If you’re jaded with YouTube, craving a little community, and interested in the arts, the JCC of Greater Baltimore and The Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for Performing Arts have virtual entertainment events in the works.
One of those upcoming events is Digi-Fest, presented by Charm City Bluegrass. This is a one-day celebration with multiple bands one after another, like at an outdoor music festival with multiple artists. It will be streamed April 26 from the Gordon Center stage on the Virtual-J webpage.
The confirmed lineup starts with The 19th Street Band, then continues with The High and Wides, Ken and Brad Kolodner, and The Honey Dewdrops, and closes with Caleb Stine.
Sam Sessa, Baltimore music coordinator for WTMD, a media partner, connected Charm City Bluegrass’ founder Phil Chorney with Sara Shalva, chief arts officer of the JCC.
“We had a great conversation about the possibilities at the intersection of virtual content and live music to see if we could come together to build community online,” Shalva said.
Brad Kolodner, who plays the banjo and is the producer of Bluegrass Country radio, performs at the Charm City Bluegrass Festival with his father Ken Kolodner, a dulcimer and fiddle player. The two released an album in March titled “Stony Run.”
“The festival has really helped to revitalize the local bluegrass scene,” Kolodner said. He explained that bluegrass is special for its up-tempo feel and strong ties to Baltimore. Some of the biggest names in bluegrass, like Hazel Dickens, and Mike Seeger, had ties to Baltimore.
“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to play in this Digi-Fest and keep the music alive in this tough time,” Kolodner said.
Charm City Bluegrass is planning on having a live festival sometime in the fall.
Other virtual arts projects are in the works at the JCC, including the annual William and Irene Weinberg Jewish Film Festival. The JCC plans to turn it into a virtual film festival in May, according to Robin Rose-Samuels, senior marketing director of the JCC of Greater Baltimore. Some of the films will include “Leona” and “The Unorthodox.”
Films will run from mid-May through early June.
“We also have other film experiences and guest authors on Zoom coming soon,” Rose-Samuels said. The team is planning these streamings well in advance. For example, the JCC plans to offer “After Munich” in partnership with the Jewish Museum of Maryland in June as part of its virtual film festival.
Just recently, the JCC offered the Second Night “Good Parts” Virtual Seder, where more than 80 participants ages 11 to 93 joined, according to Shalva.
Shalva hopes the JCC will continue to create more original content for its website, preferably educational. She is most excited for book talks, cooking demonstrations, and art classes for adults.
The JCC’s plans to reopen are still undetermined, and the Gordon Center for Arts and Culture will continue to follow the policies and procedures of the JCC and the recommendations of the state and the CDC.
“I’m feeling particularly grateful to have music in my life these days. Music is one of the most fundamental elements of what it’s like to feel alive,” Kolodner said. “Without the ability to assemble and have shared experiences these days, music lifts our spirits even if viewed through a screen in your living room. We’re yearning for connection right now, and livestreaming shows helps provide that link between artists and their fans.”
Kolodner himself has been dealing with quarantine by sitting out on his porch in Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore City, playing fiddle and banjo tunes.
“As one neighbor told me, it helps break up the eerie silence,” he said. “More than that, it reminds people that there is still joy to be had despite the challenging circumstances.”
Interested listeners can tune into Kolodner’s radio every Wednesday and Friday from 12 – 3 p.m. on 88.5 FM, while the JCC will continue to update its website at jcc.org/virtual-j