Mid-Shore Food: Jordan Lloyd Takes Over Eagle’s Cafe

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It’s not often that you hear of people going out of their way to have lunch at a golf course. But then again not many golf courses have chef Jordan Lloyd taking over the Eagle’s Café at the Hog Neck Golf Course. Featuring a new and tempting menu which ranges from pulled pork BBQ sandwiches to pasture-raised beef burger, there are two things hungry clients can count on: they’re going to get an affordable, delicious meal and, as much as possible, the produce will be locally grown and raised. That’s because Lloyd is passionate about both quality and the farm-to-table model, and he has a plan to show others in the food and hospitality companies how it can benefit both the community and local economy.

The idea probably began when he and wife Alice opened Bartlett Pear Inn Restaurant in 2009. “We never intended on being a farm-to-table restaurant,” he says. “We never thought of this as a concept. This was just our way of life. We wanted to open up a really great restaurant, and I was always taught that the way to do that is through providing the highest quality available. We do that by making sure we know where our products are coming from, and we make sure that they’re at the freshest peak value that they can be.”

But running a successful fine-dining eatery that only had 30 seats, was not making financial sense and in 2016 they decided to close the restaurant while continuing to operate the Inn. The lessons learned, however, were invaluable and ones he felt he could teach others to do. They included: how to create superior food, how to hire quality management, how to incorporate fresh local produce, and how to create the right atmosphere to attract clients who appreciated quality service. He turned his focus to Hambleton House, LLC, the contracting and consulting company he and Alice formed when they first went into business. Through Hambleton House, Jordan Lloyd would use his vision to transform the hospitality and food business, all while supporting the local economy.

After taking on a couple of DC-based restaurants. Lloyd invigorated their recipes, changed their menus, and trained new staff. The reshaped businesses picked up new customers and rave reviews. With those accomplishments under his belt, he began looking for something local that fit the scope of his dreams. It appeared when Nauti’s, the new seafood restaurant project at the Ferry Point Marina, asked him to oversee and design their kitchen operations. Despite that project being currently on hold due to permit issues, other opportunities arose as his successes became known.

The next venture was the retirement community, Londonderry on the Tred Avon. Lloyd redesigned their menus, hired a chef, and brought in Chesapeake Harvest to provide some locally sourced foods to the restaurants. Chesapeake Harvest, part of the Easton Economic Development Corporation, connects farmers to the consumers (both wholesale and retail) through an online farmer’s market that Lloyd helped create. “The carbon footprint impact with Londonderry buying local is huge, he said. “That’s thousands of dollars a year in the pockets of local farmers.” But his excitement didn’t end there. “The residents were coming to me saying, ‘Jordan, ever since you started cooking here my feet don’t swell. Ever since you started cooking here, I don’t have headaches like I used to.’ I mean, we are making real nutritional impacts with food. In the past, if their feet were swelling, they may have taken medicine. Now, it’s being helped with good nutritious food.”

Which brings us back to the Eagle’s Café at the golf course. Right now, Lloyd says, they’re able to tap into the best of what is available locally. “The café is serving Hummingbird Farm tomatoes. It has Bramble Blossoms Farm lettuces. It has Shi-Mar Farms pork shoulder. All available like good local products at a concession stand.” Affordable, locally sourced, flavorful food, served in a beautiful setting excellent has led to some fantastic feedback from clients. “It was just a matter of resetting the facility with products and a nice menu,” he says. He’s equally proud that the ‘amazing foundation of employees,’ despite all the changes, are enthusiastic and want to remain with the café.

And that’s the whole point Lloyd feels. “If you’re bringing in Hambleton House you are bringing in a company that has a constant pursuit for higher quality. We will be relentless for that pursuit because we believe that’s what makes great businesses great. The quality that they execute and that quality is not just food and beverage, but it’s also in its people and its atmosphere, and it’s in its presentation. So, it’s quality across the board is really our pursuit.

Next on their client list is Pope’s Tavern in Oxford. “I’m there to set them up with a business plan,” Lloyd says. “Really good food for sure, but on a consistent level that the staff on-site can execute consistently with quality and with understanding. For example, if they’re ever having trouble with a particular soup, I’m either going to work extra hard to train them on making it correctly, or we’re just going to change it to something easier for them to execute.”

Lloyd also sees Hambleton House’s mission as being an incubator for other businesses. Starting June 1st, Amanda Cook, a world-class pastry chef and baker will be moving into the area and starting a wholesale baking company at the Bartlett Pear Inn kitchen. Lloyd, looking at the future, doesn’t discount a storefront retail situation, but for now, the focus will be to support her on the wholesale side.

Not surprising, Hambleton House’s reach has extended beyond the restaurants and cafés. As part of a task force, Lloyd has been meeting and working with Maryland Delegates and Senators to create a state level bill called Maryland Food for Maryland Institutions. The goal of this proposal is to mandate that a percentage of all food procured by state institutions be bought from in-state farms. “Imagine how this impacts the farmers in our area,” Lloyd says. The bill is expected to become law within the year.

Stay tuned. There is much to be done and much that Jordan and Alice Lloyd would like to accomplish. “I would say our mission as a couple and as community participants is that we really do care. We care a tremendous amount about the success of the community and anything that we can do to support the efforts of our community business leaders or community aspects, we’re 100% there.”

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Two Decades of Watching Ospreys with Atlantic Security’s Cams by Val Cavalheri

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A true harbinger of spring at the Eastern Shore is the return of the ospreys to their elevated nests, usually around St. Patrick’s Day. If you live or pass by any of the local waterways, just about now you may see the top of the head of one of the parents sitting on their eggs. But unmistakably, the best view can be found on your computer, tablet, or phone anytime day or night on the Ospreycam Live feed, set up and hosted by the Chestertown-based Atlantic Security Inc. (ASI).

Started in 1996 by ASI’s founder, John Wayne, the first camera was mounted on a tree, aimed at the nest, and displayed on a kitchen television monitor in black and white for his family. Today, the feed which has kept up with the growing camera system technology, delivers HD quality images, night vision, AND sound from a state-of-the-art camera, according to ASI’s marketing manager, Jennifer Wayne. It is mounted on a pole aiming down at the nest and available to anyone interested in the comings and goings of the pair and (within the next couple of weeks) their babies.

Although ospreys mate for life and return to the same nest year after year, Wayne says she’s not 100% sure this year’s couple is the same as from previous years. What she is sure of is that there is a lot to see starting from when they begin building the nest through when they migrate south for the winter. Until then, the live feed will allow visitors to see life not only inside the nest but also the surrounding area.

Expect to see and hear the unmistakable squawking of one or both parents as they take turns rotating and sitting on the eggs, keeping the nest clean, and warding off predators. Once the chicks hatch, the parents will fish and feed their new family. There may be glimpses of an osprey diving feet-first to capture a meal, repositioning the fish, so its head faces forward, making it easier for the osprey to fly.

Even after 23 years in the Osprey Cam business, the Wayne family can still be surprised by new observations. One of which has been the disappearing egg. An osprey usually lays two to three eggs, but many times only two eggs hatch and the third disappears. Perhaps it’s accidentally removed, maybe it speaks to the viability of the egg which the parent buries or discards. (Note that there are currently three eggs in the nest.)

Another event which Wayne described happened last year during the hottest summer days when adult ospreys were seen skimming the water, as if fishing, coming up empty and returning to the nest. They learned that this was how the parents brought water to the chicks.

As much as the video cam is a great educational tool, visitors are also warned that this is a live feed of a nature event and sometimes unexpected and upsetting things can happen. Predators such as great-horned owls and bald eagles may attempt a hostile takeover of the nest. A chick may get injured or killed. “These events are difficult to watch,” says Wayne, “even when we feel we need to notify the proper authorities, they usually tell us not to impede. It’s not our job to play God. Not only that it’s illegal to interfere with birds of prey.”

Thankfully, those types of incidents are rare. What can be expected is watching the quick cycle of the chick’s development after they hatch at the end of May. There will be practice lift-offs in the nest and, as one common saying goes, they will ‘learn to fly by the 4th of July.’ By the end of August/early September, once the fledglings become independent, the adults will fly south. Shortly afterward so will the chicks, “It’s always sad to see them leave,” Wayne says. “But we know they’ll be back.”

The bulk of the credit for the Osprey Cam goes to James Bowman and Dan Wagner, says Wayne. “They are our fearless technicians who provide not only technical expertise but also brave cold, windy conditions in the winter months to make any necessary camera changes and adjustments.” And it is all worth it.

Ospreys are not just fascinating birds. They are also a conservation success story. One of the largest birds of prey in North America, ospreys were formerly endangered. Now a significant proportion of their increasing numbers can be found here, on the Eastern Shore. Since 99% of their diet is comprised of fish, this rebound in their population is a positive indicator on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Washington College Plans for Second Piano Festival in April

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In just its second year, the Washington College Piano Festival is giving high school and college students a unique opportunity to advance and develop their musical skills and talents. The one-day event, part of Washington College’s Department of Music, will be held on Saturday, April 20, 2019, at the Gibson Center for the Arts, and is open to the public.

Interested applicants were asked to submit a recording from a designated advanced or intermediate piano piece. Chosen participants will have an opportunity to meet other pianists, attend workshops, and take part in one-on-one lessons with faculty members. They will also be able to perform in a competitive concert in Hotchkiss Recital Hall for a panel of Washington College faculty judges. Winners will receive cash prizes.

Dr. Woobin Park

The idea for the Piano Festival came about during a lunch between two Washington College faculty member—Dr. Matthew Brower and Dr. Woobin Park. Park, a renowned international pianist, recalls learning about a colleague who created a piano festival in his department at another university. “We don’t have a piano festival here,” she said, “so why don’t we try to create one?”

The festival, which is being described as an ‘immersive educational experience,’ attracted internationally acclaimed guest artist Yong Hi Moon, Professor of Piano at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Moon will be teaching a master class during the afternoon and, as part of the Washington College Premier Artists Series, will perform a concert in the evening at the Decker Theater.

Park is excited about everything the festival can offer to a burgeoning pianist. It’s a beautiful setting, she says of the recital hall and the campus. The focus of the day will be on classical music, particularly the German repertoire of Bach, Beethoven, Shubert, and Brahms. “In the workshop class, we will talk about reality as a musician, [musical] careers, and how to practice. It will be unique,” Park says. “The world is becoming superficial. Learning about classical music gives people a chance to be in the ‘now,’ be in the ‘moment.’”

Park is no stranger to those types of moments. She has been playing for over 30 years throughout the United States and Korea and has performed in various prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall and Seoul Arts Center. Winning various competitions and receiving full scholarships for her outstanding performance and academic achievements, have allowed her to continue and expand her education and study under distinguished musicians. Park completed her Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) at the University of Minnesota. She is now a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music in Piano at Washington College.

As for the future, Park sees the Piano Festival as an excellent opportunity to invite other outstanding pianists and expand to different genres, such as jazz. For now, however, she looks forward to sharing her experiences with a new group of talented students. Her advice to them will be: don’t feel too comfortable. A little anxiety helps to convey the music effectively. “We need a certain sense of intensity,” she says. “Finding a balance between being relaxed and having anxiety, makes a perfect performance in a concert.”

For more information please go here.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

 

 

Mid-Shore Arts: The One Word is Plastics with Karen O’Dowd

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Karen O’Dowd is a cutting-edge artist who, for the past 17 years, has used ‘found objects’ as a basis for her work. Like others in this genre, O’Dowd uncovers beauty and creativity in items not normally considered art elements, some of which are often designated as junk or recycled materials. Touring her Royal Oaks working studio, it is impossible not to be captivated with the originality and intricacies of the completed pieces that fill the available walls. The pieces are at times abstract, most often quirky. Then there are also the ‘art-in-waiting’ items on the counters; collections of cast-off materials that will eventually become treasured creations displayed in someone else’s’ home or garden.

This is made from plastic plant pots that have been cut into petal shape.

Not surprising, her search for items that could be incorporated into her art led her to become passionate about ‘recycling, upcycling and repurposing.’ She had used reusable bags for decades, knew not to buy bottled water, and was conscious about properly disposing of recyclable materials. But it was less than a year ago that a statistic changed her life even further. It said: By 2050, plastic in the ocean will outweigh sea life. “Once reading that I kept reading, she said, “and, every aspect of this plastic issue steamrolled into other horrific consequences. A year ago, I had no idea that plastic ‘lived’ 500-1,000 years!”

It was also disheartening to learn that the land mass of plastic in the ocean was twice the size of Texas and that a million birds and over 100,000 marine animals die yearly because of plastics. Frightening was also the description that 93% of Americans over 60 tested positive for BPA (bisphenol A), an industrial chemical often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles.

When her research confirmed that 91% of plastic produced was not recyclable, O’Dowd knew she had to do something. “I’ve been pretty environmentally conscious all of my life,” she said. “I’m very aware of social issues and know that we can choose to ignore or do something about it. I’m 68. I spent a lot of time at city councils, county and state meetings and commissions, boards, and testimonies. I’ve marched, sent letters to the editor. But I felt at this point in my life, I can change my habits and see where that led.”

What it led to was creating art pieces highlighting the issue and offering to do a talk to her Royal Oaks Garden Club about how to reduce the plastic footprint. Marcia Fidis, president of the club, suggested a workshop spin-off with the local Girl Scouts (Troop 961). The Girls Scouts would learn the information that O’Dowd had put together, and she would use her talent to help them create ‘fishes’ made from plastic bottles, which would then be attached to a 30-inch ‘nest’ made of items not recyclable in Talbot County. These items included composite ‘plastic’ bags, plastic utensils, broken plastic sunglasses, plastic straws (picked up from tables at restaurants), non-recyclable plastic pots, pump mechanisms from beauty products, etc. As the project began to come together, O’Dowd learned that this would also allow the Scouts to earn ‘Earth Day’ and ‘Using Resources Wisely’ badges. It was a win-win situation for all.

But, the collaboration didn’t end there.

It’s now evolved to include the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Through the end of May, the Plastic Nest sculpture will be mounted outside the entry doors to the Steamboat building. It will coincide with both the Sea Glass Festival exhibit and Community Day, which will be the public launch of the single-use plastic-free initiative on CBMM’s campus.

O’Dowd has to be pleased. Her workshop is touching and involving a new generation of future consumers; her talks to groups is bringing awareness of what can be done now. She hopes that others follow her recommendations or come up with their own solutions. “Be aware-it’s everywhere,” she cautions.

For now, O’Dowd follows her counsel. At home, she keeps a large canister on her sink (similar to a counter compost container) where she throws non-recyclable plastic. Once filled, it is moved into a large duffle bag. She hopes that within her lifetime she or industry will find some use for it. “If nothing else,” she says, “it’s a big reminder of how enormous this problem is, how much I need to try to purchase as much as possible with no plastic. Hopefully, we will enact legislation prohibiting or at LEAST limiting single-use plastic. Other countries have done it.” No doubt, until that day, O’Dowd will use her voice and her art as a reminder.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

 

Wendy Grubbs’ Campaign to Rescue the Old Dogs on the Shore by Val Cavalheri

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573 Reasons to read this.

This story, I promise, has a happy ending. It’s about Wendy Grubbs, an ordinary person, and at the core, it’s a story about love. Yet, her story is unquestionably connected to and can only be understood by first hearing about two dogs named, Dubya and Samson.

Dubya (aka Dubs), estimated to be around 13 years old, was a surrender to Prince George’s County Shelter by his owner. He had rotten teeth and a cancerous tumor on his front leg.

Sansom

Samson at approximately 14 years of age, had an unknown history, but the embedded rope scars around his neck speak of a rough start. He was adopted by a loving rescuer who shortly afterward died from breast cancer. The friend she entrusted him to had a cat that didn’t appreciate the new family member. Samson had nowhere to go.

What these two had in common was PetConnect Rescue, where Grubbs is a board member, who saw potential and hope for these two misfits and others like them. The rescue group which arranges and pays for medical services ranging from routine vaccinations and blood tests to treating serious medical conditions (such as broken bones) had recently launched a Senior Dog Program recognizing that seniors are usually overlooked due to their age and are most at risk to be euthanized.

The organization stepped in and fixed what could be fixed, removed or cleaned what couldn’t. “We try to give [the adopter] a dog who is in the best health a senior can be,” Grubbs said. “You’re going to get a dog that big things have been dealt with. Basically, you get a pretty healthy animal.” Since PetConnect doesn’t have a facility, they can only pull a needy dog from a shelter when they have someone willing to foster or adopt.

Dubya Before

Now, this is where the happy part is: Dubya was adopted a year ago and Samson four months later. They and three additional ‘flawed’ rescues named Jellybean, Stella, and Camilla live with and are loved by Grubbs.

Grubbs finds nothing unusual about her passion for saving animals in need. She’s had, since kindergarten, always had shelter dogs as family members. It surprises her, however, hearing people’s first instinct is not always to get a rescue animal. “What is the psychology of why people need to buy an animal?” Looking around her home, she said, “You can buy posters, or you can get original art. You can wear clothes that everyone else wears, or you can buy couture. I prefer original art, and I prefer my dogs to be couture—one of a kind.”

Despite the increase in her family size, Grubbs is not housebound, they are “totally manageable,” she says. Currently an equities markets specialist, she’s had a busy career in law and investment banking. She also spent a few years as a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. There were always dogs running around the White House, she recalls, and their presence made the Executive Mansion feel like a conventional home. But her focus these days and uppermost in her mind is how to persuade people to give homeless animals a chance. “There are 573 senior dogs in shelters within 100 miles of Oxford looking for homes,” she says. “I want to convince people to think of adopting from a shelter as being the only option instead of an option. We’re still euthanizing 4 million adoptable animals per year, and it really breaks my heart.”

But an older dog? I asked.

These are some of the reasons they are so perfect, she said:

-You don’t have to worry about potty training. You have to show them where to go and also learn how they’re used to asking.
-They don’t chew your expensive things. Sampson sleeps in my closet. On my shoes. I don’t have to worry about picking them up.
-Oh yea, they sleep a lot.
-You don’t need to crate them.
-They don’t require tons of exercise. Dubya loves to go for a long walk, but the rest of them are super not interested.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges in this type of adoption. “Most times, I know nothing about them,” she said. “I have to figure out their favorite scratch spot. I knew nothing about Dubya. He doesn’t seem to like toys. In fact, he sat on a squeaky one and scared himself to death. I just go slow and try and figure it out.”

There are other times when a dog’s history is known. “When I got Samson, I got a bag of his stuff, and I cried over that. It was such a mixed blessing because I had all of this information about him, I had his toys. I was also heartbroken because his owner was so thoughtful and she planned for him. She put his favorite stuff in a bag. She was 40 years old when she died. I feel like I owe it to this person. And as for Samson, I am at least his third and definitely his last, owner.”

This reminded the lawyer in Grubbs to give the following advice. “If you have an animal, put their care in your will. Samson is a very clear example of doing it right and things going wrong. The owner left Samson with a friend, and it didn’t work, and there was no backup plan. So, you can leave a dog with a friend or family, but provide a Plan B in case they won’t or can’t do it. Plan B should be naming a rescue group in the will, so the dog doesn’t end up in a shelter and is euthanized because of their age.”

Dubya After

The hardest thing to talk about and the most significant objection Grubbs hears are people’s feelings about the animal’s end of life. “I don’t have the perfect answer, but let me tell you this, I think when you see a ‘before’ picture, like the one of Dubya, and they have this forlorn expression that says, ‘I did my best for my human and here I am, and I’m lost.’ And then you see them blossom, and you see them run and play, like he does every morning, with such vigor. Look, I know it’s going to kill me when he goes, but I feel like I’ve done such a good thing for him and I’m so rewarded as a person. They’ve been loved, and that’s such a powerful thing. They win, and I win.”

There are several ways to help organizations, such as PetConnect, rescue more adoptable animals.

The most obvious is, of course, adopt an older dog. For every Dubya and Samson, there are others like Shana and Smitty, a bonded pair who were found in a motel with a dead, overdosed owner. After all the loss they have experienced they cannot be split up.

Foster a senior while they wait for a forever home.
Donate to a needy shelter, cash, in-kind goods, etc.
Volunteer to help socialize a dog. Seniors who have had lives with people and end up in a shelter shut down. If they are socialized, they are more adoptable.
Contribute to a spay and neuter program.

Recently, Grubbs has been working on a new rescue model, raising awareness on a solution she feels is ideal: matching senior dogs with senior humans. Unfortunately, many shelters refuse to allow senior citizens to adopt. “Older folks are perfect adopters. If a dog is willed back to the rescue, then why wouldn’t an older person, who will spend most of their time with the dog, be perfect?”

There is much that can be done, but there are changes on the horizon. Best Friends, the largest coalition of shelters in Utah have a goal for no euthanasia of adoptable pets by 2025. As of January 1, 2019, a new law in California requires pet stores to sell only rescue animals. “I think rescues are morphing and people understand that these animals are family members. I want these animals to live with dignity, not curled up in a corner in a shelter somewhere.”

As for her future, Grubbs says she’ll be out there educating people that older dogs are worth it, “I don’t know how many more dogs I’ll take. I’ll take as many as I can. I’m a go big or go home kind of person, so I’m going to do what I can do and take as many as I can take. Hopefully, in the future , this will be less needed.”

She again mentions the numbers she can’t stop thinking about: 573. The number of senior dogs in shelters within 100 miles of Oxford that are looking for homes. It’s the reason she does what she does. However, she will probably be the first to admit she’s just an ordinary person with a desire to do something. But to Dubya, Samson, Jellybean, Stella, and Camilla, she is so much more than that. She is extraordinary.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Mid-Shore Arts: The Daily Work of Qiang Huang by Val Cavalheri

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What would it take for an optical engineer, with a Ph.D. in physics, to quit his successful job and take up a totally unrelated field that he wasn’t sure could support his family? Passion. In this case, a passion for creating art. That’s the background story of Dr. Qiang Huang (pronounced Chong Wong). Born and raised in Beijing, China, Dr. Huang currently lives in Austin, Texas, but his work is everywhere there is an art gallery or a computer. That’s because another one of his significant accomplishment might be some modern marketing to complement his traditional still-life painting style.

To hear him tell it, it began after he had moved to the US to study, after graduate school, after joining a startup company, after marriage, after a child, and after getting his citizenship. All the while pursuing a ‘hobby of drawing with charcoal or pencil for fun,’ when he had time after his demanding job. The real motivation came once he bought his first house and wanted to decorate it with some artwork. It was 1998. Says Huang, “I went to places like Michaels and Hobby Lobby, trying to buy some prints, but after so many years of dabbling in art, I was sensitive to colors and style and couldn’t find artwork I really liked. I went to galleries, museums and saw beautiful original fine art, but noticed that it was beyond my affordability.” He thought: Why not paint something?

Realizing he needed more formal art training, Huang took adult education courses from the University of Texas. He also attended various workshops and classes, some of them hundreds of miles away. In the process, he was able to decorate his home, while also accumulating a large inventory of his paintings.

It was in 2007 when there was a shift in his thinking that would change his life. During a Plein Air Austin event, he attended a still life demonstration by a friend of his from Oregon, Carol Marine. Marine, an acknowledged painter and author, introduced Daily Painting, an approach she had recently taken up herself. It involved painting small (5×7, 6×6, etc.), colorful, and realistic pictures every day and then selling them online. Web commerce for artists was a new concept then. At that time, Huang believed that to sell his work he would need gallery representation. Marine changed that. It’s exciting, she told him, and not difficult to do. You put an image of your painting on something called a ‘blog,’ talk about your picture, and link it to an eBay account. People who follow your blog and are interested in your work can buy it immediately without leaving their home.

This new self-representation and self-marketing philosophy was a revelation. With Marine’s help, he opened the accounts, learned how to do some basic marketing, and began to collaborate with other bloggers. He also painted 2-3 hours at night after work, blogging about the painting’s inspiration and process. Within three months, he sold his first painting to someone who was not a family or friend.

Artist Qiang Huang

As Huang’s confidence grew, so did sales. Yet, he was still working full time as an engineer in charge of an R&D department, while also continuing to study and paint daily. It was during this time that he visited a gallery and, much to his surprise, saw one of his paintings for sale for double the price he usually charged. The gallery owner informed him that a collector, who had bought a couple of Huang’s pictures online, was reselling it to make a profit.

This experience began a new phase for Huang. Art galleries asked to represent him. His collector base and number of blog followers grew, and he caught the attention of a workshop organizer from Houston who helped plan a class for Huang to teach.

Despite all the training he had done throughout the years, Huang had never taught before, but was willing to share his experience as a daily painter. “I really prepared,” he said. “English is my second language, so I needed to make sure my teaching was understandable. I did the demonstration, told them how I did this daily painting. Spent the afternoon talking about the business activities, how to use the internet and blog and all of that.” The workshop, he said, was a success. People liked his work and bought some of his painting. He also got additional opportunities to conduct more workshops which led to American Artist Magazine writing a featured article about him.

Huang says of that time: “I started to consider… This could be interesting. My art was taking off, the business was doing well, and I was teaching. More galleries wanted to represent me, which started generating some income. Also, more magazine articles about me came out. So, this venture looked like it was growing. My small business became bigger and bigger. I joined professional art groups, such as the Oil Painters of America and was able to show my work and participate in national shows.”

Huang now found himself in the enviable position of being too busy. He was juggling two careers, each wanting his full attention. “If I’m doing something, I want to do it well,” he said. “If I’m doing two things and both are energy-demanding, I only can be mediocre in both. If I want to do well, I need to be able to concentrate. I only have a certain amount of energy. That started cooking in my mind. I needed to consider taking a break from my technical career and go into art.” Despite this contemplation, it would be another three years (and the blessing of his family) before Huang quit engineering in 2011 to became a full-time artist.

Today, Huang continues to paint daily, is represented by even more galleries, including Studio B Art Gallery in Easton, and his workshops are in demand nationwide. His income, he said, is not comparable to what he used to make as an engineer, but he’s happier and can ‘make ends meet.’ He still considers himself a student, occasionally taking classes to improve his art and expanding his subjects to include more portraits and landscapes. “As I’ve become more and more into landscape, the plein air events have become more important roles in my paintings.” For the second year in a row, Huang participated at the Plein Air Easton this past year, taking home first place in the Quick Draw contest and winning automatic entry into the 2019 competition.

He credits his success and opportunities to the daily painting regime. “It’s a very good exercise,” he says. “Like any activity you want to be good at, you need to practice. It’s given me the discipline, and it is noticeable progress. I also learned internet and technology skills, and how to blog. I learned business, bookkeeping, and taxes. I learned entrepreneurship, and I also made some money.”

As he has in the past, Huang continues to be an innovator. He knows that with the rise of social media, besides the blog, his marketing has to include Facebook and Instagram as well. Art still takes up most of his time, but now he’s also interested in solar power, organic gardening, rainwater harvesting, etc., and uses his technological knowledge and background to pursue environmental sustainability. The irony is not lost on him. “So now after art became my career, my technology part became my hobby,” he says smiling.

For more about Qiang Huang’s art please go to the Studio B Art Gallery website here

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

 

Mid-Shore Wine: Crow Farm is Building Memories and Serving Wine

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There is something special about spending time on a farm, particularly for someone raised in a busy metropolitan city. My childhood memories include how quiet and dark it was, away from all the traffic, noises and lights that were part of my everyday life. There were animals who typically didn’t make appearances on urban sidewalks–cows, pigs, horses, and chickens; and even those that did, such as dogs and cats, roamed unleashed and unrestricted. There was a sense of leisure yet busyness, calm yet purposefulness.

Harvest time (photo credit Lotte Bowie Loblolly Productions)

I no longer live in a city, recently moving to a small town, and when given the opportunity to visit and write about Crow Winery, a vineyard and 365-acre working farm in Kennedyville, MD, I jumped at the chance.

Seeing the silos as we drove down the long road leading to the farm brought back all the beautiful memories. But there was also much more that this grown-up could appreciate as I stepped out of the car– the sweet smell of ripening grapes on the vines that reminded me of Autumn, harvests and well, yes, a fine crisp wine.

Owner Judy Crow, fresh from attending the birth of a calf, met us. After introductions to a new addition to the 100+ herd of Angus cattle, she took us to her home, an 1847 farmhouse which also accommodates a 3-bedroom B&B that they call a ‘farmstay’ experience. “We opened up the B&B,” she said, “so people could come and spend the night with us, learn about farming sustainability, have a farm fresh breakfast served family style, and if they want to be a part of delivering calves or going out to move cattle on the pastures, they can do that. The farm is an opportunity for the public to integrate themselves into the farm business.”

But Crow is so much more than a farm; it’s also an award-winning winery. And for a good reason. Take the 12 and a half acres of beautiful vines, imported years ago from the New York Finger Lakes region, now pregnant with grapes and ready for picking and managed by Judy’s son, Brandon Hoy, along with Vineyard and Winery assistant C.T. Wright. Or the state-of-the-art 5,000-case production winery where a bottling and labeling machine stood idle, but ready for the 200 cases a day it produces, where polished and gleaming fermentation tanks, sorting tables and wine-stained oak barrels are carefully monitored by winemaker Michael Zollo and consultant John Levenberg. Or the Tasting Room, formerly a milking barn, where you’ll probably run into Joe Rieley, the sales manager who will expertly guide your selection and your palate to sample a flight of wines, maybe even accompanied by the local cheeses.

The story of how it started goes back years ago when it wasn’t always about vines, wines, or tasting rooms. Then it was about Roy Crow who had a three-generation family dairy farm which grew wheat, corn, and soybeans and had 10 Angus cattle. Ten years ago, after meeting and marrying Judy, they began to consider other options. Why not wine, they asked? They knew that Maryland’s climate did not produce the types of wines that customers were used to (such as the sweeter Cabs and Merlots), so why not create something new and local for these consumers to enjoy using only grapes they would grow or those grown within a 50-mile radius of the farm?

“Early on we decided to stick with dry premium style wines,” Judy explains. “The B&B was driving business to the farm, and our first customers were from metropolitan areas, such as New York, Philly, and New Jersey–wine savvy people, who wanted nice quality local wines. So, we stayed with that model, even though it’s harder in Maryland, as Maryland wines tend to be sweeter and our wines are drier, our price points are higher, and we either grow our grapes or have local growing partners. It’s a different style of wine that means that people have to come here and experience them or go to finer establishments that stock our wines.”

She was right. Soon, reviewers began to talk about their wines and Crow began to win awards Two years after building their winery, the Crow Vidal Blanc received a gold medal at the International Wine Competition. That same year, Crow took the Best in Class and Double Gold for their Barbera Rosé in both the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup and Governor’s Cup. The accolades have never stopped. A corner of the Tasting Room is dedicated to showing off just some of the medals Crow wines have won. This past summer, Crow was voted this year’s “Best of the Bay 2018 for Maryland Wineries,” by Chesapeake Bay Magazine readers.

Even with all of this notoriety, Judy worked on a new business model. Crow Wineries was in a great location–an hour from Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and minutes from historic Chestertown and Rock Hall on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The problem was they were near other wineries, in other counties, and each was competing for the visitors, tourists, and residents. There had to be something they could do, which with Judy’s encouragement, they did. Crow, Broken Spoke, and Chateau Bu-De Vineyard and Winery decided to form a collaborating relationship.

“Our idea was to bring people to the area and for our businesses to integrate and work together. So, we created a marketing strategy that encompassed our various counties. This made it good for all of us,” Judy said. “One winery may not bring people out; with two you have a better chance. When you add other wineries and interesting places for people to visit, it becomes a destination for people to come and experience these small waterfront towns.” Chesapeake Inn in Chesapeake City saw the value in the concept and bought a 15-passenger limo that would take their guest to the various wineries.

This past year, the Rivers to Canal Wine Trail, as they are now known, added centralized events that would benefit all. Crow Fest 2018, in early September, brought hundreds of visitors and featured live music, vendors, food, tours, grape stomping, games, and hayrides. The Rivers to Canal winemakers led tastings and discussions. It was a win-win for all. Events, such as this, and others planned throughout the remainder of the year, guarantee that there is something happening weekends that would interest everyone. The group is growing even larger with Casa Carmen Wines, Bad Alfred’s Distillery and Bayhead’s Brewing Company joining them.

This joint effort appears to have paid off. At a recent Wineries Association meeting, where other wineries were discussing disappointing profits, Crow’s sale numbers were up. Crow Wine Cellars recently opened at Queenstown Outlets selling wines, beef, and local products, all with the ultimate goal of luring people to come to the area. Their wine club has grown to over 250 couples–only 15% of which are local Kent county residence. This means that the area’s tourism industry is growing as well. 

To Judy, it all comes down to involving the community, whether that community is other wineries or people who want to experience and create memories about being on a farm. She remembers years ago when they first started and about 12 people expressed interest in learning about harvesting wines and working on a farm. This year that number is around 40-50 people. “It’s important to us that the public comes out and harvests grapes and works in the winery or at the farm so they can see first-hand what it means to have a vineyard and winery in their community. These are all things that people value. This is why we are here.”

For more information about Crow Winery, go to http://crowvineyardandwinery.com/.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

 

Jazz Festival Profile: Matthew Whitaker’s Different Vision of Jazz

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Do you think anyone would blame you for being proud, or a little arrogant, if for your entire life you were called a prodigy for your jazz piano playing ability? How about if you’re always compared to Stevie Wonder, or if you can say that, among many other places, you’ve performed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Apollo Theater and Carnegie Hall? What if your first album, Outta the Box, contained six original compositions?

And what if you were only 17 years old?

Matthew Whitaker

The Spy recently spoke to Matthew Whitaker, the wunderkind, who will be one of the featured artists at this year’s Monty Alexander Jazz Festival (Friday, August 31 – Sunday, September 2). One might have expected some smugness from him. Instead, Matthew turns out to be both unassuming and a well-rounded teen. Not surprising, his mom and dad have a lot to do with that, even though they deny it. Since 2011, Dad has traveled with him, acting as everything from chaperone to road crew—setting up and taking down all the musical instruments they bring. Joining us for the interview, Moses Whitaker was quick to remind me about the other important part of his job: “I make sure he stays humble. And he is that—he’s humble.” The love and admiration they have for each other is palpable, and neither is shy about expressing it. During his appearance on both the Today Show and the Ellen DeGeneres show, Matthew could be heard saying, “I love you, dad,” as Whitaker led his son to the piano.

Oh, did we forget to mention Matthew is blind?

With a Wikipedia worth of accolades, web pages of accomplishments, and YouTubes of videos, Matthew is used to interviews and being asked the same questions. As soon as we started, without a prompt, he quickly ran through his statistics: Born three months prematurely and weighing under two pounds, he wasn’t expected to survive. He was later diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which caused his blindness. On his third birthday, he received a toy keyboard from his grandfather, and after hearing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” was able to play it. Started taking lessons at five years of age, fell in love with jazz when he was seven. At nine, he taught himself the organ, and four years later became the youngest artist to be endorsed by Hammond in its 80+ year history. Currently, he’s studying classical piano and drums and learning to play the vibraphone, a gift he received from his appearance on Ellen’s show.

Then, of course, there is that frequent comparison to his idol Stevie. How does it feel, we asked? “It’s an honor, Matthew replied, “however, there is only one Stevie Wonder.” A modest thing to say, you think, until you watch him perform. There’s a reason for the comparison. Matthew is good.

No, really. He’s that good.

Take into consideration how in 2010, Matthew was the winner in the “Child Stars of Tomorrow” competition, as part of Amateur Night at the Apollo. How, a year later, at the age of 10, he was invited to perform at Stevie Wonder’s induction into the Apollo Theater’s Hall of Fame, returning in 2016, to the televised Showtime at the Apollo. Last year, he was listed on the breakout list of 20 under 20 as a performing artist on Crain’s Business New York and named as one of seven rising stars for 2018 by USA Today network’s 201 Magazine.

Having established his credentials and having read that he is also talented with other musical varieties (including R&B, classical, gospel, and rock), we asked about the special connection he feels toward jazz. “With jazz,” Matthew said, “you get to be completely you. With other genres, you have to play it as it’s written, jazz allows you to do your own thing. I love to improvise.” If he has a ‘sound,’ he claims, it’s a mixture of various styles that he combines into making a song his own. He likes the versatility, and he is quick to let you know about his influencers, which include a variety of musicians from Chopin to Thelonious Monk, embodying the soul of these ageless giants who left their mark on the music world.

Since Matthew has played for audiences most of his life, he’s comfortable changing his setlist even an hour before show time. “What we play, depends on the crowd and on the type of performance. I love the reaction when I play a song that is recognized by the crowds.” Something else that makes him happy is hearing that there are people his age in the audience. “I want to be able to introduce jazz to others. I want them to listen to this music.”

Matthew has been fortunate to be able to take the music he loves not just around the US, but overseas. Some of his favorite moments include traveling to Europe, notably Portugal and Switzerland. Despite being told Europeans have a deeper appreciation of jazz, he feels the same appreciation here in the US. “I’ve had amazing audiences in both places,” he says.

With all this success, it’s easy to forget that Matthew is also just a kid in his senior year in high school, who is slightly ‘freaked out’ about all of this attention. Whitaker is quick to point out that his son doesn’t miss too many school days. They try to schedule his performances around days off and summer vacations. He receives school credit for his concerts. If traveling overseas, his teachers send and expect him to complete homework. Next year, Matthew hopes to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, three hours away from home and a place that is accommodating to the visually impaired. He wants to study further in what he is already doing: directing, composing arranging, and orchestrating music.

As for his appearance in Easton, Matthew is excited to have been included as part of the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival. “I love Monty. I’ve met him a few times, and I have a lot of his records. Monty is sort of like me, and I can’t wait to be part of the show.” He wanted us to make sure that people coming to the show knew that there would be a lot of different musical styles and a lot of improvising. “It will be a fun time. Come out, invite everyone and bring friends. Can’t wait to meet you.”

Whitaker confirms his son’s enthusiasm. “Matt has a special gift,” he said, “he didn’t get it from me, he didn’t get it from his mom. The thing he really likes to do is share his gifts with everyone. When he finishes playing, he doesn’t want to go, like some musicians, backstage or to the dressing room. He goes out into the audience and talks to people. He likes to share.”

Do you, we asked? “Nah, he said, “I’m just the guy packing up the equipment.”

And raising a wonderful and talented son.

Matthew Whitaker will be playing on Saturday, September 1 at the Avalon Theater, at a free community performance that will provide an introduction to jazz. For more information about the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival please go here.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Mid-Shore Arts: Getting Them When They’re Young with Mike Elzey

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The way Mike Elzey, owner of Mike Elzey’s Guitar Studio, sees it, learning to play an instrument, such as guitar, can only make you a good guitar player. Which is why he hopes to inspire his students with something he can’t really teach them; the talent to become musicians. In the process, Elzey feels they will also pick up valuable life lessons.

“Some kids have never played music with others and when they do they learn social skills and how to compromise. “During class, I’ll hear: ‘I don’t like Johnny’s song,’ and I tell them, ‘Well, Johnny doesn’t like your song selection either, get over it so you can just play.’ Kids today are used to doing their own thing. We’ve become too fragmented. I’d like to change that.”

The change, he wants to be involved in is to offer instructions in a multitude of instruments (including voice), motivate his students to form a band, and find them a showcase where they could perform. That is the reason, Elzey says, he started the band camps with help from other talented musicians, including Jordon Stanley and Quinn Parsley.

“The problem,” Stanley says, “is that the musicians in our community are all over 25 years of age. There is no place where those who are younger can go to be motivated.” Stanley was inspired to pick up drums after watching the movie Drumline when he was 9, an age he considers ‘pretty late to start.’ He’s never stopped playing and now, besides being a studio musician, performs in church and with several bands including the Front Porch Orchestra, and Blackwater.

Parsley, also plays with the Front Porch Orchestra, for theater productions, at Christ Church of Easton, and for “anyone who is paying.” He knows the importance of working with young musicians. “It’s a great outlet through which children can express themselves.” A multi-instrumentalist, Paisley began playing at 15 after his parents bought him an acoustic guitar for $5 at a yard sale. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Salisbury University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in classical guitar.

Elzey’s love of music began at an early age, as well. He remembers attending a battle of the bands in high school when he was 14 and watching the reaction of the crowds. He ended up joining the group. “Suddenly, I went from nothing to a Rock Star.” He knew, even then, that this something he wanted others to experience.

Despite Elzey’s talent and interest, once school ended he married and accepted a position in a start-up manufacturing company. He filled the musical void by teaching guitar to a few students and playing with a band on the weekend. After many successful years that included a corporate merger, he decided to make a change. “I knew I wanted to give something back to the community. My wife and I didn’t have kids, but it was clear to me that anything I did would have to involve children and music. I used the business skills I acquired in my previous job, gave myself 6 months to succeed at the end of which I had 25 students. We hired another teacher, and a year later we had more students than we could handle.” That was 30 years ago.

Currently, Elzey owns two studios in Cambridge and two in Easton, while also teaching at Seaford Music in Seaford, Delaware and performing in local area bands. But, it is the future that excites him the most, a future that will allow him to introduce the love of music to his students.

This is no easy task. At a time when nationwide there is a decline in the number of children learning to play guitar, bass, drums, or keyboards. When songs are being recorded using computerized instruments and autotuned voices, and children are busy with other activities. “We can’t compete with video games, and we can’t compete with sports. If the child does not have the drive or the passion, parents don’t make their kids practice the homework we give them,” says Stanley.

Instilling that drive and passion is what it is all about for Elzey, one child at a time. This is how it usually happens, he says: “Gina sings and likes Nirvana, Ryan plays guitar loves Nirvana and is learning their songs and Eli drums to Green Day who everyone likes. And I think, let’s get you guys together.” That’s how his school was invited to play at Talbot First Night and how a band called Jinxed was formed and how they all played at the Avalon Theater to an appreciative audience. And that’s why the school has been invited to the Caroline Summerfest in Denton in August. “I want other kids to see our musicians and get inspired, as I did. I want to hear: ‘mommy, I want to play drums, too. ‘ ”

Says Parsley. “I enjoy working with younger musicians because it allows me to help build an even stronger musician community for the future. It also allows me to show music to kids that they may have never heard. They may run into such classic bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, but there are many great lesser-known bands out today that also deserve appreciation like Vulfpeck, Whitney, and Moon Child. Through learning how to play music, kids can also gain a greater appreciation for the artistry that goes into making the music they like.”

Elzey agrees. “Quinn and Jordon are younger and have a different perspective. I’ve got great help, I’ve got great space and we’re all ready. What we all agree on is that if we can get kids involved in a band and with other musicians, they grow to love their instrument. It’s my mission to do all we can to encourage and promote children playing instruments Maybe we can make a difference in the community. I want to look back and know we’ve made a difference; I want to see people in our community say: ‘look at all the musicians we have here.’ “

Summer Music camps are being offered throughout the summer.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

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