Chesapeake’s ill health at bay
By Jake Linger
Sequels are often tough to sell — will No. 2 be half as good as the original and, furthermore, will it sell a third installment?
Anne Arundel County resident and musician Dave Tieff hopes he can help provide many years to come of local artists collaborating to save what he calls one of the area's most treasured possessions: the Chesapeake Bay.
More than a dozen of Tieff’s musical friends and collaborators from the Annapolis area descended upon Union Jack’s in Annapolis on Saturday for Bay Jam II, to raise money and awareness for the plight of the bay and its dwindling oyster population.
“It’s as much as making a phone call and they know that I would do the same for them,” said Tieff, a founding member of Laughing Colors. “They’re all great people who care about the environment and just want to do something good with their music.”
Among the artists who participated in Bay Jam II was Tieff’s outfit Golden Road, Doug Segree, Brandon Hardesty of Bumpin’ Uglies, Kelly Bell, Skribe and "Jimi Haha" Davies of Jimmie's Chicken Shack and Jarflys.
Tieff said “it means everything” that such a talented group of people would volunteer their time to assist him in the Bay Jam project. For Tieff, though, there was never any doubt he would secure the services of Davies, Segree and Bell. It’s what they do for each other, he said.
“We’ve been in the trenches with each other for years,” he said. “So I love those guys. It goes way back.”
The bay, by the way, is not just a Maryland “thing.” Six states — Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Virginia and West Virginia — and Washington, D.C. are touched by the Chesapeake.
Evan Thalenberg, president of Chesapeake BaySavers, welcomes the attention to the bay, because it is dying, he said. The oyster population in the Chesapeake is at historic lows, and he said he fears that there will come a time — sooner than later — when oysters will become a thing of the past.
“There are almost no oysters,” Thalenberg said. “Oysters in the Chesapeake Bay are on the verge of extinction.”
Among the ways the bay’s health has been addressed has been through legislation and the state issuing tax incentives to businesses that commit to recycling their oyster shells. The recycled shells — often picked up by Oyster Recovery Partnership — are then used to create oyster beds in the Chesapeake.
“One adult oyster filters 50 gallons of water a day, and there used to be enough oysters to filter the whole bay every three days,” Thalenberg said. “Now, there aren’t enough to do it in a year.”
Death of the bay’s oysters was a new concept to Tieff when he first sat down with Thalenberg last year to discuss the Bay Jam project. While Thalenberg leans a little more heavily on the side of lobbying and working to save the bay and its oyster population, Tieff is ardent on educating Marylanders who might care about the health of the bay if they had more insight into just how serious the problem has become.
“The more you know and the more you understand about it,” Tieff said, “I think the more passionate you get about it.”
Tieff and Thalenberg shared a common interest in musical activism — Pete Seeger. The folk icon led a campaign in the 1960s to help clean up the Hudson River that runs partially through New York City and through the Hudson Valley. For Tieff, a musician and passionate Marylander, using his music and relationships with fellow artists was a case of simply finding himself up the creek, but with a paddle in hand.
Bay Jam I brought in about $5,000 for Chesapeake BaySavers and the nonprofit’s annual golf tournament raises between $40,000 and $50,000. However, annual costs of running the organization routinely rises into the six figures, according to Thalenberg.
Enter Tieff and his merry men and women of the local music scene.
“I’ve always looked at music as more than just something you listen to; it can be used as a tool to raise money, create awareness and help the environment, and it’s like, why not use that tool here?” Tieff said.
“We have so many great musicians in this area and we all care about the Chesapeake Bay,” he continued. “If you live in Maryland — one way or another — you rely on the Chesapeake Bay.”
For more information on Chesapeake BaySavers, visit www.chesapeakebaysavers.org.