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Am I the only former chemical engineering research associate and professor who is now booking music full time? In any case I think it makes a great story, working for DuPont, then Villanova, all the while volunteering at Arden Gild Hall to build a music series with a group of volunteers from three shows a year to nearly 25 this season.

And then at age 60 why not give up teaching and devote myself fulltime to building a new schedule of concerts in a town not known for music venues, Elkton, Maryland?

We are not talking the big time here, with a capacity of 300 people, both Arden and Elkton rarely bring in acts that have huge name recognition. But we do aim for the highest quality and reputation in the many concerts we book.

Still, every now and then we get lucky. Arden has had Adrianne Lenker (Big Thief), Los Lobos, Cowboy Junkies and Suzanne Vega to name a few. And Elkton had a sold-out Son Volt show and is excited about Shovels and Rope and the up-and-coming LaMP coming in April. But what makes this work so satisfying for me is to introduce new artists to our region and to help build their fanbase so they can continue touring in what is a hugely challenging industry.

I’d like to share a few stories of unexpected beauty and power at our Arden Concert Gild series. Where else in Delaware would one find the nine-piece South Korean ensemble ADG7 (aka Ak Dan Gwang Chil), who created a theatrical presentation with dance, costumes and even a march through the crowd to perform an encore from the rear of our barn?

The Arden Club, the community non-profit that runs Gild Hall, receives grants from Delaware Division of the Arts and Mid Atlantic Arts to support eclectic and rare entertainment. In addition to ADG7, we’ve presented Artemis (the Downbeat award winning all women jazz group in Arden in November 2023) and Jupiter & Okwess (a Congolese outdoor dance party shown in another photo here from July 2023). All of this at our 170-year-old Arden Gild Hall, formerly the Derrickson Barn converted by the intentional Utopian community of Arden in 1909 to a theater and multi-use facility.

In addition to the concerts, Gild Hall is home to 115 years of The Arden Fair, over 75 years of Gilbert and Sullivan with Ardensingers, 30 years of Arden Shakespeare Gild, Scholars Gild lectures, community dinners, international folk dancing and more!

Our website ardenclub.org shows the full breadth of volunteerism at work in the community. Visit ardenconcerts.com for the full schedule of concerts.

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Our next Arden concert on Friday, Feb. 2 features two visiting musicians from The Gambia who just happen to be managed by a Delaware lover of their music. Great Gambian Griots features acoustic duo Jali Bakary Konteh & Mafu Conteh playing Balafon and Kora (African harp). This intimate show is followed by a sold-out blast of prog rock from Stick Men featuring Tony Levin of Peter Gabriel’s band and Pat Mastelotto drummer with Tony in King Crimson on Saturday, Feb. 10. A very different solo guitar experience with Stanley Jordan comes on Saturday, Feb. 24.

How did a volunteer engineer music man in Arden get involved with the new Elkton Music Hall?

Co-owner Ric Cunningham had attended Arden concerts and we met at National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) events during the pandemic. Two years ago, we had lunch and talked about his plan (and I thought wow will this ever happen?).

When I was asked to help book music in Elkton only a few months before its July 2023 opening, I knew it would be a challenge! But in a that short time we began to get major names to confirm shows such as Son Volt (sold out in our 2nd week) and fall 2023 winners like Low Cut Connie, Loudon Wainwright III, The Nude Party, Rhett Miller and upcoming country shows featuring Chris Knight and Pony Bradshaw.

Elkton shows are at elktonmusichall.com – you can see we have been busy.

When Tom Paxton, the folk legend who started out playing the same stages as Bob Dylan in the Village, played Elkton Music Hall, he told the audience how much he already loved the new venue and reminded them that the best thing they can do is right now take a look at the upcoming schedule and pick a show they do not know and BUY tickets.

This is how he became known; at one time someone took a chance on him. This has always been my goal in presenting music in Delaware and now Elkton: bringing new and different sounds to the folk!

Ron Ozer is executive director of the Arden Concert Guild of the Arden Club and is head of programming for Elkton Music Hall.

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