Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Chestertown Jazz Festival Returns with Art in the Park

Sep 11, 2012 11:48AM ● By Anonymous

“Giacomo Gates is a spectacular bebop singer who graced our stage twice in the past,” says event producer Melvin Rapelyea. “Frederic Yonnet has got to be one of the best urban jazz harmonica players in the world. He will blow us away.”

The festival kicks off at 10:30 a.m. under a tent in Wilmer Park, with a gospel brunch featuring the Kent County 100 Voice Choir. Don’t be late—the first 100 guests to arrive will receive their brunch on the house. Also showcasing music by Felicia Carter, Joe Holt Trio, and Project Natalie, the festival will run rain or shine until 6 p.m., and attendees are invited to bring their own chairs, and maybe even umbrellas. According to Rapelyea, the talent in the lineup is unmatched. “We’re looking forward to starting strong with the Kent County 100 Voice Choir,” says Rapelyea. “The three other local groups are the best in the area.”

Jazz vocalist Giacomo GatesTo give a new twist to a favored classic, event producers have switched things up a little bit this year. After the success of Chestertown’s National Music Festival in June, Jazz Festival coordinators invited some of those same classical musicians to play a couple of jazz pieces at the September Festival.

“Jazz and the folks it brings together are what you look forward to whenever you can,” says Rapelyea. “The energy that attracts great musicians to the stage, and the music that attracts people to celebrate that greatness is what the Chestertown Jazz Festival is all about.”

Additionally, Art in the Park has also been resurrected this year, and will join the Jazz Festival—right alongside, including local and regional artists, artisans, and crafters. Admission to Art in the Park is free, but tickets are required for the festival.

“Art in the Park would formerly run concurrent with the Jazz Festival in another park in Chestertown. We were able to bring this back this year and it will run concurrently, in the same Wilmer Park,” says Rapelyea. “[It will be a] great combination of great music and great art right there together.” A favorite local spot, Wilmer Park, on the banks of the serene Chester River, features a restored pavilion, and offers Festival goers a panoramic view sure to enhance the experience.

The Chestertown Jazz Festival first began in 1996 as a fundraiser for the Native and African American Cultural Activities Museum; it ran successfully for 10 years until founder and coordinator Rapelyea relocated to Tennessee to assume the position of chief of radiology at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. This year, he’s back in Chestertown at Chester River Health Systems, and he’s brought the Chestertown Jazz Festival back with him. The Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre is the event’s lead sponsor, and the relaunch of the festival has been well received.

“The Garfield Center is excited about the return of the jazz festival to Chestertown,” Board President Philip Dutton says. “Our organization will support the producers in any way to make this a successful, fun event for our community.” And successful it should be; the event is expecting to host 1,000 attendees.

Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the gate,children under 12 are free. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 410-810-2060.