Who We Are
"Home of Musical Magic"
The Mainstay, founded in 1997, is a nonprofit live music venue dedicated to the performing arts, serving the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and readily accessible to our neighbors from Baltimore, Annapolis, Washington D.C., Wilmington, and Philadelphia. In its keystone location in the harbor town of Rock Hall, Maryland, the Mainstay programs an impressive year-round, weekly calendar of accomplished local, regional, national, and international performing artists.
We satisfy the diverse tastes of our loyal audiences with bluegrass, folk music, blues, Gospel, Celtic, classical, and world music. The Mainstay is particularly renowned for its reputation for jazz excellence dating back to our earliest concerts with jazz great Charlie Byrd, and continuing to the present day with acclaimed jazz figures from all along the Eastern seaboard.
We hope your visit will convince you why our cozy and quirky theater, comfortably filled with 110 mismatched chairs and a separate bar for snacks and refreshments, is frequently cited by the media and our audiences as “the best listening room in the Mid-Atlantic”. But it’s not just about the music. It’s a special place where you can feel connected with a truly exceptional experience and keep it as a treasured memory.
Along the Way...
The first “pre-Mainstay” concerts are held at the America’s Cup Café, adjacent to the current Mainstay.
The first floor of a storefront building on Main Street in Rock Hall is rented as concert space and named The Mainstay. There is no stage at first.
Charlie Byrd performs at The Mainstay, the first of several concerts there before his death. The relationship with Charlie Byrd is the beginning of an enduring Mainstay jazz legacy.
The Mainstay is organized as a 501(c)3 corporation to facilitate fundraising.
The Mainstay joins the North American Folk Alliance.
Volunteers build a stage with lights and a basic sound system.
New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs at The Mainstay, the first of several engagements at The Mainstay.
The “Charlie Byrd Jazz Series” is established at The Mainstay.
The Mainstay building is purchased after a fundraising campaign.
The Mainstay receives an NEA grant for nonprofit administrative study. Maryland Citizens for the Arts recognizes The Mainstay for community development.
The “Kids Are First” grant program is established to support local children’s programs and activities.
The first of several forums about Rock Hall History is held.
Tom McHugh, Mainstay Executive Director, accepts the Kent County Volunteer of the Year award.
Volunteers raise $40,000 in a single dinner and auction event for The Mainstay and its community programs.
A lounge/refreshment area (The Byrd Room) and a deck are added to The Mainstay.
A “Burn the Mortgage” concert is held to celebrate the payoff of the entire mortgage on The Mainstay building.
The “Hedgelawn Classical Music Series” is established.
Max n’ Friends” Thursday night jazz series begins.
Contract staff is hired to assist with booking and marketing.
A significant bequest from Lillian B. Fairall Foundation is received.
The 10th annual Rock Hall FallFest is celebrated.
A major investment in improved stage lighting and sound system is made.
The Mainstay receives its first annual Maryland State Arts Council Operations Grant.
A free outdoor summer concert series “Music in Oyster Court” is initiated.
Our Mainstay Family
Board of Directors
Robert "Dobby" Dunlap
Our Mainstay Family