Dock of the Bay
Art Builds Better Neighborhoods
|As a newcomer to Calvert County, professional pianist Jason Brown wondered where he would find musical work and camaraderie.
photo courtesy of Calvert Artists Showcase
Calvert Artists Showcase makes new friends over good music
by Margaret Tearman
Pat Willis is no stranger to Calvert County; he’s lived there 23 years. Jason Brown is a newcomer, only three years in the county.
What do these two men have in common? They’re both talented musicians who’ll share the stage with each other and six more local acts — some familiar faces alongside some new friends — at the annual Calvert Artists Showcase on March 6.
Each year, the revue showcases Calvert County’s brightest stars and supports local do-good groups. In six years, the Showcase has distributed over $250,000 to local non-profits, each handpicked by the featured artists.
Newcomer Brown, a Texan by birth, is a professional pianist and composer who came to Calvert County in search of a quiet, country life. But country life held new challenges. How would a musician work, let alone hook up with fellow artists? Calvert County surprised the Van Cliburn scholar.
|photo courtesy of Calvert Artists Showcase
Pat Willis, left, wanted to expose his drummer son, John, center, to performing on stage. With the addition of John’s friend and bassist Zack Branch, The Willis Branch Trio was born.
Last year he directed the musical half of the county’s 350th anniversary pageant. He missed that year’s Showcase, having learned of it too late to audition. So he marked his calendar early for this year.
Brown’s delighted to be one of the eight acts chosen from 35 to perform.
“It’s just so neat to see such a variety of talent on one stage, and realizing they all live right here in the county,” Brown said. “I hope a lot of people come.”
More than additional hands to applaud, Brown hopes for new connections with musical neighbors in his adopted county.
“It’s been great, getting to know all these performers, running into them on the street, when I go to the gym. I’ve seen them before, but now we stop and talk,” Brown said.
Introducing neighbors to unimagined aspects of one another is one of the things the Artists Showcase does best.
The Showcase introduced long-time Calvert resident Pat Willis to a new aspect of himself as well as to new friends and connections. Aspiring to share the Showcase stage with his 15-year-old son John, a drummer, Willis created the Willis Branch Trio. The third player is John’s classmate Zack Branch, a bassist.
“I want my son to feel a part of the community where he’s grown up,” Willis said. “He’s one heck of a drummer, and I’m tickled to have the chance to play music with him.”
Young John’s talents have already impressed an old pro. Western Swing fiddler Bill Marquess, another musician taking this year’s stage, has invited John to play with him.
|photo courtesy of Calvert Artists Showcase
The crowd will be tapping their feet and dancing when Bill Marquess & The Gang take the stage with their mix of Texas swing, New Orleans blues and Dixieland jazz.
This year’s showcase, called You Ought a Be In Pictures, rounds out with the talents of six other local performing artists.
- The Steuart family group Trinity, veteran Showcase performers, returns this year.
- Chesapeake bard Tom Wisner sings songs and tells tales of Bay life.
- Chesapeake Bronze, a handbell ensemble, rings five octaves of Malmark handbells and four octaves of Malmark Choirchimes.
- Calvert surgeon Sheldon Goldberg and Huntingtown Elementary school principal Ramona Crowley combine their musical talents in songs from The Phantom of the Opera.
- Bill Marquess & The Gang will have feet stomping to their mix of Texas swing, New Orleans blues and Dixieland jazz.
- Espresso Blue Jazz Trio completes the Showcase cast.
Another local star, artistic director Karma Kamp, designed the Artists Showcase. Choreographer Kamp has worked on and off Broadway, at the Kennedy Center and for the national tour of BIG.
Benefiting from the Showcase are local groups handpicked by the performers: Calvert Animal Welfare League, Chestory, Catholic Charities, The Ward Virts Piano Project, Caring for Calvert’s Kids, Calvert Hospice, Southern Maryland Community Network and Battle Creek Nature Education Society.
About 90 percent of the money raised goes to the groups.
“It’s great for the musicians to perform in front of such a large audience, and it’s great for the non-profits we support,” said performer Willis. “It’s a win-win situation for the musicians and for the community.”
ArtLinks president JoAnn Kushner agrees. “This is a great example of art giving back to the community in a really tangible way,” she said. Through and beyond the Showcase, the non-profit Artlinks seeks to bring new philanthropic dollars into the county.
“We’re seeking to find ways to elevate and support the arts in all of Southern Maryland and do it in a way to benefit the community,” Kushner said.
That’s what Calvert Artists Showcase is all about: building better neighborhoods by making new friends over music.
See for yourself: The curtain goes up at 2pm on Sunday, March 6, at the Mary D. Harrison Cultural Arts Center in Owings: $15 w/age discounts: 410-257-2627.
Margaret Tearman, a Calvert countian for 20 years, is a television producer and writer. This is her first feature for Bay Weekly.
The Bay Gardener
|by Dr. Frank Gouin
Choose the Right Pruning Tools
Buy the best pruning tools you can afford. Among the best are the brands Corona and Felco. They’re made of hardened steel so they will stay sharp for most of the year — provided you don’t use them to cut wires.
Loppers with 18- to 24-inch handles are great for cutting branches up to one-inch diameter. Avoid purchasing loppers that have only 12-to-14 inch handles because you will have difficulty cutting branches larger than one-half-inch diameter. Long-reach pruners are also a must if you intend to prune tree branches without having to stand on a ladder.
For smaller work, hand-pruners are the right tool. Choose only the shear-cut type. Anvil or snap-cut hand-pruners will soon lose their cutting edge as the anvil wears because it is made of brass. Anvils can be replaced, but they are almost impossible to locate at hardware stores or garden shops. Also buy a shear case in which to carry your pruners. Many nurserymen can tell you why, having injured their posteriors by carrying open hand-pruners in their hip pockets.
A good pruning saw is a must for removing branches larger than one inch in diameter or from areas where loppers cannot penetrate. A pruning saw with a folding handle is superior. The handle is long enough for both your hands; when not in use, the blade folds into the handle, protecting it during storage.
To maintain hedges or topiary, shears are the right tool. Consider purchasing Okatsune shears. Made from the same forging process used to make Japanese swords, these shears remain sharp under constant use.
Quality professional pruning tools are difficult to find in stores. Look in nursery supply catalogs such as A.M. Leonard of Piqua, Ohio: amleo.com.
Professor Emeritus Francis Gouin retired from the University of Maryland, where he was the state’s extension specialist in ornamental horticulture, to Upakrik Farm in Deale, where he practices the horticultural art and science he long taught. Follow his column of practical gardening and plant advice every week, only in Bay Weekly. Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at email@example.com.
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