It was a cool autumn evening when musicians Ernest Ragogini, Matthew Bachman, and Carolyn Black-Sotir waxed poetically about Mozart, Gershwin, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann among others. They recalled their most cherished musical moments—all of which had one thing in common—live performance. They recollected the feeling of being transported spiritually and emotionally to a higher place. And they recognized that today, folks seem less willing to sit for hours in impersonal concert halls. So, a discussion ensued on how to encourage people to attend live concerts, leaving the comforts of home after a stressful, busy day. They began contemplating the ideal concert setting—a beautiful venue in looks and sound that is unique and casual, where folks can interact with the artists and with each other. Then came the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movie moment when Ernie quipped: “Let’s put on a show in a barn!” Sound silly? Not so, considering Carolyn and her husband Michael live on a farmstead with a beautiful new Amish-built post and beam barn, and Matt, as Manager of Baltimore’s Steinway Piano Gallery can supply a world-class grand piano! And thus, The Steinway Series at Silo Hill was born.
But the story doesn’t end there. As is often the case with a new idea, it is developed and shaped by personal experiences—thus, the second chapter of the Steinway Series at Silo Hill. Carolyn’s parents, Merle and Louise Black, Jr. died from complications of Parkinson’s disease. As her parents faced the disease’s devastating effects with courage and grace, they found music to be a great a source of comfort offering physical, cognitive, and emotional therapeutic benefits. During her mother’s final Christmas in 2013, the family sat around the Christmas tree and sang carols. Although Louise had lost the ability to speak, she was able to sing every song on pitch and with all the words. This meant so much to Louise, to Carolyn, to her siblings and their families, and speaks to the incredible power of music.
And so Ernie, Matt, and Carolyn decided to expand the mission of the Series—reinventing the way people experience live classical music—to include raising awareness and funding for Parkinson’s research and support services while exploring the connection between music and medicine.