Best Bets: Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival marks its 30th year

The vocal quartet The Four Freshmen will play Epworth United Methodist Church Friday as part of the Rehoboth Jazz Festival, now in its 30th year. Tickets for The Four Freshmen show are still available. (Submitted photo)

It’s a year of milestones for the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival. Not only is the event celebrating its 30th anniversary but this is the 25th year for the man who runs it all.

Denny Santangini is president of the Delaware Celebration of Jazz, a 501[c3] organization based in Sussex County, which produces the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival.

He moved to Rehoboth Beach full-time from Springfield, Pennsylvania, in 1992 and took over the festival shortly after his wife passed away from lung cancer.

“She always enjoyed the festival. And when she was sick, everyone in town, it seemed, helped me out. In those days, the jazz festival was one of the only things going on in town during the shoulder season, after Labor Day,” he said.

“I thought the least I could do was help take it over to give back to the community that helped me so much.”

Although he ran businesses such as a service station and a bed and breakfast, he said he didn’t know the first thing about running a jazz festival. In fact, he never really listened to jazz too much.

“My father was an opera singer so my background was in classical and opera,” he said.

But he credits this year’s Rehoboth Jazz Festival Producer of the Year John Ernesto with showing him the ropes.

“He taught me everything I know,” Mr. Santangini said.

Mr. Ernesto is the general manager of the Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, Pennsylvania, which is also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The two men stay in touch throughout the year to share thoughts and information about the jazz scene and generally help each other out with their respective events.

Throughout the years, the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, which started Thursday night and runs until Sunday, has turned into one of the largest and most well-respected jazz festivals in the country,

This year features 32 artists playing in venues across the beach area, from the Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach to Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes. There are also other performances and events tied to the festival in smaller venues this weekend.

As has been the case in recent years, most of the shows are already sold out.

Mr. Santangini said the festival has been easier and also harder to book in recent years due to its popularity among fans and musicians.

“We are known throughout the music industry of a great festival,” Mr. Santangini said.

“For an artist, it’s a real feather in their cap to play the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival. Artists will call us up directly asking to play. Artists will come here and tell each other how wonderful it is — that it’s a great festival and the people are wonderful and the board of directors are great.

“The downside of that is I get a lot of phone calls and a ton of emails that I have to go through.”

Mr. Santangini said he learned recently that only one in nine people have ever attended a jazz festival. He thinks that’s too bad.

“It’s something that everyone should experience once and then they will be hooked,” he said.

“There are a lot of genres within jazz and we don’t do a lot of just the straight-ahead jazz. We do jazz that makes you want to get out of your chair and move. Once I brought a friend of mine who said he hated jazz to the festival. I said once you see artists like (guitarist) Nick Colionne, or (saxophonist) Boney James or (multi-instrumentalist) Brian Culbertson, you’ll get it. And he did.

“Our job is to go out and educate the crowd to what jazz really is.”

Mr. James opened the festival Thursday while Mr. Culbertson will play to a sold-out crowd at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center Saturday night. Mr. Colionne and Marion Meadows will open for Gerald and Selina Albright Saturday at noon at Cape Henlopen High Performing Arts Theater where tickets are still available.

Mr. Santangini said the crowds have gotten older over the years. But they still come. He estimates the festival brings about 15,000 to 20,000 people from all points to the beach area each year.

“A lot of people have been coming for years. It’s a destination weekend for a lot of people,” he said.

Mr. Santagini also notes that with more developments being built in Delaware, he is seeing more people coming from the local area as well.

“We get them from all over Sussex County to Kent County up to Middletown. With the ticket sales, I check the ZIP codes and we do get more and more people from Delaware,” he said.

Although most of the shows are sold out, there are still tickets available for a handful of performances.

The Four Freshmen, a vocal quartet that traces its roots to the Big Band era of the late 1940s, will perform Friday at 7:30 at Epworth United Methodist Church.

A free afternoon of music is on tap at The Rusty Rudder deck Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. with Club Phred, J.J. Sansaverino, Jay Rowe and Carl Anderson.

A tribute to the late music great Nina Simone will feature Gerald Veasley, Carol Riddick and Kevin Whalum at Epworth United Methodist Church Saturday at 2:30 while Richard Elliot, Peter White and DW3 will play at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.

Mr. Santangini said the unfortunate part of it all is that he won’t have time to just sit back and enjoy any of the music.

“I’m always putting out this fire or that fire. But it runs pretty smoothly overall. We just want to make sure that people have a good festival experience and want to keep coming back year after year,” he said.

The lineup for 2020 has already been set and details will be available soon after the close of this year’s festival.

For more information and tickets to the 2019 Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, visit


All things gooey will be on display Saturday with the annual Cheesetoberfest at Dover’s Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company.

For those not in the know, Cheesetoberfest, set for from noon to 6 p.m., is a no-holds barred grilled cheese and mac ‘n’ cheese competition featuring local restaurants and companies battling it out to see who will be this year’s Grand Cheezmo.

From left, Jessica Beseker, Ralph Marchetti and Denise Ashbridge at a previous Cheesetoberfest. (Delaware State News file photo)

The Philly German Brass band will be playing two sets from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m.

Participants will enjoy games, Fordham & Dominion craft beer and soda, local vendors and of course plenty of cheese.

For tickets and more information, visit

Kent Chamber Choir

The Kent Chamber Choir will perform Friday at 7 p.m., at Presbyterian Church of Dover, for an evening celebrating the diversity of America’s musical landscape presented through reflective choral arrangements of folk-songs, spirituals, and other American genres.

Tickets and more information is available at

Presbyterian Church of Dover is at 54 S. State St.

Double the fun

On Saturday, Delaware Friends of Folk will present their monthly coffee house concert in the Bennett Chapel at Wesley College, corner of Division and North Bradford streets in Dover, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is $7 for members of Delaware Friends of Folk, $10 for non-members, and those 12 and under are admitted free. Fresh-brewed coffee, baked cookies and other snacks will be available.

Local contemporary folk duo The Honey Badgers, comprised of Erin Magnin and Michael Natrin, will perform with Steffi and Tim Saturday for the Friends of Folk Coffeehouse Saturday. (Submitted photo)

This event features local duos The Honey Badgers and Steffi and Tim, doing their own sets, and then, for the first time, combining their talents into a quartet.

The Honey Badgers are a Delaware-based folk/Americana duo who combine crisp harmonies and thoughtful lyrics with upbeat guitar lines and lively violin to create a sound that is satisfying, authentic, and fun. The married duo from Newark, Erin Magnin and Michael Natrin first met while attending the University of Delaware.

First meeting at a study abroad trip to England in 2008 while students at the University of Delaware, Steffi Holmes and Tim Plimpton compared musical notes and then spent time performing together as a hobby until marrying in 2013 and forming the duo Steffi and Tim.

Delaware Symphony

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra will present two concerts in Sussex County during its 2019-2020 season. The performances will showcase a variety of music from classical to modern.

The first concert will take place Monday, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Epworth United Methodist Church, in Rehoboth Beach. The program will feature a string orchestra performing works by Jennifer Higdon, the Argentinian tango master, Astor Piazzola, and Piotr I. Tchaikovsky. The concert will be conducted by Music Director David Amado.

The second concert will be performed on May 17 at 3 p.m., at the Cape Henlopen High School Theatre in Lewes. It will feature a quartet of vocal soloists (Othalie Graham, soprano; Kirstin Chávez, alto; Dinyar Vania, tenor; and Grant Youngblood, bass) and the University of Delaware Symphonic Choir performing Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) by Johannes Brahms and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral.”

Tickets for the Sussex County concerts are $35, $25, and $15, with $10 student tickets, and may be ordered online at or by calling (302) 656-7442.

Scary sequel

Screenwriter, director and actor LaFayette W. Bell Sr. of Felton will premiere the sequel “School Bus of the Dead 2: The Hunt” on YouTube Monday.

Shot in Kent County over the last year, this 39-minute zombie-filled short film is the sequel to his previous short film “School Bus of the Dead.”

Search “Sgt. LaFayette Bell Videos.”

Now Showing

New in theaters this week is Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” and the horror-comedy sequel “Zombieland: Double Tap.”

On DVD and download Tuesday is the remake of “The Lion King.”

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