How Our Story Began

It all started when Tom McHugh, our founder, retired (early) from his career position as a Professor of Education and American Culture at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He returned to Rock Hall and Kent County, the place where he started his teaching career. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of music and his background as a semi-professional musician, he began to stage informal concerts. A local real estate mogul offered him the free use of a vacant storefront on N Main Street in 1997 and The Mainstay was born.

The year-round, weekly programs of The Mainstay, often featuring world renowned players in a variety of genres, have continued without interruption (with virtual concerts broadcast during the COVID shutdown) ever since. The name refers to that part on a sailing vessel which supports the whole superstructure and holds things together. That is the work The Mainstay has chosen to do — to support, serve, and inspire the great arts communities of Rock Hall, Maryland, the greater Kent County area, and our appreciative neighbors along the Chesapeake Bay.

Tom McHugh
The Stage

A Little of our Playlist

Here are just a few of the impressive talents who have taken the stage at The Mainstay

Jazz Musicians

Charlie Byrd
Nasar Abadey
Steve Abshire
Howard Alden
Harry Allen
Bill Allred
Joe Byrd
Joey Calderazzo
Dick Durham
Joe Holt
John Jorgenson
Hendrik Meurkens
Dick Morgan
Nate Najar
Joe Negri
Ken Peplowski
Bucky Pizzarelli
Chuck Redd
Robert Redd
Stef Scaggiari
Warren Vaché
Frank Vignola

Jazz Vocalists

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque
Bryan Clark
Esther Haynes
Becky Kilgore
Sue Matthews
Jacqui Naylor
Nicki Parrott
Lynn Roberts
Karen Somerville
Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet


Guy Davis
Rory Block
Cephas and Wiggins
Daryl Davis
Catfish Hodge
Ann Rabson
Clarence Turner Blues Band
Toby Walker
Phil Wiggins & Corey Harris

Blue Grass and Chesapeake Music

Zoe and Cloyd
Annapolis Bluegrass Coalition
Bitter Creek
Chester River Runoff
Critton Hollow String Band
Gibson Brothers
King Wilkie
The Lovell Sisters Band
Claire Lynch Band
Molasses Creek
New & Used Bluegrass
Red Mountain
Seldom Scene
Tony Trischka
Chesapeake Bay Music
Chesapeake Scenes
Eastport Oyster Boys
High & Wides


Taylor Hillary Boykins, Mezzo Soprano
Alturas Duo
Andrew Owens, Tenor
Michael Chapdelaine, Guitar
Diamond Trio
Duo Transatlantique
Susan Duer, Fortepiano
Louise Earhart, Piano
Langley Winds
Stacey Mastrian, Soprano
Moeller Guitar & Cello Duo
Navy Brass Quintet
Pyxis Piano Quartet
Serafin String Quartet
Mark Snyder & Andre Tarantiles
Teodora Adzharova


Chester River Ramblers
Jerry Harmon
The Mooks
Mike McBride
Courtney Spath & Early Bird
David Stone: The Johnny Cash Experience
J. B. Beverley & the Wayward Drifters

Folk, Americana, and Roots

The Kolodners
Alison Brown Quartet
Angel Band
Archie Fisher
Craig Bickhardt
Gordon Bok
The Boomers
Buskin & Batteau
Jonathan Edwards
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
Aengus Finnan
Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen
Kim & Reggie Harris
Honey Dewdrops
Hootenanny Fun
The Kennedys
The Obsoleets
John McCutcheon
Sara McQuaid
Walt Michael & Company
Nowell Sing We Clear
Tom Paxton
Missy Raines & the New Hip
Red June
Robin & Linda Williams and Their Fine Group
Kevin Roth
Sparky & Rhonda Rucker
Tom Rush
April Verch
Bob Zentz

International and World

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars – Afrobeat
Daduka da Fonseca & Maucha Adnet – Brazilian
Rogerio Souza Trio – Brazilian
Meredith Hadaway – British & Celtic
Catonsville H.S. Steel Drum Band – Caribbean
Castlebay – Celtic
Ceoltoiri – Celtic
Connemarra – Celtic
The Kane Sisters – Celtic
Col. Leonard’s Irregulars – Celtic
Music from the Isles – Celtic
Bonnie Rideout – Celtic
Antoinette Smith – Celtic
Lynn Saoirse – Celtic
USAF Heritage Aire – Celtic
Whirligig – Celtic
John Wright & Maurice Dickinson – Celtic
Washington College Afro-Cuban Ensemble – Cuban
Carmel Dempsey – Irish
Craobh Rua – Irish
Kitchen Quartet – Irish
Tommy Sands – Irish
Mike Elosh – Israeli
Judith Kay – Latin
Trio Sambosa – Latin
Real Time – Scottish
Santa Cruz River Band
Juanito Pascual – Flamenco

New Orleans, Dixie, and Ragtime

Philip Dutton & the Alligators
Banjo Dusters
Banjo Jim & The 23rd Street Sultans
Dixie Power Trio
Mickey Dulin, Stride Piano
The Federal Jazz Commission
Sally Mchugh, Boogie Woogie
New Line Brass Band
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Bob Seeley, Piano
U.S. Army Blues Swamp Romp
U.S. Naval Academy Jazz Ensemble

Rock & Roll, R&B, and Doo-Wop

Shun Ng and Magic Dick
The Beach Bumz
The Blues Brothers Revisited
Deanna Bogart
Daryl Davis
The Elliots
The Holmes Brothers
Native Son
Quiet Storm
Ruthie and the Wranglers
The Trash
Viv Vacuum & the Attachments

Swing & Big Band

Chesapeake Brass
Bill Allred Classic Jazz Band
B.E.D. with Becky Kilgore
Conservatory Classic Jazz Band
John Coury Sings Sinatra
Sam Scalzo Jazz Band
USNA Commandant’s Combo
University of Delaware Jazz Ensemble