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Tom McHugh, Founder

Tom McHugh and his banjo pal

Tom McHugh & his banjo pal

Tom McHugh has been a teacher all of his life…teenage camp counselor, boarding school house parent, middle and high school teacher, and college professor. With undergraduate and graduate degrees from Temple University and The University of Pennsylvania, (BS,Ed; M.ED. and Ph.D) he started his college teaching career at Washington College, Chestertown Maryland. This little school located in the beautiful setting of the Eastern Shore of Maryland made a lasting impact on Tom.

From WC, he moved to Vassar College as Chair of The Department of Education and a member of the American Culture Program faculty. Vassar became his career position, and he retired in the early nineties as a full professor. He moved back to Rock Hall, Kent County Maryland to raise his two girls in the Eastern Shore setting. “When I retired early from Vassar I vowed to my students that I would take the things learned at Vassar and convert them for use in some other setting.Those things Vassar taught me were a love of community service, that every act is a teaching act, that the best learning takes place in settings which are artistic and creative, and that the arts are critical to any learning atmosphere.” So, in 1997, Tom founded The Mainstay as a community center for the arts.

As they say, “the rest is history”…over 750 concerts , art shows, and community gatherings, national level performers, a venue for local talent, a support for local schools and children, and much more.

Tom credits his teaching experience and his lifelong work as a musician (banjo, voice, blues harp, Native American flute, and a mean kazoo) for his success at The Mainstay. When Tom McHugh receives accolades for the quality of music he brings to his home town, he laughs..”Are you kidding? I get to bring scores of wonderful musicians to an almost perfect acoustic setting, and I get to meet them, hear them, and I don’t pay a cent from my pocket!” With his usual humility, Tom credits most of the success at The Mainstay to a combination of superb volunteers, an audience which is supportive to the extreme, and a board which oversees the operation with expertise and creativity.


“Tom’s inspired programming mixes the world famous with great local and regional talent, to provide performances of the highest quality.”

Ben Kohl
The Hedgelawn Foundation

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