Our Jazz Man: Dr. Mel Rapelyea on the Chestertown Jazz Festival


It seems amazing that a jazz festival that was created in 1996 would still be humming along with the same volunteer director 22 years later. That certainly says a lot about how much Kent County and Chestertown loves the musical form, but it also says volumes about Dr. Mel Rapelyea’s devotion in keeping jazz alive for the countless aficionados in the community but has introduced the genre to hundreds of Kent County students over the years.

Started in 1996 as a project of the Kent County Arts Council (now on their own), Mel and his team of volunteers have built a program that blends the musical  talent of renowned international artists like Cyrus Chestnut and Sean Jones, with the extraordinary local talent such as Karen Somerville and Phil Dutton and the Alligators.

The Spy sat down with Mel at the Spy HQ in Chestertown last week to talk about the festival coming up starting September 5 and his unique vision of how this unique hybrid has now grown to six days of concerts.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Chestertown Jazz Festival – 2018 please go here


Letters to Editor

  1. Thanks Dr. Mel, I’m so glad this is available to the community.

  2. Samuel Tomlin says


  3. Sarah Lyle says

    We are so very fortunate to have Dr. Rapelyea . His unflagging enthusiasm and support for jazz in Chestertown enriches our community. He has focused on local as well as national talent, brought in local food vendors, reached out to young people in the schools and at the College, and put on a gem of a festival year after year. Make sure to come see Sean Jones in Wilmer Park, and thank Mel!

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