is that it’s like a double-edged sword. Songs can be frivolous or sad but they can trigger an almost overwhelming emotion… immediately. What I have found is that if I open up to my audience, they not only accept that, they also help me get through it. It is that sharing… of silliness, or sadness… or mutual understanding that I find to be very compelling.”

Like Cox, the songs are eclectic, funny, touching, insightful and compelling. Each tune showcases an original, sophisticated lyric-driven sound and the stories that accompany these song are something else entirely. “The songs that I write and choose reflect that I pride myself in being able to find great songs and record them, not as covers, but as extensions of what I do as a performer.”

The Mainstay (Home of Musical Magic) is the friendly informal storefront performing arts center on Rock Hall’s old time Main Street. For information and reservations call the Mainstay at 410-639-9133. More information is also available at the Mainstay’s website

Inherit the Wind Production Sets High Bar at Garfield Theatre


The Spy recently attended a play rehearsal at the Garfield Center for the Arts for its mega-cast production of “Inherit the Wind,” directed by Tess Hogans and Assisted by Mark Sullivan, and was impressed with the on-point casting and stage construction. With a thrust platform stage and audience seating  arrangement overlapping the play’s action with the audience, the production promises to be intense and engaging. Both new and seasoned actors offer a rich palette of characters.

The play, first presented in 1955, is a fictionalized account of the famous 1928 Scopes “Monkey Trial,” and was created as a metaphor to discuss the Senator Joseph McCarthy House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) anti-Communist hearings that took place in the late 1940s and has lost none of its relevance today.

The play’s cast of 26 roles is one of the largest ensembles presented at the Garfield and includes many actors usually associated with other venues like Church Hill Theatre. Hogans and the Garfield Board hopes this cross pollination of talent will inaugurate a sense of “regional” theatre that would benefit all communities.

The Spy is also pleased to announce that Tess Hogans is the new Garfield House Manager, and we look forward to future productions from the new managerial team taking shape as they head toward winter and 2015 productions.

Inherit the Wind is presented Friday and Saturday, October 17, 19, 24, 26 at 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM.

410-810-2060 or

The  following video interview with Tess Hogans runs approximately 5 minutes.

The Art of the Song, at the Mainstay Oct. 24


Three vocalists known for their abilities to interpret a classic song, Julian Hipkins, Sue Matthews and Lena Seikaly will present “The Art of the Song” at the Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD at 8:00 p.m. on Friday October 24. Admission is $20. They will be backed by an outstanding jazz quartet with Robert Redd on piano, Randy Reinhart on trumpet, Max Murray on bass and Frank Russo on drums. For information and reservations call 410-639-9133. Information is also available at the Mainstay’s website

Julian Hipkins

Julian Hipkins

In town for a daytime Mainstay-sponsored, Snow grant-funded vocal workshop at Kent County High School, these three star vocalists will create vocal magic for the Mainstay audience in the evening. Julian Hipkins is a powerful vocalist known for his ability to really swing a song. Sue Matthews is a superb singer with a silky voice, exquisite phrasing and a passion for finding every bit of meaning in song. Lena Seikaly’s lush mezzo-soprano, clever phrasing and penchant for scat singing have made her a rising star on the DC jazz scene.

Originally from Orange, New Jersey, Julian Hipkins trained at Julliard and has lived in the DC area since 1980. His musical interpretations and acting abilities have earned him roles in dramas and musicals in the New York City area. His rich baritone voice has graced stages in Japan, Paris, Russia and the Virgin Islands and his lyrical, swinging vocal stylings have been enjoyed by BET network audiences and in many Washington DC venues including the Twins Lounge, Wolf Trap, The Lyceum, The Smithsonian Institution, The University of Maryland, American University and monthly at the Mandarin Oriental. His musical stage performances include lead vocal roles in the production of “The Forgotten”, a historical jazz opera and “Two to Tango”, a musical review of the greatest jazz and R&B duets of all time. As a producer and musical director, he has produced and performed in a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Rhythm and Rhyme Fit For A King” as well as poetry and jazz parings, “Lyrical Rhythms.” He has recorded two CDs with the Tom Cunningham Orchestra, “One O’Clock Boogie, Two O’Clock Jump” and “All the Cats Join In”.

Sue Matthews

Sue Matthews

Kent County, MD’s own Sue Matthews has a well-deserved reputation as a superb singer with an intimate style and flawless delivery. She is a regular at the Mainstay often appearing as a headliner and also as a part of Max’s Mainstay All-Stars. She first gained notice in 1991, with the release of the traditional jazz album “Love Dances.” Her smoky croon caught on with audiences and two years later, “When You’re Around” scored her another hit. She spent most of the 90’s touring behind these two albums and appeared at many jazz showcases and festivals. In 2002, “One at a Time” marked her return to the world of jazz recording. Since then she has made several recordings including the recent “Live at the Mainstay with Steve Abshire and Gene Bertoncini.”

Matthews’ performance credits are varied. She has appeared at all of the top Mid-Atlantic jazz clubs, concert halls, jazz festivals and television studios and has been featured artist with the Calgary Philharmonic, Canada and appeared at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Showcase, at the annual JazzTimes Convention, the Annual Cabaret Convention held at New York City’s Town Hall and has been featured artist at the Clifden ArtsWeek, County Galway, Ireland multiple times. She toured Hungarian schools by invitation of the Fulbright Commission showcasing American jazz and blues with her group Guys & Doll, has been an instructor at Augusta Heritage Center’s Swing Week and is a two-time recipient of the Maryland States Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Solo Vocal Performance.

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Lena Seikaly

Lena Seikaly is a fresh voice on the national jazz scene from Washington, D.C. A long-time student of music, she began her classical training at age 4 with piano, continued with classical voice in her teens, and went on to complete a Bachelors of Music in classical vocal performance at the University of Maryland School of Music. Though on course for a career as an operatic mezzo-soprano, she discovered a strong passion for jazz while still in college and embarked on a fervent education of jazz history, styles, theory and composition before pursuing a jazz career in the Washington, D.C. area.

As a vocalist with several D.C. ensembles, Seikaly was a participant at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass program directed by Christian McBride, performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival (The Netherlands), the Jazz Ascona Festival (Switzerland), the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee (CA), and several other national and international venues. In 2009, she was a participant at the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., a prestigious program open to young performer-composers of jazz. She was a Strathmore Artist-in-Residence for the 2009-10 performance season. She has sold out performances at legendary D.C. institutions such as Blues Alley, the Strathmore Mansion, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Twins Jazz, and various Smithsonian venues. Her first album, “Written in the Stars”, is comprised of standards and original compositions.

The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust has been a strong supporter of the Mainstay’s efforts to enrich musical education in the local schools. Last year Tom McHugh, founder and Director of the Mainstay and DC jazz musician Chuck Redd used funding from a Snow grant to put together a group of accomplished singers who each have a strong background in teaching vocal workshops in response to a request from Keith Wharton, director of Music at Kent County High School to create a workshop for aspiring vocalists at the high school. Fortunately for the Mainstay’s audience, the program was so successful that the Mainstay is repeating it for this year’s students and the three vocalists will again follow their daytime workshops with an evening concert in Rock Hall.

The Mainstay (Home of Musical Magic) is the friendly informal storefront performing arts center on Rock Hall’s old time Main Street. For information and reservations call the Mainstay at 410-639-9133. More information is also available at the Mainstay’s website

WC Historian to Discuss Revolutionary War POWs’ Influence on American Identity


The C.V. Starr Center will host Washington College history professor Ken Miller on Thursday, October 23 to talk about his new book, Dangerous Guests: Enemy Captives and Revolutionary Communities during the War for Independence. Free and open to the public, the presentation will take place at 4:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, on the College campus, 300 Washington Avenue.

Miller’s book, published in August, explores how life next to thousands of British and Hessian prisoners of war helped transform the ethnically diverse community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, nurturing a budding patriotism and a new sense of identity as Americans.

The Journal of the American Revolution praised Miller’s work: “Dangerous Guests is among the best treatments of this complex topic to come out in a long time, and deserves a place on the shelf of every serious scholar of America’s transition from colonies to nation.”

Lancaster was the principal site for incarcerating enemy prisoners of war and stood at the nexus of two vastly different revolutionary worlds – one national, the other intensely local. As escalating hostilities sent thousands of prisoners to Lancaster, many of the detainees began fleeing, plotting, and rebelling, often with the clandestine support of local loyalists. General George Washington, furious over the captives’ ongoing attempts to subvert the American war effort, branded them “dangerous guests in the bowels of our Country.”

While interactions with the hostile detainees encouraged many residents to define themselves collectively against a common enemy, there also were significant numbers who sympathized with the captive Hessians or considered the British prisoners to be the true patriots in the struggle. Ultimately, as residents grew increasingly alienated from the British, they became more deeply invested in a distinct American identity.

A book signing and reception will follow Miller’s talk.

Legacy Alert: A Very Righteous Brother Comes to the Avalon


Fifteen years ago, it turned out that the number one single played in the history of American radio was none other than the Righteous Brothers’ hit title “Lovin Feeling.” Guess what, it still is.

That is part of the ageless legacy of Bill Medley, the surviving half of the famed Righteous Brothers, who will be coming to the Avalon on October 24th.

From the mid-1960s, when he and his Righteous musical partner Bobby Hatfield became a fixture on Top Forty radio with hits like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,” “Just Once in My Life,” “Unchained Melody,” and “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” through the ‘80s with his Grammy- and Oscar-winning hit “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” for the film Dirty Dancing and beyond…Medley has shaped the soundtrack of American life for decades.

Having lost his partner Bobby Hatfield in 2003, Medley has returned to the studio and the road to universal acclaim. Rolling Stone says of Medley’s new album: “This gritty singer has delivered his finest solo album and the best thing he’s done since the Sixties, period.”

The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley
Friday, October 24, 2014
Doors: 7:30 p.m.; Show: 8:00 pm
Avalon Theatre $100/80/50