The year in music

From our own local musicians to Beach Road headliners, we enjoyed a jam-packed year.


It was an amazing year for music on the Island. Pathways Arts began its off-season with an A list group of Island vocalists. Backed by the Jeremy Berlin Trio, some unexpected vocals were performed by Lucas Ostinato, Rose Guerin, Peter Halperin, Johnny Hoy, Darby Patterson, Delanie Pickering, and Allison Roberts. The idea was to showcase performers people know, but place them in a new context. Pathways Arts also hosted beloved musicians from the Island Collective — Kate Taylor, Phil DaRosa, Isaac Taylor, David Saw, and Rebecca Correia.

It’s hard to imagine polished musicians ever struggled. They make it all look so seamless. But they started out somewhere, with blisters on their fingertips from guitar strings, cracking voices due to colds, and less-than-stellar sets, until they found their voices and signature sounds.

Luckily for the Island community, another generation of gifted musicians is coming up. MVRHS students had a busy and successful year in 2023. They presented the popular musical “Chicago” at the Performing Arts Center, and performed at Jazz Fest. MV Big Band and MVRHS combo upperclassmen performed alongside professional musicians from the Vineyard Jazz Unit, led by Brian Nelson and Taurus Biskis. MV Big Band played some fun dance tunes, like “Sir Duke” and “You Can Call Me Al.”

MVRHS students aren’t the only musicians to put themselves out there this year. Under the leadership of William Peek, Island Community Chorus offered an ambitious concert at the Old Whaling Church. The program featured the “Requiem in D minor,” Opus 48, by one of the leading French composers, Gabriel Fauré. This is one of the most challenging pieces the choir has undertaken. And the entire piece was sung in Latin. They performed their much-loved annual Christmas Concert at the Old Whaling Church in mid-December.

The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society also had quite the lineup for 2023. The Manhattan Chamber Players Clarinet Quintet performed at the Chappaquiddick Community Center and the Old Whaling Church. The quintet is a collective of New York–based musicians who share the common goal of performing the greatest works in the chamber repertoire. Audiences took in Mozart’s “Clarinet Quintet in A major” and Johannes Brahms’ “Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 111.”

House concerts have become popular venues for musicians, and that trend is going strong on the Island as well. Musician Peter Halperin opened Woodstove Studio in West Tisbury. Halperin hosts monthly jam sessions, and invites Island musicians of all genres to perform for guests. Musicians who have performed at Woodstove include Delanie Pickering, Kate Taylor, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, Jemima James, Willie Mason, Jonathan Halperin, and more.

Musicians are often the first to loan their talents to a good cause, and Island musicians really stepped up this year. Ladyfest took the streets to raise awareness and funds for Connect to End Violence, an MV Community Services program. Ladyfest was founded in 2017 by Rose Guerin and Kelly Firetag. The annual music festival is held on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, and features artists from several genres, including rock, soul, electronic, and pop.

Kate Taylor, Chadwick Stokes, Willy Mason, Ben Taylor, John Forté, Rose Guerin, Isaac Taylor, Lexie Roth, and Jemima James performed at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs this year to raise money for Island Elderly Housing (IEH). IEH’s long-term plans include getting permanent generators. The generators will ensure that if residents lose power, they will have access to power for oxygen tanks and storage for medications, and the ability to stay in their apartments with their pets and belongings.

There was another foot-tapping event this year that was brand-new to the Vineyard. Strand Jam is a fresh, new live event that took place at the Strand Theater in Oak Bluffs. Island musician Alex Karalekas came up with the idea, with the help of Anthony Esposito, Phil daRosa, Graham Smith, and many others. Droves of people enjoyed hearing music by Woody Bottom, Adam Howell and the Queen of Cups, Emanuelle Woodford, Willy Mason, Maryse Smith, Isaac Taylor, and more.

Let’s not forget music festivals, which were aplenty this year. M.V. Sound Fest at the Cove

was a musical mashup of reggae, rock, and soul. Reggae music giant Anthony B headlined the event, while local musicians Workman Song, Rose Guerin, Dock Dance Band, DeeJay Supa Ricky Prime, and DJ D-DUB also took the stage. Beach Road Weekend 2023 at Veterans Memorial Park was jamming, and included indie-folk musicians, punk rock, and more. The lineup this year included heavy hitters such as Mumford & Sons, Bon Iver, Leon Bridges, Japanese Breakfast, Patti Smith, Dispatch, John Hiatt, and many more.

The Island is a music festival unto itself, inhabited by local bands, visiting bands, and solo performers. Chadwick Stokes, frontman for American indie and roots band Dispatch, has ties to the Island that have brought him back to perform at Beach Road Weekend, and many other events. Nashville native and Island summer resident Sean Della Croce performed at the Grange this year as part of the Live from the Grange monthly music series. Della Croce combines Americana and folk music, and often weaves in a bit of storytelling along the way. Other notable solo performers who played this year include Hawaiian-born-and-raised singer and songwriter John Cruz, who spent many summers on the Vineyard back in the 1980s and ’90s.

And here we are, at the end of another vibrant, music-filled year on the Vineyard. Here’s to a New Year filled with peace, love, and music.