Russo to share love of music, Smyrna Opera House history

Singer-songwriter and award-winning journalist Bryan Russo will appear at the Smyrna Opera House Sept. 18, performing his original music and showing an episode of his webseries “Curtain Call: Historic Theaters of the Eastern Shore,” which centers around the northern Kent County opera house. (Submitted photo)

Singer-songwriter and award-winning journalist Bryan Russo will appear at the Smyrna Opera House Sept. 18, performing his original music and showing an episode of his webseries “Curtain Call: Historic Theaters of the Eastern Shore,” which centers around the northern Kent County opera house. (Submitted photo)

For Bryan Russo, it all started with “Sesame Street.”

“The first thing that really linked me to music was watching Itzhak Perlman play violin with Grover,” he said.
“I turned to my mom and said ‘I want to do that.’”

His mother, being a music and voice teacher, demanded that he learn music theory and how to read notes before picking up the bow.

“The end game was always playing classical violin,” said the 37-year old Mr. Russo.

His musical pursuits have changed since then and he’s gone on to become an acclaimed singer-songwriter and guitarist with roots in blues, jazz, swing and more. He’ll be showing off that range Sept. 18 with a performance at the Smyrna Opera House.

Mr. Russo, an award-winning journalist, will also screen an episode of his web series “Curtain Call,” which tells the story of historic theaters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware.

The episode, appropriately enough, focuses on the Smyrna Opera House.

On his father’s insistence, he earned a degree in journalism in case the music thing didn’t work out.

But the tunes were always key.

“I don’t remember a time when music wasn’t a huge part of my life. If it wasn’t driving the car, it was definitely riding shotgun,” said the western Pennsylvania native, who now lives in Berlin, Maryland.

He’s released three independent records “Next Big Thing EP” (2008) and “Sound the Alarms” (2012) and “Here for the Show” (2014) and had a number of song placements in film.

Best Bets logo CLEAR copyHe has worked as a composer in the award-winning “The Star Spangled Banner in Sports” short film which is on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, and the “Baltimore Experience”, which is an interactive project designed to boost tourism in the city.

He has also opened for the likes of John Mayall, The Black Keys and Trombone Shorty and is set to open for The Marshall Tucker Band at World Cafe Live at The Queen in Wilmington on Sept. 25.

While immersing himself in classical music as a teen, he also discovered the blues in a dollar discount bin, buying a Jimmy Reed record with the money earned while working at a nearby dirt track.

“The first song I heard was ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ and I was immediately hooked,” he said.

“Blues has always resonated with me. I’m into other genres of music as well but there has always been something about the blues. It’s where it all started. It just seems like truth in its purest form filled with raw emotion.”

He said his uncle, aunt and mother all listened to the blues, which further laid the groundwork for his fascination with the art form but they had many other types of music covered as well.

“Between the various members of my family, it seems like they put together the history of music for me. One house listened to reggae while another listened to classic rock. My mother was well-schooled in opera. All of this gave me a real comprehensive background I think,” said Mr. Russo, who counts among his influences Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

After a summer playing around the Ocean City, Maryland area, Mr. Russo’s performance at the Smyrna Opera House will be his second, having played there back in June during the popular Smyrna at Night event.

It was then that he filmed the episode for his “Curtain Call” series, talking to city and theater officials about the historic venue and its place in the area.

“Smyrna is such a cool little town on it’s way up again after struggling for so many years,” Mr. Russo said.

“I’m excited that I get to come back through and play for them again. It’s a great room. I played a short set last time and it’s great that I have more time now to do a longer show.

“I was running around all across the place filming for the series. I really didn’t get a chance to talk to as many people as I would like. So this will be fun.”

He said the idea for the web series, another episode of which focuses on the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Milllsboro, stemmed from his work hosting a magazine show on National Public Radio in Maryland.

“The whole idea of these historic theaters just fascinates me and I thought it was a cool way to tell those stories and a way to strengthen my film-making chops in a way that you can’t do on radio,” he said.

The “Curtain Call” series can be found on Mr. Russo’s website and on YouTube.

The Smyrna show begins at 8 p.m. Doors will open at 7:15. Tickets are $16 for general admission, $14 for members, senior citizens and military, $8 for children under 12.

They can be purchased at, by calling 302-653-4236, or by visiting the SOH Box Office during office hours (Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.).

A full bar will be available. The Smyrna Opera House is at 7 W. South St.

In the Zone Saturday

As we told you last week, the Dragonfly Homegrown Music Zone, a day of local bands playing original music, will take place Saturday at Dragonfly Air Ranch in Townsend.

Gates open at noon with music starting at 1 p.m.

Local artists include Shades of August, Toney Rocks, Old Baltimore Speedway, Chris Kirby Band, Covered Bridge, Greg Ellingsworth, Justin McNatt and more.

Original art by Delaware artisans will also be featured.

Attendees are asked to bring lawn chairs.
Tickets are $15 online at or $20 at the gate.

Mailing it in

The DelMarVa Postcard Club is presenting its second annual postcard show in Dover on Saturday.
Dealers in postcards, both historical and topical, will be exhibiting at Delaware Technical Community College Corporate Training Center, 400 Campus Drive.

Show coordinators Bill Burton of Dover, a postcard collector, and Gary and Peggy Spengler of Frederica, themselves postcard collectors and dealers, note that well-known postcard dealers like Lee Dixon and Mark Winters of Maryland, James Tigner and Steve Cohen from Pennsylvania, and Dutch Country Auctions from Wilmington will be attending, as will dealers from as far away as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“Collectors of every sort of postcards will find a wide variety of items of interest to them,” said Mr. Spengler, who has been a postcard and antiques dealer for over 10 years.

“Our 2014 show was a huge success,” said Ms. Spengler.

“Collectors, whether residents of Delaware or the Chesapeake shores of Maryland and Virginia, will find not only view cards but also holiday and a vast assortment of topical cards.”

“The history of our communities is fascinating and this is a great opportunity to find and own a piece of it. A collector can find a card showing a town that was printed 75 years ago and match it up with one printed in 2005 — it’s fascinating,” said Mr. Burton.

Doors open at 10 a.m. and the show will close at 4 p.m. Parking is easy and good food will be available for purchase. Admission is $3. There will be hourly door prize drawings every hour.

For further information call Bill Burton at (302) 734-9259.

Freedom Festival on tap

In Milford, the two-day Riverwalk Freedom Festival begins tonight for Operation Giveback in Bicentennial Park, starting at 6. Military-affiliated nonprofit organizations will be set up to provide information on how the public can give back and support active duty and veterans.

With proper ID, active military and veterans will receive a free meal from Burgers N Beans of Milford while supplies last. The food vendors will be offering discounts to family of military and veterans.

There will also be a patriotic boat parade down the Mispillion River, live music performed by Milford’s own Downtyme Band, dunk tank and Inflatable Zone for the kids with fireworks at dusk.

Saturday, starting at 9 a.m., guests are invited to stroll through downtown Milford, along the Mispillion Riverwalk and Bicentennial Park to visit with over 100 vendors, sponsors and activities.

There will be a car show, kids inflatable bouncing zone, obstacle course, petting zoo, dunk tank, the first Crafty Kids Court, tug of war, Duck Dash, free paddle boat rides, live performances by Milford Community Band, local dance school, the Abbott’s Mill Nature Center and Second Street Players Youth Improv Group and more.

For more information, contact Angela Dorey at 424-8459 or call the Milford Chamber of Commerce office at 422-3344.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the suspense-thrillers “The Visit” and “The Perfect Guy” and the drama “90 Minutes in Heaven.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Furious 7” and Disney’s live-action version of “Cinderella.”

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