McHugh’s legacy includes Banjo Man performances in area schools

ROCK HALL — The legacy of Kent County’s late music icon Tom McHugh lives on through the continuation of his Banjo Man performances in local schools.

McHugh was a professor of music who taught at Washington and Vassar colleges, and later launched The Mainstay music venue in Rock Hall.

As the Banjo Man, he would perform for students, often singing about life on the Chesapeake Bay.

With McHugh’s passing in 2021, the school programs he launched have continued.

The Kent Cultural Alliance is keeping the Banjo Man project going strong with local musicians Sue Matthews, Meredith Hadaway and Karen Frison leading the way.

Matthews brought a Banjo Man performance to Rock Hall Elementary School on Nov. 1 with Andrew “Captain Andy” McCown and Aaron Thal.

“A wonderful, wonderful teacher — his name was Tom McHugh — who lived in Rock Hall started this Banjo Man project,” Matthews told the students. “We are continuing his wonderful legacy.”

McCown and Thal performed songs about the Bay and the people and wildlife who call it home, just as McHugh had during his Banjo Man shows.

“Most of these songs are about where we are from,” McCown said.

McCown said that when people ask him where he lives, he does not usually reply with the name of his town or even the state of Maryland.

“Most often, I say, ‘Oh, I’m from the Chesapeake Bay,'” McCown said as he led the students into the song “Chesapeake Born” by environmental educator and musician Tom Wisner.

As the Nov. 1 performance at Rock Hall Elementary School showed, the Banjo Man project continues to give students here a sense of pride in being part of the Bay.

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