Freeman Stage announces lineup for ninth season

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Michelle Freeman announces the 2016 roster of entertainers who will perform at Freeman Stage at Bayside this summer. The launch party has become an event unto itself each year.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Michelle Freeman announces the 2016 roster of entertainers who will perform at Freeman Stage at Bayside this summer. The launch party has become an event unto itself each year.After a great deal of anticipation, the Freeman Stage at Bayside announced its 2016 summer season.

The season includes more than 70 performances, with 51 at the Stage in Selbyville. The lineup feature a diverse offering of dance, theatre, children’s performances and live music — including 13 National Recording Artists.

This year’s performers include three Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and, combined, have nearly 40 Grammy Awards and over 60 Grammy nominations; one Academy Award and two Oscars nominations; and three Country Music Association awards and nine CMA nominations.

The national acts include Phillip Phillips and Matt Nathanson on June 29; Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes on July 2; The Band Perry on July 3; Justin Moore on July 7; Pat Benatar and Melissa Etheridge on July 13; The Beach Boys on July 14; Cherry Poppin’ Daddies on July 16; Huey Lewis and The News on July 27; The Silk Road Ensemble and Yo-Yo Ma on Aug. 10; Gladys Knight on Aug. 19 and the Wailers on Aug. 27. Tickets for the performances will go on sale April 4 at 10 a.m.

Those returning to the stage include the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the First State Ballet, Clear Space Theatre and the Bronx Wanderers. Tribute acts include Hotel California — A Salute to the Eagles; ABBA the Concert: A Tribute to ABBA; Classic Albums Live: David Bowie and A Temptations Revue featuring Bo Henderson. “Locals Under the Lights,” where local artists have their moment in the spotlight, will also be back this summer.

“Our progress is a result of a movement in the region to weave the arts into the fabric of this region. This is occurring because of you. Because you have joined us on our journey to bring the arts to everyone,” said Patti Grimes, executive director of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation.

The Freeman Stage is a program of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation. The program is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Grant support is also provided by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, the Sussex County Council, and the state of Delaware.

The Freeman Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit was created in 2007, to honor Josh Freeman, who lost his life unexpectedly.

“As many of you know, this journey began after the death of my husband, Josh Freeman, in 2006, and was a way to channel my grief and to honor one of his passions and mine — the arts,” said Michelle Freeman, president and chairman of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation. “Life, especially when you loose people, life is made up of small moments — really small moments as you get older. One of my most favorite moments, we had brought the symphony to Bear Trap, it was Father’s Day. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I looked over, and Josh Freeman was listening to music, holding our son Ben and it was a perfect, perfect moment. After he passed away, what I wanted more than anything, was to create a place where other people could have and share perfect, perfect moments.”

The mission of the Stage is “to present memorable performances and provide inspired arts education for all.”

“It’s more than a venue for concerts, it’s more than a venue for young kids to come to,” said Delaware’s First Lady Carla Markell. “I love that their mission here is to expose young people who don’t have the opportunity, the advantages we all have, to be exposed to the arts. It’s transformative. Art changes lives. “

Markell said she has seen first hand the the difference the arts can make in a child’s life through mentoring.

“When you work together in an artistic capacity with young kids and you give them opportunities, they learn to take healthy risks. They learn to be a part of a team that’s bigger than just themselves, they see other people put themselves out there for healthy risks, and you expose them and get them out of a world that have become very confining to them.”

Kelly Hageman supervisor of instruction for the Seaford School District, said her district has a diverse student population ethnically, linguistically, and culturally.

“Seaford leads Sussex County School Districts in both demographic diversity and in poverty,” said Hageman. “Our schools are full of students with disadvantaged backgrounds, students who are English language learners, and students with disabilities who would not normally have the opportunity to experience the arts, except for limited arts education provided in school.”

Hageman said she was raised by an immigrant father and a mother who grew up in foster homes in rural New York. She attended four different elementary schools in three different states, and in second grade was encouraged to participate in a school play, which “ignited a passion for theater.”

“Through experiences in the arts, I was presented with a world beyond the reality that was created by my circumstances. I know the arts has helped shape who I am, what I am, and what I stand for today,” she said. “The Freeman Foundation has partnered with the Seaford School District to help aid in filling those gaps for student access to the visual and performing arts. As students are exposed to the arts, their background knowledge and capacity for critical thinking increases.”

Through transportation grants, students in her district were able to watch such performances as the Washington National Opera. Most recently, the Seaford Middle School participated in a mural installation highlighting the theme respect.

“Nearly 1,000 individually-painted masterpieces now line the walls of the Seaford Middle School cafeteria. Our students took this visual arts opportunity seriously. They’re eager to share the depth of meaning of their artwork and tell their story,” said Hageman. “The smallest action can have potential for great impact.”

Since its opening season, the Freeman Stage has had more than 260,000 patrons, including 62,000 children.

“This we believe, is progress — we are enriching lives,” said Freeman. “Economically, we have generated over $7.8 million in additional spending in the area, not including the cost of the performance tickets. Together, we are adding both economic and social value to the community.”

“We are very blessed to have you in the community, in the county, in the State overall,” added Todd Lawson, Sussex County administrator. “We really did have a desert before Freeman Stage was here. Think about the impact it has had on these children that have come to the stage and seen cultural arts and performing arts, and taking away something from that experience. It can only be described as significantly impactful.”

For more information on this season’s events, or to find out how to volunteer at The Freeman Stage, call (302) 436-3015 or visit