Crisfield Arts & Entertainment District Coordinator Jen Merritt interviewed featured artist Diana Wagner by phone on May 22,2020. Diana is a Shelltown, Maryland resident who is an active participant in an extensive art community.
When I asked Diana what her favorite part of the Crisfield Arts & Entertainment (A & E) District was, she had two answers that seemed to hold equal weight: The A & E District gets people thinking more broadly about the arts as a part of economic recovery, and it brings artists of all talents together to create a community among people whose paths would not otherwise have crossed.
Diana fell in love with music in a public-school music program in Wisconsin in seventh grade, thanks to her guidance counselor Anne Thielen, who remains important to her to this day.
While there was always a guitar in Diana’s house, her family did not have money for music lessons so this was her first musical experience. Growing up in the 1970s, John Denver was one of her major influences and her first songs were “Sunshine on my Shoulders,” “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
Diana recently visited Anne and brought Anne a copy of her CD, Tradition Bearer. You can purchase this CD through the website dianawagnermusic.com. (I have owned this for years and listen to it often. While every song on it is my favorite, “My Horses Ain’t Hungry” is my very favorite.)
Diana hosts and curates the radio show Chesapeake Folk, which began on 107.3 WBYC Crisfield Community Radio (Thursdays 7 -8 pm and Saturdays 2- 3 pm) and is now syndicated to WSDL 90.7 FM Delmarva Public Radio, and to WHCP 101.5 FM in Cambridge. If you have not listened to this show, it is a real treat. Her radio presence is phenomenal and her knowledge and enjoyment of local folk music, current and past, shines through. You can listen online at www.wbycradio.com.
Diana plays live at many locations on the Eastern Shore, including regular performances at the Washington Inn & Tavern in Princess Anne, and at the historic Rehobeth Methodist Church in Shelltown. Since she has been unable to hold her usual shows at the Washington Inn, she has hosted two online half hour concerts to raise funds for the staff there and has met with great success, raising about $1,000 in tips to go to staff between the April and May virtual concerts.
Although she is generally very informal about her title, Dr. Diana Wagner is Associate Professor of Education in Salisbury University’s Education Leadership Department. While she teaches in the education field, this talent pours over into her ability to interpret music, culture, and history with her live performances. Diana has not slowed down at all while quarantining at home during the COVID-19 crisis. She is writing a textbox titled Foundation of Outdoor Education Leadership. She has been writing about a chapter a week, which she says is “like writing a 20-page research paper every week – it’s pretty manageable.” (I learned that we have different ideas of manageable.) In addition, she has used her time in quarantine to make foods like butternut squash ravioli from scratch and says that her garden “is the most weed-free ever.”
In partnership with Dr Louise Anderson, Diana has been researching Peter Dale Wimbrow, a 1920s radio star from Whaleyville, MD. His music has not been played live since that time. They located recordings on 78 RPM albums to study his music. Their work has generated interest from the Library of Congress National Archives and last spring they provided the first “musical” keynote at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference. To watch Diana and Lousie perform a lecture with live music at Salisbury University for Research Day 2018 check out https://youtu.be/czF03bDcqJA.
Crisfield’s own community radio can be found at www.wbycradio.com. Learn more about the Crisfield Arts & Entertainment District at CrisfieldArts.org. To learn more about Diana Wagner or to book a show, check out dianawagnermusic.com.