Conductor David Amado: Delaware Symphony Orchestra

A man of many talents, conductor David Amado remains a steady presence with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra.



David Amado has been the DSO’s man behind the baton for 10 seasons.

Photo by Joe del Tufo

Maestro David Amado makes a mean latte. Maybe it’s because he roasts his own beans, which he orders from California. Or perhaps the full-bodied flavor is due to the Expobar espresso machine, which squats on the kitchen counter in his Westover Hills Woods home. All that’s missing from this cup of caffeinated perfection is a music note carved into the froth.
This is Amado’s 10th season as the music director and conductor of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, and it’s been an unconventional one. Last spring, with a new executive director at the helm, the organization announced it was scrapping its planned 2012-2013 season for fiscal reasons.

Then in October, the orchestra announced that an agreement with the musicians would allow DSO to perform an abbreviated classical series at The Grand Opera House and The Tatnall School. (DSO’s sold-out four-concert chamber series, which started in October, isn’t affected.) At press time, the classical series was set to start this month.

A number of people, including contributors Tatiana and Gerret Copeland, helped guide DSO through the turmoil. Yet few would argue that Amado has been a strong, steady presence throughout the period. “He’s a gem,” says Diana Milburn, DSO’s general manager, who was hired in August. “His leadership during this challenging time has been extraordinary. He’s funny and charismatic—the musicians like him.”

Tatiana Copeland would agree. “I very much value David both for his professional character and personal friendship,” she says.

It’s that affability—the man behind the baton—that I’m looking for when I visit the Amados’ home, a gracious Colonial built in 1929. Previous owners enhanced the kitchen, where the breakfast remnants of the Amados’ three children—twins Alex and Renee, 8, and Elena, 4—are on the table. Amado and wife Meredith added a family room off the kitchen. They also re-did the living room, a necessity after a tree crashed into the house during a 2009 storm. Amado, his wife confides, hates thunderstorms, and it’s no wonder. Last year she surprised him with a chainsaw as a gift, which he loved. When he’s not tackling storm-tossed trees, he can use it in Maine, where chopping wood is one of his favorite pastimes.

Amado’s white-painted study has a wall of framed pictures and letters related to iconic musicians. There’s a letter from composer-pianist Clara Schumann, for instance, and one from Johannes Brahms. There are also letters from composers to Amado’s grandmother, celebrated violinist Lillian Fuchs, who taught Isaac Stern.

Some pieces were gifts to Amado’s mother, accomplished violinist Carol Stein Amado. Meredith Amado, artistic director of the Pyxis Piano Quartet, plays her late mother-in-law’s violin, made in 1662 by Nicolo Amati.

On the morning of my visit, Meredith is rehearsing with Naomi Gray, the DSO’s associate principal cellist, and the plaintive notes drift into the study. Between the living and the legendary, there’s no shortage of talent here, and it’s slightly intimidating. There was a time when I could play a passable “Clair de Lune,” but talking shop with a maestro who spends a lot of time in a tuxedo is unnerving, especially one who graduated from Juilliard and whose father taught physics at the University of Pennsylvania.

If Amado is inwardly rolling his eyes at any of my gaffes, he never shows it, and soon I feel at ease. His conversation is measured, but the occasional everyday word is pleasantly surprising. In a WHYY interview, available on YouTube, he calls the economy’s affect on the arts “stinky.” He uses “yuck,” to describe the fallen tree and the storm. When we discuss why a violin could survive three centuries when other instruments turn to dust, he says perhaps it’s because crappy instruments don’t continue circulating. Makes sense to me.

The youngest of two boys, Amado grew up in Merion, Pa. He was 4 when he first took piano lessons, not because his famous family pressured him but because he gravitated toward the instrument. By the time he was in Lower Merion High School, he practiced about five hours a day, including an hour before school. “It’s diligence,” he acknowledges, “and it’s also annoying to everyone who didn’t want to hear the piano at 5 a.m.” That included his brother, Rick, who griped about it in his journal.

Amado also played trumpet in the school orchestra but not in the marching band. (“Too cold maybe?” he says as an explanation.)

Close friends were mostly musicians. “It was hard for me because I was so focused on something that didn’t resonate with a lot of other people,” he acknowledges. He felt liberated when he started pre-college classes at Juilliard on Saturdays. From the minute he got off the train on Saturday evening, he looked forward to the next Saturday.

Despite his Juilliard experience, he went to the University of Pennsylvania, where an art history class made a lasting impression. If he could do anything else in the world—and have the skill to do it—it would be a job in the visual arts, he says. But after his freshman year, he transferred to Juilliard. “I didn’t feel like I was getting enough opportunity to practice” at Penn, he says. “It’s really what I wanted to do more than anything.”

A mutual friend introduced him to Meredith, a fellow student. He was 19, and she was 17 and still in braces. On their first date, they went to the Metropolitan Museum and to dinner. Afterward, they watched the film “Babette’s Feast.”

“I remember knowing then that we were going to get married,” he says. Meredith wasn’t convinced, but she found him amusing, she says. When they first met, he’d just given his father 50 eggplants for his 50th birthday. “He was a breath of fresh air in a very tense and stressful environment.”

Amado loved to practice, but he never entered a piano competition. He also lacked that burning desire to perform. “I really loved music … the piano was just my way to make the music,” he says. The desire to be a professional pianist ebbed. “I think my parents realized it before I did and didn’t say anything,” he says. “They realized that I needed to realize it.”

Yet the passion for music itself persisted. How could he use it? After graduating from Juilliard, he applied to and was accepted into a conducting program. He declined; he wasn’t ready. “I was like Groucho Marx: I didn’t want to belong to a club who would have me as a member,” he says. He took a year to study music scores before applying to programs in both academic music and conducting. He chose conducting. “Ultimately,” he says, “I felt there was something in me that needed to make the music rather than think about it.”

After getting a master’s in instrumental coaching from Indiana University, he returned to Juilliard for post-graduate work. It was here that he met David Loebel, then a guest conductor at Juilliard, who was working on a complicated contemporary music program; Amado helped with rehearsals.

“Even then David had all the prerequisites to be a fine conductor: a high level of musical talent and knowledge, curiosity, common sense and a personality that would easily gain an orchestra’s cooperation,” says Loebel, now on the faculty of the New England Conservatory. “I’d like to think that his subsequent success has proved me correct.”

Loebel played a part in that success. When the St. Louis Symphony in Missouri decided to add a staff conductor, Loebel, then the associate principal conductor, suggested Amado, who was working in Portland, Ore. He and Meredith, who were married by then, moved to the Midwest.

In St. Louis, Amado conducted performances for youth education programs. “The students really responded to his warmth and humor,” Loebel says. (The people with the best sense of humor are also the most serious about their work, he notes.) Amado also conducted some subscription events.

By 2002, when the DSO job was posted in a union paper, the Amados were ready to return to the East Coast, where there were more opportunities for Meredith to work as a violinist. The DSO announced Amado’s appointment in March 2003, and Amado quickly became the young face of the orchestra and an involved member of the community.

In just over a decade, the local nonprofit community has experienced the highs of MBNA’s halcyon days, punctuated with big donations, and the crushing lows of the recession. “We suffered from an alignment of circumstances that a lot of nonprofits that operate on razor-thin margins experience,” says Amado of the events of last spring. “There were realities that needed to be dealt with. We’re very happy that we’re going to have music this year. We just have to figure out how to be responsible.”

He’s talking about more than the symphony. The community needs to determine how to support the arts, which make people look at themselves and their surroundings in a new light. “The arts are an incredibly important part of humanity and what it is to be a complete person,” he maintains. “While the arts can be entertaining, they’re not necessarily an affirmation of everything you believe in; ideally, they challenge you … . We obviously need to think about how we’re going to fit into the cultural landscape.”

Education is key. “You can’t cultivate a plant in soil that’s incompatible with the plant,” Amado says. Fortunately for the DSO, Amado enjoys working with youth, who unlike their parents and grandparents aren’t necessarily taking the piano and ballet lessons that expose them to the classics at an early age.

It’s not easy when an audience is accustomed to instant entertainment and information, he acknowledges. Without the insight he likes to offer, an audience may struggle with hour-long compositions and abstract narratives. Big ideas, he says, take a long time to tell.

Before I leave, Amado asks if I want to try the ginger beer he’s making. It’s refreshingly fizzy with a gingery bite. His wife says he often threatens to open a coffee roaster-BBQ restaurant. Amado would make a good barista, but it’s hard to imagine him in a non-musical profession.

It’s also hard to imagine the DSO without Amado. “I enjoy watching him on the stage,” Copeland says. “He’s a fabulous conductor. I love the symphony; they are a great asset to the community.”

Amado hopes others feel the same way. “I know in Delaware we have the capacity to support a meaningful orchestra,” he says. “We just need to figure out what the community finds meaningful and actively pursue it. We need to find our sweet spot.”

 

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January 2017

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

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The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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January 14, 15, 16 – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Invention Convention Lights, camera, action! This year’s Invention Convention features hands-on video...

Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for children between 4 and 14, and free for children under 4 a

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Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
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Belly Dance Classes with Zahra Beginner & intermediate classes open to teens and adults Sundays in January starting Jan 8th Beginner: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Intermediate: 1 - 2 p.m (must get...

Cost: $15-$42

Where:
Take the Lead Studio
320 Lantana Drive
Hockessin , DE  19711
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Sponsor: Take the Lead
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Cost: 40

Where:
Elements of Nutrition
4710 Kirkwood Hwy
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: Rocker Soaps + Herbals
Telephone: 302-544-0391
Contact Name: Rachel Binkley
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Cost: $35

Where:
The Pond Ice Arena
101 John Campbell Rd
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: Diamond State Curling Club
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society will present its popular What Makes Us Tick? program during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, January 13-15. This analytical film and discussion series...

Cost: $9 - $10

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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BROKEN ARROW: A NEIL YOUNG TRIBUTE Broken Arrow delivers the music of Neil Young; both the rockin' electric guitar driven favorites and the more country flavored classics with pedal steel and...

Cost: $12 ADV- $14 DOS

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
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Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-9111
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When the kids have a day off but the parents don’t, let them spend the day off of school doing something really cool…having fun at DMNH! Enjoy games, crafts, activities, and even a hot dog...

Cost: $20 for Members, $25 for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Science is for everyone! Join us for hands on crafts and activities that highlight science contributions to natural history from scientists all around the world. Learn how YOU can make a difference...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 130-265-89111
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January 14, 15, 16 – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Invention Convention Lights, camera, action! This year’s Invention Convention features hands-on video...

Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for children between 4 and 14, and free for children under 4 a

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmers Market Nov 8, 2016 - April 11, 2017  11 am- 2 pm 25 vendors Location:  East Coast Garden Center 30366 Cordrey Rd Millsboro, DE 19966 302-945-3489

Cost: frr

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Telephone: 302-945-3489
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmer's Marke 25 vendors

Cost: Free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Telephone: 302-945-3489
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A four-week series of ballroom dancing classes taught by teachers from the BlueBallroom. Tuesdays starting Jan. 10. Classes are $30 a lesson for Non-Members. Non-Member slots are limited. For...

Cost: $30

Where:
University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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The Cinema & the Arts film series proudly presents a screening of the documentary ART BASTARD on  Tuesday, January 17, 7:00 pm, at Cinema Art Theater, 17701 Dartmouth Drive in Dartmouth Plaza,...

Cost: $9

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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The Division of Public Health offers its annual free flu vaccination event in the Legislative Hall Library, ground floor, 411 Legislative Ave., Dover, DE, on January 18, 2017, from 11:00 a.m. to...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Legislative Hall Library
411 Legislative Ave.
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Division of Public Health
Telephone: 800-282-8672
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Do you want to learn how to make soap? This is your chance! Join me for a fun and informative class @ Liquid Alchemy. I will teach you how to create your own recipe and the in-and-outs of soap...

Cost: 45.00

Where:
Liquid Alchemy
28 Brookside Dr.
Wilmington, DE  19804
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Sponsor: Rocker Soaps + Herbals
Telephone: 302-544-0391
Contact Name: Rachel Binkley
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Do you want to learn how to make soap? This is your chance! Join me for a fun and informative class @ Liquid Alchemy. I will teach you how to create your own recipe and the in-and-outs of soap...

Cost: 45

Where:
Liquid Alchemy
28 Brookside Dr.
, DE  19804
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Sponsor: Rocker Soaps + Herbals
Telephone: 302-544-0391
Contact Name: Rachel Binkley
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

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Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

Cost: Cost: $30 for TLC members / $40 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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Guest speakers Patty Dailey-Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation, and Delaware Family Court commissioner Loretta Young will discuss how participation in social media can too...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilmington University - Doberstein Admissions Ctr.
320 N DuPont Highway
New Castle, DE  19805
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Sponsor: Wilmington University College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Telephone: 302-295-1164
Contact Name: Dr. Johanna Bishop
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The 3rd Place and Bike Lane Cafe along with WestSide Grows and Delaware Permaculture bring you the West 7th Street Bazaar.  Happening EVERY 3rd Thursday of the month from January through May,...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
The 3rd Place
1139 W. 7th Street
Wilmington, DE  19805
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Sponsor: West Side Grows
Telephone: 302-690-9459
Contact Name: Delaware Permaculture
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January 19 – Thursday – 6:30 p.m. Research Seminar: Amyrs Williams (Wesleyan University) – Reimagining the Modern Farm The seminar is open to the public and is based on a paper that is...

Cost: $0

Where:
Copeland Room, Hagley Library
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400
Contact Name: Carol Lockman
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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HIGH & MIGHTY BRASS BAND There’s a reason that musical trailblazers from Galactic to DJ Logic have recently chosen to collaborate with High and Mighty Brass Band! and legends such as Dr. John,...

Cost: $15

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
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Formed in 1992, Splintered Sunlight quickly became the most popular Grateful Dead Tribute band in the Philadelphia area, gaining praise from Dead Heads and Non Heads alike. Since that time,...

Cost: $10

Where:
World Cafe Live At The Queen
500 N Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
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Ah, typecasting—the baritone is always the bad guy! In Devils, Drunks & Dastardly Dudes, we’ll go on an operatic journey of men behaving badly. We’ll add a tenor to the mix, too… but we...

Cost: $29-$59

Where:
OperaDelaware Studio
4 South Poplar St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: OperaDelaware
Telephone: 302-442-7809
Contact Name: Mary Wilcosky
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: $30 per person

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N. Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19081
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Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-622-8000 x 123
Contact Name: Mark Tajzler
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From foxes and beavers to cats and dogs, all mammals benefit from open space! Discover the signs of mammals in winter and learn about human impact on mammal habitat and population survival. Join...

Cost: FREE for TLC members / $10 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and the Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation are proud to present The Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Charles Gounod’s ROMÉO ET JULIETTE on Saturday,...

Cost: $15 - $25

Where:
Cape Henlopen High School Theater
1250 Kings Highway
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 130-264-59095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Cost: $30. Ages 10-18 and one adult per youth.

Where:
Bethel United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall
Fourth & Market Streets
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Coastal Concerts, Inc.
Telephone: 888-212-6458
Contact Name: Edna Ellett
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Cost: 45

Where:
Ballroom at University and Whist Club
805 N. Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Cost: $20 General Admission

Where:
Frankford Fire Hall
7 Main Street
Frankford, DE  19945
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

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Cost: $10 + FEES

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

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