When the world shuttered businesses and lives in March, it also hit the arts and entertainment world equally. Movie production halted, Broadway went dark, galleries closed their doors, live music venues went silent. Across the board, artists plunged into the riptide of the unemployed.
But creatives, by their very nature, are hard to keep down, and some have found ways to move forward by using online strategies. It may bring in a fraction of their pre-pandemic income, but it’s something that keeps the arts lifeline open to the community when sorely needed.
The Mainstay in Rock Hall is an excellent example of sustainability during hard times. Since 1997 when Charlie Byrd christened the venue with his jazz, The Mainstay has become a Maryland hub for international country and jazz artists. It is a significant economic and cultural engine for the Kent County area.
The pandemic hit just as they were planning the 25th Anniversary. The Board quickly organized to set up online presentations, and you will notice on their website and Facebook page that they offer a host of ongoing ticketed events. Also note that artists include online tip-jars to help underwrite their their shows.
Bets Durham, President of the Mainstay Board talked with Spy about what the Mainstay is up to online now and the future. Along with their music showcases, many of the streaming activities have included educational episodes to convey the rich history of music.
“Our streaming activities have also included educational episodes with Board Member Dave Robinson on Louis Armstrong and another on Traditional Jazz Styles. We will continue to offer afternoon educational sessions via our Facebook page as we head toward the end of the year,” Durham says.
Coming up: streamed live from The Mainstay Stage, on Friday 9/11 7PM will be Jeff Antoniuk and Helluvaband Band; Jeff will be joined by Max Murray on Bass, Frank Russo on drums, two of The Mainstay’s favorite artists, and John Lee on guitar. They will play from their new album, FLOW, and many of the jazz standards from their repertoire.
Also, during this time of BLM, John Thomas our Program Manager has been showcasing African-American artists in our streaming line-up, per the organization’s Statement on Racial Equity, as posted below.
This video is approximately seven minutes long. For more information about The Mainstay please go here.
The Mainstay’s statement on racial equity:
As an organization dedicated to presenting the diverse music of our culture, we must take a moment at this time to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans to the cultural fabric of America. There is little music in the public eye that is not uniquely shaped by African American artists and their experiences.
Blues, which is at the root of all American music, is a direct product of the black experience in America.
Jazz, built upon the foundation of the blues was elevated by men such as Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis.
Folk and country music owe more than a little to the influence of artists like Leadbelly and Robert Johnson.
The attributed originator of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe claimed a black man, Arnold Shultz as his primary influence.
Anyone in the world today working as a professional jazz/pop/folk musician owes a debt to the work of Louis Armstrong.
These great Americans contributed immeasurable treasures to American culture, yet endured lifelong violence and indignities at the hands of law enforcement and other authority figures.
Many of us have lived in comfort believing that those experiences are of a bygone era in our country, but current events reinforce that this is reality today. As an organization that supports arts, artists and all humans, we repudiate this violence toward our fellow citizens. In whatever way that we are able, we intend to speak out to support our fellow Americans who have had, and continue to have, their rights trampled upon.
Racial diversity is embedded in our musical past, including a rich history right here in Kent County. We pledge to honor this heritage by acting to engage our entire community with performances by and for all people. During the coming months we will strengthen our programming by adding classes illuminating the rich contributions of African American artists who have shaped the music we all love and we are seeking to join with others in celebrating diversity in all our programming.
The Mainstay welcomes ideas and comments from the community on how to better advance our actions for diversity in programming. The Mainstay Board of Directors.