SOLOMONS, Md. — The Calvert Marine Museum has been a hub for both the history and culture of Southern Maryland since 1970. They have been hosting annual summer concerts there since 1985.

These concerts have drawn massive crowds of SOMD residents who come out to enjoy live music by the scenic PNC Waterside Pavilion on the museum grounds. Musical acts ranging from Joan Jett, Kane Brown, and Bob Dylan have all performed at the pavilion, which has provided Southern Marylanders a local option to see big-time musical acts.

“The concerts really helped put us on the map,” CMM’s Director Jeffery Murray said. “Many people don’t know this, but they have actually been around since 1985, and 2020 was the first time since they started that there haven’t been any summer concerts.”

However, like other music and entertainment venues across the country, CMM has had to put its waterside concerts on hold for the time being because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Live music has been one of the hardest-hit industries during the past year, and this was an even bigger hit for a place like the Calvert Marine Museum which hosts only a handful of concerts per summer but relies heavily on them for funding.

“Our concerts raise up to half of our revenue each year,” Murray said. “It is by far our largest revenue line. We usually budget for three concerts per season and we usually have up to five.”

That is why the museum was thrilled to hear the news that it was one of the recipients of a pandemic relief package aimed toward funding music and entertainment venues across the state. 

The relief package was announced on Jan. 15 by Governor Larry Hogan[R]. $138,472 was awarded to the Calvert Marine Museum Society, which is the non-profit fundraising arm of the museum. The museum society primarily runs the waterside concert series that generate funds for the museum to continue and expand upon its mission.

The society is not directly connected to the Calvert County Government, which funds the museum, but many personnel who are essential to the museum are employed through it. Keeping personnel on the payroll is what a major portion of the relief funding is going to be used for.

“For us the timing was fantastic… we are so grateful that lawmakers in Annapolis made this available,” Murray said. “This allows us to keep our non-profit employees on the payroll who are not who are not county supported and allows us to continue to fundraise and move the museum forward.”

Murray noted that while this relief is helpful, it is one part of a larger effort that will help the museum get through the pandemic.

It wasn’t just the waterside concerts that had to be shut down as a result of the pandemic. The museum itself had to shut down for a portion of last year, forcing them to restructure existing programs and services.

“The pandemic has forced us to really change our thought processes on how we deliver programming to the public,” Murray stated. “We have been learning as we go and trying to think outside of the box.”

Another way the museum has continued to generate funds and engage with the community was through online services, which have been a successful venture for them.

“What we have done is pivoted and taken a lot of our educational programming online,” Murray explained. “We had virtual summer camps and virtual field trips, and this has all been very successful. We are reaching in some cases a broader audience because somebody out in the mountains of Western Maryland can now come to one of our education programs virtually without having to drive three or four hours.”

Murray also said that there are plans to reshape and adjust existing museum events to ensure better safety during the pandemic. Events such as Sharkfest, Patuxent River appreciation day, and the Maritime Festival were all mentioned.

Ideas of hosting concerts not related to the Waterside Series have also been discussed. Some of the ideas mentioned included “a drive-in movie night where [they] project it on the stage, or bring in local or regional talent and have socially distanced pods.”

However, large scale concerts are a different story.

“In our current talks with promoters, everybody’s holding tight because we just don’t know what the restriction will be this summer,” Murray said. “We are eager to back to the type of concerts that the public has been used to seeing, those big-name acts coming to the PNC Pavilion as soon as we can safely and successfully do so.”

In terms of planning for future events, Murray said they are in constant contact with the promoters who are in the same boat as everyone.

“They really do want to come!” Murray said. “They want to come back and do it as soon as it’s feasible financially as well as safely.”

Despite the circumstances, Murray was optimistic about the Calvert Marine Museum and their waterside concerts.

“We will get through this and our goal is to come out of this even better than before,” Murray said. “Part of what we do is connecting with the community and this is one of those great ways we do that.”

Music venues across the nation have been resorting to creative ideas to cope with the pandemic and the Calvert Marine Museum seems to have no shortage of them. While it is unclear whether the summer concerts will return to the Calvert Marine Museum in 2021, they have certainly shown their commitment to keeping this Southern Maryland tradition alive.

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