Coastal Concerts Celebrates 20 Years

The organization continues to wow Sussex County with world-class classical music.


For 20 years, Coastal Concerts has filled a critical niche in southern Delaware’s music scene by bringing world-class, award-winning classical musicians to audiences who would otherwise have to travel to major cities like Philadelphia or New York to see similar performances.

David Greenberg will
join Musica Pacifica 
(above) at a concert
on Jan. 19, 2019.

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As Coastal Concerts board vice president Doug Barton is proud to point out, it’s just not all that often a two-time Grammy-winning clarinetist like Richard Stoltzman travels to Sussex County to perform a night of Mozart with a chamber ensemble, the American String Quartet, which Barton calls “one of the premier string quartets in the country, if not the world.”

“We’re the best-kept secret in southern Delaware,” says Barton.

But, says Barton, you don’t have to be a classical music aficionado to enjoy these concerts. “It’s meant to be entertaining, not just an esoteric performance of classical music. We look for people who have the ability to get an audience excited.”

Awadagin Pratt will
kick off the 2018–2019
season on Oct. 20, 2018.

Barton points to last season’s performance by So Percussion, which is known for making music out of just about anything they can get their hands on. “It could be coffee tins, coffee cups, pencil sharpeners, you name it.” And he’s really excited about Awadagin Pratt, who will perform at the 20th anniversary concert on Oct. 20, 2018, at 7 p.m.. “He is one of the most exciting piano players I’ve ever seen,” says Barton. “When he’s finished playing, the piano has to be tuned again. He plays it that hard.”

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Coastal Concerts brings six performances every season, from October through April, to the fellowship hall at Bethel United Methodist Church in Lewes, which has a capacity for around 300 people.

According to Barton, the modest size of the venue is crucial to the appeal of Coastal Concerts. It is an intimate space that breaks down the barriers that usually exist between the audience and the performer.

“The venue is relatively small, so the artists are willing to engage with the audience afterward,” says Barton. “So they always stay for questions because the audience is so receptive, and they’ll stay indefinitely to answer all sorts of questions. I don’t know what it is because I’ve never seen this before. They put their instruments down and it’s like you’re talking to the guy who lives next door to you. It just becomes so personal.”

While the primary mission of Coastal Concerts is to foster an appreciation of classical music, in recent years the organization has also launched programs to support classical musicians right here in Delaware. Since 2004, Coastal Concerts has donated 104 musical instruments to students. There’s also the Coastal Concerts scholarship program, which to date has awarded $30,000 to promising Delaware high school students to help them pursue their music education.

“We give as many as three every year,” says Barton, noting that there are no restrictions on how the students use the funds. “It’s for whatever they want to use it for—no strings attached.”

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