Machias concert series celebrates 50 years

“I can’t live one day without hearing music, playing it, studying it, or thinking about it,” Leonard Bernstein once said. And if Susan Aceto is successful, neither will the Machias Bay area live without music.

This year marks the first time Aceto is at the helm of Machias Bay Chamber Concerts (MBCC) as president of the board of directors. In addition to her new role, Aceto and the other members of MBCC are celebrating 50 years of bringing music to the Downeast area and hope to draw more people to the performances so that the concert series might continue for another 50 years.

Not shy when it comes to music, Aceto started at the age of six taking piano and singing lessons. By the time she entered junior high it was percussion and viola because she wanted to join band and orchestra.  Add pipe organ in high school and it is safe to say Aceto has seen few days when music has not been a part of her life.

Founded in 1969 by brothers Thomas and Andrew Wolf, MBCC was an extension of the Bay Chamber Concert series in Camden/Rockport. On a suggestion made by Robert Guptil, a local real estate agent at the time, that perhaps a similar concert series could be done in Machias, MBCC opened its inaugural season in 1970 at Centre Street Congregational Church, which has been the venue ever since.

The historic Centre Street Congregational Church will once again play host as venue for the Machias Bay Chamber Concerts, as it celebrates 50 years of bringing music to the Downeast Area. Founded in 1969, it was during a visit to Machias, seeking a location for the concerts, that Tom Wolf visited the church. Known for its superb acoustics, it is said, Wolf played one note on the piano and knew at that moment this place would be the venue and a concert series in Machias was possible. (RJ Heller photo)

In the early 1980s, Aceto was a member of the Chamber Players of Maine and performed three or four times in Machias. In 2002 she and her husband Tom moved to Roque Bluffs for the summer months and gradually started helping the organization by compiling mailing lists, seeking out new members and assisting with marketing.

For this year, MBCC has planned an eclectic mix of talent to perform Downeast and at the same time celebrate a significant milestone. “We are already set with four concerts, all will be in July,” says Aceto. “And at the July 23 concert Tom Wolf is planning to attend and share some history with the audience. We also will have on display programs and photos from the past 49 years of the concert series.”

Since this is her first “official” role with MBCC, Aceto acknowledges there will be challenges that require the board’s full focus.  “Our primary challenge has been getting people to come to the concerts,” says Aceto. “Until this year, I have never served on the board, but decisions such as not charging for the concerts and only asking for donations were made to try to grow the audience. Financially this may not have been a good decision.  However, we are still following that model for this year, and anyone can come free to the concerts, though we do encourage people to try and donate at least $15 if they decide to attend.”

The organization will look to build on a successful “abbreviated” season of four concerts and then determine potential avenues for adding sponsors and increasing funding. “The concert series has been important to Machias both culturally and economically,” says Aceto. “The local banks and businesses have been very good about supporting it financially, and often times people eat at the restaurants before concerts, and some stay over night in the local motels, which adds to the local economy.”

As a special bonus in commemorating the past 50 years of bringing music to the Downeast area, a Pre-Season Piano Show has been arranged and will take place June 9 starting at 7:30 pm, and will take place, of course, at Centre Street Congregational Church in Machias. The show will feature five unique regional players: Gregory Biss, Alan Kryszak, Jane Lanctot, Brian Dyer Stewart and Duane Ingalls. Admission is by donation only of $5 or more.

The MBCC Summer Concert Series will be every Tuesday evening starting at 7 pm, beginning July 9, 2019.  All of the performances will once again be held at the historic Centre Street Congregational Church in Machias and will feature a mix of jazz and classical music performances.  A schedule is available at <>

RJ Heller

About RJ Heller

Having arrived here from Pennsylvania over four years ago, there has been plenty to learn and even more to observe. This place is different, but I mean that in a good way. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am a college graduate with a teaching degree, a business founder and seller, and a father of two children with my wife Stephanie; life has been full and somewhat adventurous, but finding Maine remains a high watermark in my life.