Press Releases

Art in the Park Press Releases

Acclaimed jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut and much-loved local jazz and blues vocalist Sue Matthews will headline the 2013 Chestertown Jazz Festival on the waterfront of Wilmer Park, on Saturday, September 7.

A native of Baltimore who started playing at church when he was five, Chestnut studied at the Peabody Conservatory and is a graduate of The Berklee School of Music, the nation’s premier conservatory for jazz musicians. He has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Branford Marsalis and Chick Corea.

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 7.40.30 AMDuring the week he’ll be on the Chestertown waterfront, Chestnut also will appear at Blues Alley in Washington, DC.

Chestnut is equally at ease with classic and contemporary jazz, and his playing has won generous applause from the New York Times: “Mr. Chestnut appears comfortable with his placement in time,” the Times critic wrote. “What makes his music fly is a complete security in his style, and that sense of untroubled self-assurance.”

“We have access to such great talent in this region,” said Jazz Festival impresario and lifelong jazz promoter Dr. Mel Rapelyea. “This year’s festival will have our own beloved Sue Matthews’ superb singing and we’re thrilled to have Cyrus Chestnut, one of the best jazz pianists in the world.”

As part of the Jazz Festival’s partnership with the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre, Chestnut will offer a free jazz piano workshop, at 10:30, at the theater on High Street.

Meanwhile, in Wilmer Park, the first 100 Jazz Festival arrivals will be treated to a free continental breakfast. The park will open at 10:30 am and also will host Chestertown RiverArts’ annual “Art in the Park” event throughout the day. The art and crafts show will offer works of more than 50 local artists, photographers, jewelry makers, potters and other crafters, sharing the park’s waterfront area with the Jazz Festival.

The soulful sound of gospel music will start the festival at 11:30a.m., when the 100 Voice Choir of Kent County begins to sing.

“I love opening our festival with the 100 Voice Choir,” said Rapelyea. “Jazz is America’s greatest original art form, and one of most powerful roots of jazz is gospel. It’s the perfect way to start our day.”

While the festival’s morning performances will feature gospel music, once the Logan Seith Quartet starts to play at 12:15 p.m, it will be all about jazz and improvisation. Seith is the young percussionist from Maryland’s Western Shore who wowed

Sue MatthewsSue Matthews

Chestertown’s classical music lovers when he came to town with the 2012 National Music Festival. But when Rapelyea discovered that the classical phenom is a crossover artist with a jazz quartet, he vowed to bring Seith back across the Bay to play for his jazz festival audience.

“This young man is a wonderful musician, and I’m really excited to bring him to the Chestertown Jazz Festival stage,” said Rapelyea. Mainstay regulars, he noted, will likely be interested to hear that Seith is studying vibraphone and drums with Chuck Redd.

In mid-afternoon, at 1:30, saxophonist and singer Marsha Heydt will take the stage, offering original jazz tunes and standards, as well as a bit of funk, rock and Latin music. A transplanted New Yorker, Heydt has performed with Grover Washington, Bill Watrous, Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, and with Paul Shaffer on The David Letterman Show.

A farm girl from near Allentown, Pennsylvania, Heydt is another jazz musician who performed at church and studied classical music as a child. She plays the sax, piano, flute and clarinet, holds a bachelor of music degree from the Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and a master’s degree in music education from the Aaron Copland School of Music.

At 3:15, as the afternoon shadows lengthen, Rapelyea’s festival will welcome its headliners–first Sue Matthews and then Cyrus Chestnut.

Throughout the day, Jazz Festival ticket-holders are welcome to move back and forth between the music tent and “Art in the Park.” There is no charge for the art and crafts show.

Chestertown Jazz Festival adult tickets are available for $20, before September 7, at the Garfield Center box office. Adult tickets may be purchased at Wilmer Park on September 7 for $25. Student tickets are $10; admission is free for children under 12.

For information about “Art in the Park” contact Lani Seikaly at For further information on the Chestertown Jazz Festival, contact the Garfield Center for the Arts at 410-810-2060 or