In the fall of 1997 Gavin and Lou Braithwaite, proprietors of the The Stepping Stone craft gallery, Puzzles, and Union Jack in downtown Lewes were enjoying casual conversations with customers on various topics, including how charming a town Lewes was, but also heard that it tended to be dull during the off-season. Residents had to travel to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, or New York if they wanted to hear good live music. This inspired them to gather a group of music lovers and friends to brainstorm how to bring world-class musicians to Lewes to perform. The Braithwaite hosted a series of meetings which ultimately led to the birth of Coastal Concerts.
The founding members of the group included Gavin and Lou Braithwaite, Iris and Jerry Brock, Betty and Gary Grunder, Margaret and Fred Prausnitz, Laurie and Lloyd Mills, Betsy and Jay Reamer, Pat and Steve Rogers, and Chris and Walt Rosen. Various committees were formed and went to work. In order to gain experience, and as a first step, the founding members joined an existing group in the Bethany Beach community known as "Concerts at the Beach." Several concerts were hosted in Lewes and the group soon found they were not alone in longing to hear live concerts by internationally acclaimed artists in an intimate setting close to home.
History of Coastal Concerts
Beginning in January 2000, Coastal Concerts was incorporated and began hosting performances at various locations in downtown Lewes. Lou Braithwaite was the first president, Gary Grunder served as secretary, Betsy Reamer as treasurer, and Tom Tibbetts and Bill Sharkey were directors. From its inception, Coastal Concerts was an all-volunteer organization whose goal was to provide affordable access to world-class music in Lewes during the off-season for residents of the area. Beginning in 2002, all performances were held at Bethel United Methodist Church which offered room to accommodate the growing number of patrons attending concerts. Since its inception, Coastal Concerts has hosted well over 100 concerts.
In an effort to support young musicians, Coastal Concerts began a music scholarship program in 2002. Over the years, many music students across Delaware have received recognition and stipends. In 2021, Coastal Concerts began a collaboration with Curtis Institute of Music in which a Curtis Chamber group is brought to Lewes to perform each season.
Over the years Coastal Concerts has offered many outreach programs in the community, including a musical story time program at the Lewes Public Library, a "Toot Your Horn" program to collect used instruments for donation to local schools, master class offerings from visiting artists, free performances in schools and local retirement communities, an after school music education program in collaboration with First State Community Action Agency, and most recently began featuring our scholarship winners in a dedicated concert each season.