Spy Profile: Lani Seikaly and the Art of Volunteerism


A civic leader at the beginning of the 20th century sought to define volunteer leaders as those whose “good work in life overflows the immediate channels originally designed for it, and spreads its life-giving streams afar in many a happy rivulet unforeseen, and in many a joyous rill unanticipated.”

If one takes away for a moment the Edwardian language, this seems to fit Lani Seikaly’s remarkable volunteer experience after her decision to return to Chestertown, where her summer childhood had been spent, and help the community.

A highly-regarded educator in the Montgomery County Public School District for 30 years, Lani came to Chestertown determined to contribute. And that is indeed what she has done as president of RiverArts, volunteer on the GAR building committee, an oral historian working with the African-American community, and now serving as the Greater Chestertown Initiative’s new leader.

In her interview with the Spy, Lani talks about her experiences as well as what the future might bring to the Chestertown arts, including expanding First Fridays and supporting Washington College’s innovative SANDBOX project.

This video is approximately seven minutes in length

Spy Vid: Kevin Hemstock and Steve Frohock Discuss Battle of Caulk’s Field


For many of us the War of 1812 is a post-it note on the silver-clasped treasury of World History.

There are only a few historic dates I can recall—1066 (there was even a kid’s book, ‘1066 And All That’ that helped with that), 1776 (a bad year for tea and kings), 1861, a bloody crossroads, tragic for everyone…..but 1812?

Did the British hide out in Hudson River tree houses for thirty years and then decide, “best two out of three?” Having just sent Napoleon to Elba, and little more for their warships to do than flex their sails around Cape Trafalgar,  did a simmering resent about having been skewered by a bunch of farmers in aprons rise to the surface?

They did not fare much better in the war’s finale at the Battle of New Orleans: British losses, 2036; American losses, 21. Both parties agreed to a non-contested divorce in 1815, ushering in the “Era of Good Feelings,” which lasted three days and lay dormant until Woodstock.

Of course, the events of those three years were far more serious and I do not make light of any human loss, only my lack of knowledge of history. There were many things at play in 1812: British naval impressment of British immigrants in America, British support of Indian raids, restrictions against U.S.trade with France, an interest in annexing Canada. You get the idea. It’s always a constellation of affronts, grievances and pay-backs. Then the guns are drawn.

But between the burning of the Capital in Washington and the unsuccessful siege on Baltimore, history played out a hand on the Eastern Shore: the HMS Menelaus, a 38 gun frigate under the command of Sir Peter Parker, was ordered up the Chesapeake to create a diversion for the Command’s more nefarious plans. He anchored his ship off Fairlee and rowed his royal marines to shore for night raids.

At midnight, August 30, 1814, between Chestertown and Rock Hall, in a field of shadowy figures and muzzle flashes, a 45-minute clash between British royal marines and local militia ended 14 British lives, including that of Sir Peter Parker, captain of the Menelaus. The Kent militia suffered only wounds.

The Battle of Caulk’s Field, while no Bladensburg—a devastating strategic loss for the small American army—is, nonetheless, a unique and significant marker in the field of American History. Its memorial and past ceremonies, performed by U.S. National Guard and British Royal Marines at the battle site, have come to symbolize a mutual respect for the past and highlight a future of shared endeavors.

Here, former editor of the Kent County News Kevin Hemstock and Friends of Caulk’s Field Committee President Steve Frohock discuss the Chesapeake theatre of the War of 1812, the Battle of Caulk’s Field, Peter Parker, and the upcoming weekend of events commemorating the war’s Bicentennial.

No more a post-it note, the War of 1812 is being discovered as a full-fledged chapter in American history.


The video is approximately 15 minutes long but well worth it if you are a local history buff.

To read Kevin Hemstock’s history of Caulk’s Field and to find out more about the Bicentennial events, go here.

For books about the War of 1812: Alan Taylor, Richard Feltoe, and Ralph E. Eshelman are good places to start.

Photo by Kevin Hemstock.

Profile: Selling the Big Homes at Auction with Dan DeCaro


Just a few months ago, a three-section painting by artist Francis Bacon (Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards, 1984) sold at auction at Christie’s for roughly $80 million. This staggering sum is perhaps the best example of what can happen when one matches a unique historic narrative with a particular asset and then add international marketing and human nature.

Even over time, there remains no serious alternative to a private auction when sellers of fine art, automobiles, jewelry, rugs, or antiques are seeking to find the best vehicle for the true market value of these assets.

But oddly enough, real estate, historically one of the first assets to be sold using the auction process, has preferred the broker/agent model for the better part of the last 100 years. With Hollywood depictions of bankers on the steps of distressed farmhouses not helping the image, houses going to auction has been stereotyped as the last resort for homeowners or their lending institutions. That “stigma” however seems to be lifting when it comes to large homes, and that includes the Eastern Shore big estates.

Local real estate expert Dan DeCaro has been leading the charge for the auction option for unique properties for over thirty-five years in every part of the country.

In his Spy interview, Dan talks about his own history with auctions, the marketplace for high value homes, and his own observations on the high end real estate sector.

In this video is approximately seven minutes in length

Broadway in Chestertown: Spy Interview with Mark Bramble and Paul Masse


Star Broadway author and director—and Kent County native—Mark Bramble, along with Broadway musical director Paul Masse, sit for an interview with the Spy at Radcliffe Creek School and talk about “ShowStoppers,” a fundraising event for Horizons of Kent County to be held July 19.

Mark Bramble apprenticed with Broadway’ illustrious producer David Merrick. His many worldwide accomplishments include the authorship of Barnum (which introduced Glenn Close as a musical theatre actress),  and director and co-librettist for 42nd Street which won two Tony Awards, one for its revival in 2001.

This is the second “ShowStoppers” Bramble has produced for Horizons.

Paul Masse is an accomplished musical director currently working on project in New York and London.

Now in its 19th year in Kent County, the Horizons program provides six weeks of academic and cultural enrichment for children from low-income Kent County families.

The performance will be at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 19, at the Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts at Washington College. Tickets range from $25 to $100. For tickets, go here.  Or call 410-778-9903.

Governor to Celebrate Groundbreaking of Eastern Shore Conservation Center


Join Eastern Shore Land Conservancy for a groundbreaking with Gov. Martin O’Malley at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center on S. Washington Street on Friday, July 18. The event is open to the public.

O’Malley dedicated $1 million toward the historic renovation project in his FY2014 capital budget. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. at the site of the former McCord building and neighboring Brick Row, the buildings that will become part of the Eastern Shore Conservation Center campus.

Also speaking will by former Gov. Harry Hughes, Environmental Protection Agency Region III Administrator Shawn Garvin, and ESLC Capital Campaign co-Chairman Jenny Stanley.

ESLC since 1990 has helped protect more than 56,000 acres of farms, forests and wetlands. As the organization approached its 20th year, ESLC leaders realized Eastern Shore farms and forests are supported by and support Eastern Shore towns. The Shore’s unique rural communities can continue to thrive with the help of green infrastructure design, outdoor recreational opportunity, and access to local foods. ESLC has the resources and years of experience to recommend and implement good design and to help counsel community leaders about keeping towns great places to live, work, and play.

To that end, ESLC broadened its mission to include these things and is leading by example with the concept of the Eastern Shore Conservation Center. ESLC will leave its home in the beautiful woods, near the Wye River, and put their stake in a vulnerable area of the Town of Easton. In addition to bringing ESLC staff and skills to the community, ESLC leaders envision a new day for the community and for nonprofit collaboration.

The historic McCord Laundry Building and Brick Row are part of Easton’s National Register Historic District. Though currently abandoned, they are beautiful examples of early 20th Century commercial architecture. The project is design to have a catalytic effect on the South Washington Street corridor, where the renovation of the dilapidated McCord building and Brick Row, which was damaged by fire, has the ability to reenergize an important connection between the northern and southern neighborhoods in Easton. What is now vacant and lifeless will be a vibrant hub of community, conservation and learning.

It will bring approximately 50 jobs to downtown Easton and will serve as an example for conservationists, urban planning, community design and redevelopment experts of what can be done to retain healthy, walkable and economically sustainable rural towns.

ESLC will relocate to the building, and nonprofit partners are signing leases to be part of this collaborative environment. It will house public space for educational programming, forums, concerts and meetings about issues concerning Eastern Shore residents and organizations. It will offer a café and outdoor public leisure space to encourage conversation and collaboration among the tenants, as well as among community members.

Most importantly, it will be the catalyst for nonprofit organizations to work to address common challenges to our beautiful home on the Delmarva Peninsula and to educate and inspire the next generation of community-minded conservationists.

Women Working on the Water: Jennifer Kuhn at the CBMM Boatyard


It’s hard not to notice how happy Jenn Kuhn becomes when talking about her job running the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Boatyard. In a field that has historically been heavily defined by men, Jenn is becoming a new role model for girls and women as she leads dozens of volunteers to reproducing some of the Chesapeake Bay’s most beautifully designed wooden boats. In many cases, it is the first time many have worked with wood and tools.

In her chat with the Spy, Jenn talks about her relationship with boats and wood, her building projects, and her enjoyment at mentoring others eager to protect the cultural heritage of boat building on the Chesapeake Bay.

The video is approximately four minutes in length

Spy Spotlight: Diane Landskroener at RiverArts


With over three decades dedicated to Chestertown’s community theatre, Diane Landskroener surprised a few folks when she accepted the position of RiverArts’ first full-time executive director six months ago. While no newcomer to visual arts, (she was Washington College’s primary graphic designer for more than twenty-five years), Diane made a unique choice to take a leadership role in the up-and-coming arts center on High Street to help lead the charge for the town’s growing reputation as a rural center for the arts.

In her short interview with the Spy, Diane talks about the art roots in Chestertown and the impact an organization like RiverArts can have for artists, patrons and tourism.

This video is approximately four minutes in length

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Why We Love Bird Dogs


In this installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff, Andrew McCown of Echo Hill Outdoor School, is back in the field, but this time with his new bird dog Boone. In a case of “this dog can definitely hunt,” Andrew sets Boone off to show off his extraordinary hunting skills.

This video is approximately three minutes. Gibson Anthony is the videographer.

Profiles of Visiting Artists: NMF’s Camilo Carrara


Chestertown seems to have its own celebrities; those people everyone seems to know. And there’s a good chance that you’ll run into someone from Chestertown abroad, or in some far-away place.

The National Music Festival is no different. We are lucky enough to have professional and gifted musicians come to the Eastern Shore every year in late spring. The NMF has its own set of celebrities: familiar faces that re-appear at festival time to grace local stages and fill the old venues with new patrons. One of these favorites is the classical guitarist Camilo Carrara.

Camilo Both photos by Tiago Sormani

Camilo Carrara        Both photos by Tiago Sormani

Camilo is a native of Poços de Caldas, a city in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He comes to Chestertown every year specifically to perform and teach at the festival. This tradition began three years ago, when he met Richard Rosenberg, the NMF’s conductor, producer and artistic director, while Richard was in Brazil. The two hit it off and Camilo was invited to participate as a mentor.

Fast forward three years later, and Camilo is a name that is known throughout the festival circuit. Upon hearing that Camilo was to be featured in this profile, everyone to whom I mentioned his name had the same response.

“Oh, you’re writing about Camilo! He’s fantastic! We have tickets to hear him this week!” One does not acquire such a reputation without being both a talented artist and a genuine person. Camilo Carrara is indeed both.

As a part of the National Music Festival, Camilo is a mentor, working one-on-one with students in private workshops as a guitarist, coaching them on their performance pieces while passing along lessons he’s learned in his 35 years as a musician. Although he is humble about his English, he says music makes it easier to communicate.

“Music is a language,” he muses. “With the same alphabet, you can write both English and Portuguese. In the same way, you can use twelve notes and come up with so many different genres.”

Music and language are related in more ways than that, however. Both are best honed when started young. Camilo and his brothers were encouraged by their father to take up a musical instrument. At age ten, Camilo found himself taking guitar lessons, his brothers opting for the saxophone. From there, he said, the music took off. Playing came naturally, and he went on to study music at university.

Now, Camilo is not only a performer, but also a teacher, a composer and a producer of music. He works for an advertising company in Brazil, composing music for TV commercials as well for himself.

Most of Camilo’s work is directed towards what he describes as “sound branding”; a trend common internationally., and that is quickly catching on in Brazil. For those who are not familiar with the term “sound branding”, (as I was not), Camilo described it in a way we think of jingles for certain products. His example was the Coca Cola sound that is used in commercials. The term he used was “sound identity.” His job is to match the personality of the product with a short musical phrase that encompasses the essence of such. Europe, he says, has become good at this, as well as the U.S., and he is noticing a growing trend at home.

Music and identity seem to be a common theme when speaking with Camilo. Aside from sound branding, he enjoys projects that allow him to cater music to personality. He recalls one of his favorite commercials for Museu da Pessoa (People’s Museum} in São Paulo, which takes stories from community members and allows them to be compiled into one larger, composite story. Camilo originally wrote some music to accompany the exhibits. He also spoke of another festival in Brazil which he had taken part in for ten years prior to joining the National Music Festival. When asked how they compare, he admitted that the NMF was much warmer, and that the idea of walking around town and being followed by music was a much more welcoming atmosphere.

Sitting outside, explaining this, I began to see what he meant. Festival-goers waved hello to Camilo as they passed by, greeting him and saying how excited they were to hear him perform. I was fortunate enough to see him play with several friends of his from NMF, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that he is as welcoming on-stage as he is in person. Only Camilo would accompany a local blue-grass band with a jazz ensemble and his own masterful classicality. Each type of music has its own identity, and through music, Camilo expresses, you can find your own.